Friday, August 29, 2014

Teaching 2014-2015 Courses at Brave Writer & Heritage Class Days

This fall will be a very busy one for me. In addition to homeschooling our two high school boys (a freshman and a senior—our other two have already graduated high school), I will be teaching writing and literature classes at Heritage Christian School’s East County II Class Days Co-op as well as online writing and literature courses at Brave Writer.

I’ve taught at Heritage’s Class Days since 1997 when we officially started homeschooling our four children. This year I will continue teaching Expository Essay I (formerly Intermediate Writing) to fifteen students. This class is based on the Writing 110 (freshman composition) courses I taught at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) before we started our homeschooling adventures.

We will be covering the descriptive essay (Keen Observation from Brave Writer's The Writer's Jungle), the personal essay, the comparison and contrast essays, the definition essay, the literary analysis essay, the poetry explication essay, the in-class timed essay, the revised essay, the persuasive essay, and the MLA research essay over the school year. We meet in class only eighteen times over the school year, so the students usually have two weeks in which to write and submit their essays via e-mail; I comment and grade their essays, returning them before the next essay assignment is due so that they may apply my suggestions to their next assignment.

This year I am also preparing a new class: Discussing Shakespeare. This class is based on the many Shakespeare plays I have taught online through Brave Writer. No written work will be submitted; this course focuses on reading and discussing the comedy, history, and tragedy plays of Shakespeare, including clips from filmed performances (either actual movie versions or films of stage plays), reading certain scenes aloud, discussing the background, characters, poetry, and themes of the plays, etc. We will start with a look at Shakespeare’s life, times, and writing style and the Elizabethan Theatre scene, and then we’ll explore three comedic plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice), two historical plays (Henry V, Richard III), and three tragic plays (Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet). Before each class meeting, I’ll e-mail links to audio versions of the plays, film recommendations, humorous links regarding the plays, etc., to the students to help them to thoroughly enjoy the plays.

While the courses at ECII Class Day will extend all the way to the final days of May, the classes I teach at Brave Writer are of much shorter (yet far more intense) duration. On September 2, I’ll start teaching a four week high school class entitled Literary Analysis: A Tale of Two Cities. We will read and discuss this Dickens novel for three weeks, and then finish the class with the students choosing one of the four options for their Final Writing Project: 1) writing a letter from one character to another; 2) writing a formal review of one of the several recommended film versions of the novel; 3) writing a comparison/contrast essay on two characters from the novel; or 4) writing an exploratory essay on a theme from the novel. After completing the class, students will receive a Brave Writer High School Transcript form detailing their final course grade, the contents of the class, and the high school credits earned.

Literary Analysis: A Tale of Two Cities will be followed by the five-week Literary Analysis: British Poetry which will provide a survey of British poetry as well as in-depth analysis of nine poems (three per week) following a week of learning how to analyze a poem. The Final Writing Project will entail a poetry explication essay on one of four British poems not yet studied by the students. Poems for analysis and explication are still being chosen but should cover the major movements of British Poetry (Medieval, Renaissance, Neoclassical, Romantic, Victorian, Modern, Post-Modern).

Following the two Literary Analysis courses at Brave Writer will be one of my favorite courses, the six-week MLA Research Essay. Using the seventh edition of the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, students will be taught how to select an appropriate persuasive topic, how to locate sources and create source notes, how to take notes from these sources, how to write and format an outline, how to draft an MLA research essay using parenthetical citations, how to revise the first draft (with feedback from other students and the instructor) in a virtual read-around, how to format a Works Cited and create a Title Page, and finally, they will submit their final draft, including Title Page, Outline, 5-7 page Research Essay, and Works Cited to be graded by the instructor and returned via e-mail with comments, a grade, and a Brave Writer High School Transcript form detailing their final course grade, the contents of the class, and the high school credits earned.

In Brave Writer’s winter term, I will be teaching two family workshops: the Groovy Grammar Workshop and the Playing with Poetry Workshop. Both workshop classes are set at one price for the entire family, and activities are provided for students ages 6-18, rather like a buffet in which families choose which activities will be most valuable for their students. Parents are also encouraged to do these activities along with their students, and I’ve received some amazing poems from parents in past years. In addition to the two workshop classes, I’ll also be teaching Literary Analysis: Rebecca. Daphne DuMaurier’s wonderfully Gothic mystery will be a delight to discuss and analyze, and the same four options for Final Writing Projects as we saw with A Tale of Two Cities will be required of students. All three courses are four weeks in length.

In the spring term at Brave Writer, I’ll be teaching another family workshop class, the Shakespeare Family Workshop. A five-week workshop, we’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre scene (Week One), Shakespeare’s writing style and his sonnets (Week Two), and then we’ll spend the final three weeks on Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, one week on each. As with the other two family workshop courses, a variety of activities will be made available, and each family may choose the activities that will work best for their family learning style, ages, interest levels, etc. Lots of fun links are provided to charm the least-eager fan of the Bard.

