Archive for December, 2016

More on incompletes

December 21, 2016

Dear Writers:

Thank you for your patience. My goal is to give every paper a close and helpful reading. I will be sending you emailed comments and markups. We will meet in the new year. If you have a story that is not up to a B, I will work with you on revisions and help you get up to the standard.



Story of a failed romance

December 11, 2016

“Something Between Us” is a story that appeared in the New York Times Sunday magazine today, and is well worth reading. The subtitle is “For a young Nigerian man and woman, it might have been love.” It’s an “as-told-to” story. The writer, China Oduah, interviewed the young woman, who wished to remain nameless.

Notice how much action and reaction there is in the story. If I had to describe this story in one word, it would be regret.

In your writing life, keep in mind that all stories are not about success. More often they are about failure. Can you stand to look at failure and learn from it? Can you even be grateful for the lessons of failure?


Final grades etc.

December 8, 2016

Dear Writers,

I realize there is a lot of confusion and possibly anxiety about grades. I’ve been overwhelmed with reading papers and may have to give some incompletes on Tuesday until I can straighten things out.

My goal is this: to read everyone’s story completely and give comments and a markup. Private conferences are not going to be possible. Email exchanges and phone calls are possible.

As soon as you get my remarks let me know if they make sense to you. For some of you the result will not be a perfect story, but a major step forward in understanding what you’re working with.

In the best of worlds we would have had 15 students and I would have know each of you individually and would have worked closely with each of you on your story. That has not been the case. But I am determined to give each of you individual help and if we have to do some followup work in January, so be it. I want each of you to feel that you have got a handle on your story and have learned something that will help you on future projects.

Best thing to do right now is communicate by email. Use the

It’s going to be complicated by with patience and good will we will get through this.

Your editor,

Michael Berryhill

What an essay lead looks like

December 2, 2016

Essays are about ideas rather than stories, though narratives may be part of the argument in an essay. You can talk about the argument in an essay, but it would be rare to talk about the argument in a narrative.  Narratives have themes, but rarely arguments. Here’s an essay lead from a recent New Yorker article by the great Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

America has always been aspirational to me. Even when I chafed at its hypocrisies, it somehow always seemed sure, a nation that knew what it was doing, refreshingly free of that anything-can-happen existential uncertainty so familiar to developing nations. But no longer. The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. And in response to this there are people living in visceral fear, people anxiously trying to discern policy from bluster, and people kowtowing as though to a new king. Things that were recently pushed to the corners of America’s political space—overt racism, glaring misogyny, anti-intellectualism—are once again creeping to the center.

As you can see this is pure argument and opinion. There’s no narrative in this at all. It’s a different kind of writing, useful and worthwhile, but completely different from narrative writing.