A Narrative of Place
“Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the
material that went to make me. Time and place have had their say.” –from Dust Tracks
on the Road by Zora Neale Hurston arrative of place is a creative essay that allows you to explore a meaningful place from
your past and convey its significance to your audience. You will craft a compelling story
that includes vivid description and sensory detail with the purpose of conveying what it
means to inhabit a place you have called home. How did this place and time in your life make
their mark on you?
Writing creates alliances, or it should. A successful narrative draws readers in and places them
right there with you in that place and time. To accomplish this you must write about a place you
know well, and include vivid sensory details–show, don’t tell. Van Campen, in his book The
Proust Effect, writing about the French novelist, Marcel Proust relates:
“Proust embarked on a self-examination and discovered that sense memories. . .
actually provided him with an insight into unprocessed emotions” (22).
You are writing this essay for several reasons. We learn unexpected and wonderful things about
ourselves and the world around us when we write, and sometimes we write things we didn’t
know we knew! Of course, you will want to engage your audience with a good story, but you
also will be investigating and learning something about yourself as well as you explore the
landscape of home. In your narrative, you will tell a compelling story and reflect on its big picture significance. Writing a narrative plays a larger role than simply telling a good story.
“. . .[N]arrative organizes not just memory, but the whole of human experience—not
just the life stories of the past, but all of one’s life as it unfolds.”
–-from “The Neurology of Narrative” by Young & Saver
For this assignment, you will be exercising the writing skills of audience, narration, description,
focus, organization, development, reflection, and so on. You will be using these skills in the
writing you will be doing all semester.
Texts: For this multi-genre unit we will have several readings in NFG. We will also be reading in
its entirety, Grass Roots: The Universe of Home by Paul Gruchow, and in class will look at some
place-based poems provided to you on a handout.
Audience: For this assignment you will consider your audience to be someone who has never
visited the place you describe, thus you will need to describe it in details vivid enough for your
reader to envision the place clearly.
The Latin word from which our own word culture derives has several meanings: to inhabit, to till, to
worship; these are, in fact, although we have forgotten it, intimately related actions. To inhabit a place means,
if one is attentive to the idea from which the word comes, not simply to occupy it, or merely to own it, but to
dwell within it, to have joined oneself in some organic way to it; it is the place where one’s heart lives.”
The Nature of Home: A Narrative of Place
Length & Format of Essay: Your narrative will be at least 1500 words. It must be properly
formatted in MLA style. See the course syllabus or Purdue OWL for examples.
Title: Your title will be something interesting that pulls the reader into your story. Think “Corn
is Not Eternal,” “Putting Tomatoes By,” “The Fogtown School of Thought” etc. Your title is not
just the name of the assignment!
First Draft: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 (at least 1000 words)- due on BB before class
and bring two hard copies for peer review.
Final Draft: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 (at least 1500 words, but not more than 2500)-
due on BB before class. Bring one hard copy to class to turn in along with your rubric, planning
notes, and the peer review you received.
Reflection: Wednesday, September 27, 2017– due on BB by 5:00 p.m.
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