And finally, we’ll end the spring term with Literary Analysis: Twelfth Night. Set up similarly to the Literary Analysis courses on A Tale of Two Cities and Rebecca, we’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre, and Shakespeare’s use of language (Week One) before reading and discussing the play in-depth for two weeks, and then complete the class with the same Final Writing Project options as the other two classes.

In the summer, I hope to teach the Fan Fiction class again. This course allows creative writing—writing stories based on popular books, movies, video games, TV shows, etc. With students already knowing their characters well from the original works, story writing becomes much more exciting as we learn to extend our favorite characters into new adventures. Fan Fiction is a wonderful way to keep kids writing over the summer without realizing that they are actually writing; it’s that fun!

Plus I have essays being submitted for comments and grading through this website. Homeschooling families from across the US send me their junior high and high school essays, and for $10 per double-spaced, 12-point font page/part page $.03 (3 cents) per word, I offer copious commentary, suggestions for improvement, encouragement, and a letter grade for the assignment. To read more about my online essay grading service, check out Susanne Barrett: Online Essay Grading Service. Sample graded essays are also available for review above. 

So these courses are my teaching load for this year. I’ll definitely be quite busy, but I’ll also be having so much fun teaching on and writing about British literature and many more of my favorite topics.

Have a wonderful fall,

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fan Fiction Class Begins July 7!

I am greatly looking forward to teaching the Fan Fiction class at Brave Writer this month. This will be the third summer I've taught this class, one that I proposed to Julie, the founder and owner of Brave Writer, after I started writing fan fiction novels and stories myself in late 2010.

I started writing Fan Fiction when I read a few stories and thought, "I can do that!" After only writing one work of fiction since my college creative writing class more than twenty years earlier, Fan Fiction opened new horizons for me as I have never considered myself a writer of fiction. Yes, a writer of nonfiction...definitely. And perhaps a poet from time to time. But writing fiction? Really?


I have completed two Fan Fiction novels and several short stories. I have revised one Fan Fiction story into an original novella that I entered into a contest on one of the sites where I post my writings serial-style (chapter by chapter). And my third Fan Fiction novel (now in progress at 70,000 words) will also be revised into an original novel when I complete it. Many Fan Fic authors have revised their works into original fiction, several of which have climbed (and even topped!) The New York Times Bestseller List.

Currently my Fan Fiction novels and stories have garnered nearly 3.3 million reads/views between the two sites on which I post my work. I hope to someday turn my Fan Fiction writing into true novel writing, perhaps gaining an agent and/or publisher based of the extensive platform and readership I have built through Fan Fiction.

The Fan Fiction class has been a nice size of 8-12 students in past summers; this month I have eight students thus far, but I always get a few more joining in the fun as the date for the beginning of class approaches.

Some of you may be asking, what is Fan Fiction? Simply, it's using other creators' characters and settings to create new stories based on the original authors' work. Some authors have requested that fan fiction not be written from their works, and the main website for such novels and stories,, has a list of these authors and will not allow the posting of fan fics based on their work.

But the vast majority of authors are flattered by the continuation of their work by fans, and some of the Fan Fics (in my not-so-humble opinion) eclipse the quality of the original writings.

But Fan Fiction is not only about books; movies, television shows, video games, anime and comics, and just about anything with a storyline is available for continuation by fans.

We see Fan Fiction everywhere--in the many books based on Austen's novels (I just finished reading Carrie Bebris' "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries" series, based on the characters in each of Austen's novels with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy solving the mysteries that arise), the continuation of the Star Wars saga in books, in the many spin-offs of Star Trek in television shows and movies, etc.

But isn't Fan Fiction plagiarism? Not if the original works are not under copyright. And if the works on which the Fan Fictions are based are still under copyright, Fan Fiction works may be written (unless the author is one who has requested that no Fan Fics be based on their work), but they cannot be sold for profit.

But all that aside, Fan Fiction is a wonderful way to encourage young writers in their first attempts to write stories. They already know (and love) the characters and the world(s) these characters inhabit, so it's not difficult to come up with the plot alone.

As Julie wrote in today's Brave Writer Daily Writing Tip:

Writing tip of the day:
Dabble in fan fiction.
Pick a favorite novel or series you've read and create a fan fiction story for it. Fan fiction is a good way to start writing stories because you already know the characters and the setting; all you need to create is the plot. Also, if you choose a well-known story such as the Harry Potter series or Jane Austen novels, an eager multitude of fans is waiting to devour your story and give you helpful critique.

Don't get caught in the trap of always writing fan fiction, though! Fan fiction is a good starting point for learning to write an action-packed story or witty dialogue, but it's not a final destination. After all, making up your own characters and setting stretches your imagination and builds your confidence. Once you've given fan fiction a try, write your own story using the skills you've learned. 

So writing Fan Fiction is a wonderful way to encourage a young and/or reluctant writer to get writing--yes, even over the summer!! The students in this class read and critique each others' stories and then are free to post their work on one of the many Fan Fiction websites (with permission of their parents, of course).

Join us for the fun and excitement of writing our own stories based on our favorite characters from books, movies, TV, video games, etc.!! Hurry--the class begins Monday, July 7!!

