The Retirement Home for Horses Inc. – Michelle Klug
Michelle’s story is about a farm where horses of various backgrounds, neglected, abused, retired, can live in peace for the rest of their lives. Michelle’s piece is mostly in the traditional style, with lots of reporting and a mostly objective view. She makes great use of quotes throughout her story, my favorite being the piece’s last line, “My wife always says if you have four legs, you’ll do well here.” I thought Michelle’s story was emotionally powerful – at times encouraging, and at times quite depressing. I noticed a couple of grammatical errors and a typo, but those can be corrected in minutes. One place that was a bit confusing was the first paragraph on the second page. It reads:
“The Retirement Home For Horses only takes horses over the age of 20. Younger horses are more likely to be adopted and kept as companions. Older horses are sometimes abandoned after they are deemed useless. They also do not accept horses from private owners.”
This makes it seems as though the RHFH sometimes abandons older horses after they are deemed useless, and I don’t think that’s what Michelle meant.
One more place in the story that could use a little rearranging was the following two paragraphs, the first of which ends: “…some will fall victim to abuse, neglect, or even death at a slaughter plant.”
“Hi. I’m Pete the Plumber,” Gregory Joked in his British accent…
The image of horse abuse and death isn’t quite out of our minds before Michelle introduces Gregory the jokester. I would have tried to separate the paragraphs in someway, or at least include a transition sentence to the next, starkly different, paragraph.
I enjoyed reading your story, Michelle.
Rachel’s story profiles Will Harding, coach of the University of Florida Tri-Gators, the university’s triathlon team. Rachel’s story strays from traditional journalism in its use of a first-person narrator, subjective reporting and exploration of inner experience. Rachel clearly tries to get into Harding’s head, which seems difficult as he is described as a naturally private person. The major strength of Rachel’s story, in my opinion, is her reporting work. She relays a number of details that give the reader a good sense of Harding, such as his aversion to technology, his small hands, and his perpetual (so it seems) worry about the well-being of his athletes. Rachel also has a number of good quotes in her story, for example:
“We could be drinking or doing drugs. Some of my family does that. But we don’t. We train.”
I think, however, Rachel’s quotes would have been even more effective if she had been a little more selective in their use. What I mean is, while there are a number of good quotes in the story, there are also some that, I think, could be left out to equal effect. I would’ve cut the quote about Harding hating driving as it doesn’t really add anything to Harding’s profile, just that he hates driving (as many of us do.)
I’d also advise Rachel to more clearly explain her involvement with Harding if she is using a first-person narrator. In her first paragraph she writes, “Thursdays are Happy Feet, which serves as another opportunity to run short and fast distances if we don’t want to swim or bike.” But she hasn’t told us that she’s a member of the Tri-Gator team, so that creates some confusion for the reader. Also, give us a title! Nonetheless, I thought Rachel’s story was a nice profile of an interesting and complex coach. Thanks, Rachel.
The Friday Crew – Sadie Cone
Sadie’s piece details a day at Brother’s Keeper Soup Kitchen, whose volunteers serve food to the homeless of Marion County. Sadie’s story is named “The Friday Crew,” sharing the nickname that the kitchen’s volunteers use for themselves. Great title. It also opens with a biblical quote, which I think worked very well. Of course as I started reading i wasn’t exactly sure what the purpose of the quote would be, but after reading the story I came back to it and, in my opinion, it fits perfectly. Although Sadie’s story, I would say, is mostly traditional feature journalism, she does use some elements of literary journalism within it. Status details, for example, show that the kitchen’s “guests” (which I thought was a great way of describing them) wear all of their possessions on their backs and wear old, soiled clothes. Sadie also uses a little bit of the inner experience element, telling the reader how some of the kitchen’s guests are uncomfortable taking free food.
Sadie asked the class some questions at the end of the piece, which (for some) I’d like to offer my answers for.
#2. I don’t think you should force yourself in the story, Sadie. You did a great job being a fly on the wall.
#3. I think some more description in a few places would have added just that extra little bit of detail that make a story that much more descriptive. I would have liked a little more about the dining hall. You say “six long tables” but never say how long or how they’re arranged.
