For The New York Times “Draft” series, Susan Shapiro explains the thinking behind her signature writing assignment:
Over 20 years of teaching, I have made “the humiliation essay” my signature assignment. It encourages students to shed vanity and pretension and relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked.
You can’t remain removed and dignified and ace it. I do promise my students, though, that through the art of writing, they can transform their worst experience into the most beautiful. I found that those who cried while reading their piece aloud often later saw it in print. I believe that’s because they were coming from the right place — not the hip, but the heart.
I’m really curious about this being the signature assignment for a course in feature journalism. I like the assignment’s idea, although I think age and experience play a role. As a young writer, so much of workshopping extends beyond your own writing — you’re learning how to workshop as well, as both a reader and the writer.
(via Jamie-Lee Josselyn, another friend who has helped produce a surprisingly busy Sunday of blogging)