Feature writing is an upper level journalism course in non-fiction writing for publication. Students with background in news reporting and writing expand their skills and experience by writing different kinds of longer stories and experimenting with a variety of techniques.
For writings by students see the class produced Off Campus and On.
The course will explore the twofold nature of features as 1) a light, easy to read, human interest contrast to hard news and 2) a way to explore, in extra color and depth, heavier, more serious issues of the day.
Feature writing will focus on people, on situations, on story telling in a variety of forms -- and will learn from techniques used in literary writing.
The primary goal of the course is to improve student's ability to write feature stories, to produce a final portfolio of best work and to seek publication during the semester.
Students will discover talents they did not know they had. They will read, analyze, and absorb techniques used by professional feature writers. Readings and class discussions will raise students consciousness on a variety of ways to tackle challenges. Both in and out of class you will report, write, discuss and rewrite your own feature articles Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to interview, research, and capture ideas, personalities, human interest angles, emotion, and on scene "feel" in vivid feature form.
You should be able to use these skills to explore in-depth - in a manner both entertaining and relevant to readers - people, places, trends, and issues in the news. Discussions will include analysis of the readings and of student work.
READ, READ, WRITE, AND REWRITE!
These are the keys to success in this course!
The course is organized around four major writing assignments. Class sessions will provide information, practice and inspiration to help students complete these assignments. Readings contain examples of the kind of stories assigned.
Discussions will focus on how students in the class and professional writers approach their work. Class time will divide between discussion of student work and the work of professional writers. Students are encouraged to study and emulate writers they admire.
The course theme is "story." How do you recognize a "story" and tell it in an enriching way? Students are encouraged to use the techniques of fiction and poetry to enhance their non-fiction writing. In class we will introduce a variety of short stories to stimulate use of literary techniques. In order to strengthen feature writing skills, we shall discuss how writers use literary devices such as narration, characterization, description, dialoge and plot, and poetic devices, such as metaphor, simile, alliteration, rhythm and forms of imagery.
1) Attendance and participation in every class session.
2) Completion of each reading assignment with a written comment on it to be used for class discussion and turned in on the date of the syllabus.
3) Completion of each writing assignment, as detailed below, by the date due. One rewrite may be submitted in the week following return of the original story. Credit will be given only for stories written during this semester.
4) Submission of stories for publication in newspapers and magazines, including at least one regional or national publication. Campus and local newspapers are fine outlets for your work and you may submitt work written before this semester as well as work writtten for this course. The goal is to learn how to submit free-lance work, and how to move your work into outlets where it has not yet appeared.
5) A final portfolio containing the best version of each story written during the semester, correspondence on submissions for publications and clips of published work.
6) A writer's journal that you will carry with you "at all times" to jot down ideas for stories, get started on a story when inspiration strikes, and to use in and out of class for quotes, notes, names, and numbers. This will be your working notebook for everything related to feature writing.
A compost file for clips, brochures, speeches, reports and other resource materials to be used in developing stories. Writers use compost files to nourish their ideas for writing in the same way gardeners use compost piles of foodscraps, grass clippings and garden thinnings, which they turn every so often to produce rich soil for their gardens.
Grades on individual assignments will be based on several criteria including idea or message, writing mechanics, structure, overall effect, and other criteria specific to the assignment, such as use of sources and special techniques.
Course Grades will be based on quality and improvement in writing; quality of participation in class sessions (including attendance); quality of written and oral responses to reading assignments; number and quality of submissions for publication; use of journal and compost file for cultivation of story ideas; and attitude and effort throughout the semester. Click here for some of the standards which apply.
1999 Best Newspaper Writing: Winners of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Competition, The Poyntner Institute. This primary text for the course contains winners and finalists of the ASNE's Distinguished Writing awards and includes a biography of each writer. Articles by finalists are followed by essays on "Lessons Learned."
Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, Anchor Doubleday, 1995. A chuckling, lively book on writing and living.
Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, Patricia O'Connor, Grosset/Putnam, 1996. Answers to nuts and bolts questions on grammar and punctuation.
DETAILS ON WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE (500-750 words) January 31
Write a serious or humorous account of an experience that influenced the direction of your life or the development of your character.
PROFILE (750-1000 words) February 14
Write a profile of a person who interests you, including quotes from at least two persons in addition to the person profiled.
Identify a nonfiction writer you admire and interview that writer in person on tape on telephone or by email. You need to be familiar with at least two pieces of writing by the writer. Turn in the name of the writer, title of the articles you have read and a list of your questions by February 21. Turn in a transcription, printout, or summary of the interview by March 6 .
NEWS FEATURE (1000-1500 words) April 10
Write a feature which develops a human interest element of a news story. Explore people and events in a way to fascinate and inform your readers by bringing alive people, places and issues behind a news story.
YOUR CHOICE (1500-2000 words) April 24
Write a story in which you experiment with some of the writing techniques we explore this semester. You may want to build on the writing of the writer you interviewed or others encountered in reading or discussion.
FINAL PORTFOLIO May 9
Your portfolio contains the final version of each story you write for this course. It also includes copies of your correspondence with editors about articles submitted for publication -- as well as copies of those articles submitted but not written for this class.
Plagiarism is the use of another person's words or ideas without acknowledging the source, whether by a published author or a friend. To have someone else do or assist you in your assignment is a form of plagiarism. Plagiarism -- and cheating of any kind -- violates the ethics and standards of journalism. It will bring an F for the assignment, possibly an F in the course and may risk far more serious penalties in accordance with department rules and the policies established by the University of Maine.
FREDERIC A. MORITZ
Montville, ME 04941