#4. In my opinion, your ending is not too sappy. I thought it worked very well.
#5. Your story includes a number of characters. Adding more might’ve confused your readers. We already get a good feel for some of the personalities working at the kitchen.
One small thing I think Sadie can work on is more showing and less telling, which is something I think we could all work on. For example, you say “Her fingers are stick with jelly, causing the bags to cling to her small hands.” Then you include a quote of the woman explaining how her hands get sticky and showing you exactly how sticky they are. Also, about Kathy, you say “She is an expert at slicing…” but you don’t need to tell us this, just show us through how she, as you write, deftly wields a knife as she talks.
I thought you did a fantastic job with this piece, Sadie!
Final Story – Casey Kochey
Casey’s story is an intricate look at an area that most students of the University of Florida are unfamiliar with, the cadaver lab of the Communicore building. Casey does a nice job of slowly guiding the reader into the cadaver lab without announcing what’s ahead and also without losing the interest of the reader. Two paragraphs go by before Casey writes, “Alyssa enters the classroom for the first time, and her eyes are immediately drawn to the body bags.” A great way, in my opinion, of showing, not telling, his readers where they now are. Casey adeptly explores the inner experience of the students who will work in the cadaver lab for the next few months of their lives. “Alyssa Triacca walks through them for the first time and her stomach churns. She is anxious and unsure, and she isn’t alone.” Casey also does a nice job reporting important and interesting facts relating to the bodies, such as that their families must pay for them to be used by the university. I also appreciated Casey’s restrained use of quotes – only a few throughout the entire story.
There were just one or two places where I thought Casey could’ve clarified some detail of the story. I couldn’t quite visualize the foyer of the cadaver lab: “Standing in the foyer beyond the double doors, students have their last chance to gather themselves. To their left is a large, metal sliding door – the loading dock. To their right, two classroom doors. In front of them, a refrigerated storage area.”
Another place that could use just a touch of clarification is the beginning of the fourth paragraph: “Once the first bag is open, Alyssa begins to settle down. Their faces are covered, and the bodies have been shaved bare.” It’s not immediately clear that the faces are those of the bodies (though I assume that they are), and what are they covered with? Also, watch the repetition of “hallway” in the first paragraph (and the start of the 2nd graph.)
I thought this was a great example of literary journalism. Clearly, Casey did some traditional reporting and interviewing, but he also got underneath the skin of the students having to go through this trying period of their lives. Nice job, Casey!
The Unspoken Race – Ginny Hoyle Lawrimore
Ginny’s story, “The Unspoken Race,” details three women struggling with the pressure they feel to get married. Ginny’s story follows, primarily, the tenets of traditional journalism, displaying a great deal of objective reporting and interviewing. Ginny explores the inner emotions of her story’s subjects, but mostly through their own words, in quotes. Still, there is some literary exploration of inner-experience within Ginny’s story, for example, “She was afraid that the pressure would act like a poison, infecting her relationship. She was never one to plan to be married by 30 or to pine for a diamond ring.”
Ginny clearly made her story’s subjects comfortable – enough that they would discuss personal, emotionally powerful matters with her. This, I feel, is the great strength of Ginny’s story. The women she interviewed are speaking from the heart about matters extremely important to them, which, in the mind of the reader, adds authenticity to their words and the story in general. On the other hand, though, the piece is a bit quote-heavy. I’d like to hear a little more from you, Ginny!
One other thing this piece could have benefited from, in my opinion, is a better-defined nut graph. The reader (or I, anyways) isn’t quite sure what Ginny is getting at in her discussion with Jennifer Mashburn, whose long-time boyfriend left her for another woman. With Rebekah Fitzsimmons, the focus becomes more clear in her worry about getting married and starting a family. Still, the nut graph doesn’t really show up until the end of the 2nd page of the story: “Actually, recent studies show that trends over the past 50 years have led to a sharp decline in marriage…” Perhaps this is the effect Ginny desired, though.
I thought Ginny ended the piece with a great quote which explains her story’s title nicely. Ginny also got a chance to interview some experts on the subject of marital pressure on women, which I thought fit quite well within the piece. I enjoyed your story, Ginny, thank you!