English 100 Essay #1 Tipsheet

My Own Road to Writing

Begin by reading:

Your writing task:

Write a brief essay explaining one or more of the things that shaped you into the writer you are today.


We begin this course with three basic assumptions:

  1. Yes, you really are a writer. You may be a writer who needs to learn or who needs to practice, but it's in you. You are like young Harry Potter who told Hagrid, "No, you've made a mistake. I can't be … a—a wizard. I mean, I'm just… Harry. Just Harry." But Harry was wrong. He really was a wizard.
  2. You learn to write by reading the writing of others. That's why the course has student writing sprinkled all through as well as professional writing.
  3. Good writing focuses on showing, not just telling. We know the names of the teachers in both "Leandro" and "My Road to Writing." We know exactly what they did and how they sounded. With the help of Google, you can still drive to Miss Butler's school. We get specific sights and sounds to flesh out the narrative. Leandro isn't just a name—he's a chubby Mexican boy with worn-out clothing who has trouble speaking English.

Hints for success:

  1. Your primary audience for this essay is your instructor; your secondary audience is other students like yourself. This means that:
    • Your audience does not know much about your personal private life or about your school district or neighborhood. You might have some explaining to do.
    • You are not trying to blow the socks off a Ph.D., but you are not talking down to small children either. Don't spend a lot of time looking up impressive words to say simple things. Save the fake legal language for law school. Save the writing that's appropriate for 4-year-olds for your first group of children when you practice teach.
    • The Kristi Stone essay is a good example of the sort of language you should be using.
  2. Though this is a personal essay, it should also be an academic essay, so leave out words such as "gonna" and "wanna." Do not use neighborhood slang in this essay.
  3. First-person pronouns (I, me, my, we, us our) are perfectly acceptable. The Kristi Stone essay would not have been better if she had written like this:
  4. After a taste of success, writing became an obsession. One liked it almost as much as chocolate. As this writer moved from one grade to the next, the praise continued to follow. A little less explosive than fourth grade, but adequate. Eventually as the joy of expressing thought on paper palled a little, a new thought hit one: Honey, there's money in this.
  5. I asked for at least two pages, but do not panic if you come up with three or four. Just write it.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 7/27/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.