Fan Fiction class at Brave Writer

Have a terrific summer, and I'll see you in the fall with new Brave Writer classes, my courses in Expository Essay and Shakespeare at Heritage's ECII Class Days, or here as I grade essays for you!!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Class at Heritage EC II Class Day

Shakespeare's First Folio, 1623
It's been a while since I taught a new course at Heritage Christian School (where our family has been enrolled since 1997). While I usually teach Intermediate and Advanced Writing for high school students--now re-titled Expository Essay I and Expository Essay II--at Class Day, I have also taught a couple of 4th-6th grade classes, one in Poetry and one in Medieval History.

But it's been at least a decade since I stepped forward with a new high school course. Given that I have been teaching online Shakespeare classes at Brave Writer for at least eight years, both the introductory Shakespeare Family Workshop and the high school Literary Analysis courses which focus on studying and discussing an individual play by the Bard, I thought it was time to bring Shakespeare to ECII.

The new class is called Discussing Shakespeare, and it's open to students in grades 9-12. This class will focus on DISCUSSING Shakespeare's plays after a short introduction on Shakespeare's life, times, theater, language, and poetry. Currently no written work is planned; the classes will focus on reading and discussing the plays in class, reading sections aloud and analyzing them, and perhaps watching YouTube clips of various scenes.

While either the Shakespeare Made Easy series by Barron's or the No Fear Shakespeare series by SparkNotes are preferred texts as they have a modern translation on the facing page, any unabridged version of Shakespeare's plays will do. Links will be provided for FREE ONLINE TEXTS of the plays as well.

The SYLLABUS for Discussing Shakespeare is as follows:

Lesson 1: Shakespeare’s Life, Times, and Language

Lesson 2: Shakespeare’s Comedies and Much Ado About Nothing 

Lesson 3: Much Ado About Nothing 

Lesson 4: Twelfth Night 

Lesson 5: Twelfth Night

Lesson 6: The Merchant of Venice

Lesson 7:  The Merchant of Venice

Lesson 8: Shakespeare’s Histories and Henry V

Lesson 9: Henry V

Lesson 10: Richard III

Lesson 11: Richard III

Lesson 12: Shakespeare’s Tragedies and Romeo & Juliet

Lesson 13: Romeo & Juliet

Lesson 14: Macbeth

Lesson 15: Macbeth

Lesson 16: Hamlet

Lesson 17: Hamlet

Lesson 18: Farewell to the Bard Party   

Film versions of the plays will also be recommended as appropriate along with some possible supplemental reading. 

We also have plans to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday in April, perhaps perform some scenes for one of the Class Day Openings, and if possible, attend a live performance of a Shakespeare play.

So please, gentle ladies and sirs, prithee attend this our newest course at East County II. 

With WILL-power,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recent and Upcoming Brave Writer Courses

An instructor at Brave Writer since 2002, I am kept quite busy teaching online courses in writing and literature year-round.

In 2014, I have been busy teaching courses at Brave Writer where I have been an instructor since 2002. These are the classes that I have been and will be teaching this winter, spring, and summer at Brave Writer; descriptions of the classes will be found by clicking on the class title links. The Fan Fiction class, as a summer course, has not yet been linked, so I posted a short description beneath it.

Groovy Grammar Workshop (January 6-31)

Playing with Poetry Workshop (March 3-28)


Shakespeare Family Workshop (April 7-May 9)

Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (May 19-June 13)


Fan Fiction (July 7-August 1) 
The writing of fan fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the vast majority of the writers and readers in this genre of fiction are teenagers. Writing fan fiction involves the creation of stories and books around already existing characters from a previously published work of literature or other art form. Obviously, this type of story cannot be published for profit unless the work it is based on is in the public domain as the characters of copyrighted works belong to the original author. However, students learn a great deal about the fiction writing process through the writing of fan fiction, focusing on: plot, setting, characterization, dialog, writing style, cliffhangers, and other essentials of fiction writing. 

Please feel free to click through to Brave Writer for further information and registration for my classes, or you may leave me a comment or send me an e-mail (see sidebar for link) if you have questions regarding my courses.

Writing with you,

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Price Change for Grading Service Is Now in Effect

As of January 1, 2014, the price for grading essays is now $10.00 per double-spaced 12-point font page or partial page.

In order to be able to afford to continue this service, this price increase was necessary. Lately, I've been spending up to four hours to earn $10-15. As I want to be able to sustain the time investment of providing this service for families who have found my grading and commentary helpful for their students, I had to raise my prices. 

I'm happy to grade essays and love helping homeschooling families with this essay grading service. I not only grade language usage, including spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but I also comment extensively on the content of the piece of writing as well. Offering encouragement for effective writing as well as suggestions for improvement is the hallmark of my commentary to student writers. In providing such extensive written feedback in both usage and content, I often spend at least an hour grading each page of a writing assignment. Thus, my pricing needs to reflect the time and effort I invest in evaluating each student's writing. 

Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions at

Happy New Year, and I hope to be hearing from you all soon as we start school following the holidays.