Students in undergraduate or graduate UVM English Department courses are invited to submit outstanding papers—any nonfiction topic or genre—completed since March 2010 for our annual Allbee Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Prose Writing in the following categories:

  • Outstanding paper by a student in English 1
  • Outstanding personal essay or creative non-fiction writing
  • Outstanding paper by a student in an English course numbered 50-199
  • Outstanding paper by a Senior for any English course
  • Outstanding seminar paper by an MA student in English

You need not be an English major to enter the undergraduate competitions.  Students may submit more than one paper.  Each entry should be clearly labeled with your name, telephone number, and email address, as well as the Allbee category for which you’re submitting it, and the course, professor, and semester in which it was completed.  Submissions are due to the English office, 400 Old Mill, by 3:30 p.m. Monday, March 21st.

Winning writers will receive a generous cash prize and be honored at the English Department’s Honors Day in late April.

For more information please contact Sheila Boland Chira, coordinator of the awards, at Sheila.BolandChira@uvm.edu.

Portfolio 2 pickup is tomorrow from 2-5 in my office, 403 Old Mill Annex. If you go to 403 Old Mill rather than the Annex, you’ll find the English Department supply closet, which won’t be terribly helpful. So, be sure to go to the Annex.

Portfolio 2 pickup will be on Tuesday 12/14 from 2-5. If these times do not work for you, please email me and I can meet you either earlier or later on 12/14. However, the 14th will be the only day this semester for portfolio pickup. I will be around next semester, and you can come and pick up your portfolio then if this semester doesn’t work for you.

We discussed this in class, but, just for clarity’s sake, by reader-ready I mean two pieces that are polished and as good as they possible can be. So, you should be picking your two pieces that are already closest to this point rather than focusing on some of your more problematic essays. These two pieces will make up most of your grade on Portfolio 2. So, if you do a really good job on these two pieces, I will be more willing to overlook other essays in this portfolio that maybe missed the mark.

Here are some general guidelines for what the reader-ready pieces should look like:

1. No grammar/spelling mistakes; tip – don’t rely on spell/grammar check because it won’t catch everything

2. They should have titles, something other than Project _____

3. Everything should be formatted correctly (only hitting tab once to indent paragraphs, not adding in extra spaces between paragraphs, quoting correctly, citing your sources correctly, no jumbo periods, no alterations to the standard margin size, everything is double-spaced, etc.)

4. You use Times New Roman 12 pt. font or the equivalent

5. The paper is between 4-7 pages long without using any tricks to make it longer or shorter than it actually is

6. No lingering higher order concerns (things like organizational problems, lack of a clearly identifiable point, information that doesn’t connect back into your argument, paragraphing problems, etc.)

The appeal process for Portfolio 2 and final grades in general is going to be similar to what we did last time.  The only significant difference is that you cannot resubmit your portfolio to me along with your letter for me to reconsider because I’ll be leaving on the 15th and handing portfolios back on the 14th. So, you’ll need to email me your appeal letter, and I’ll review it and make a decision based upon my notes from your portfolio and your letter. Also, the turn around for appeal letters is going to be a bit tighter because all appeal letters have to be in by no later than 5 PM on 12/18. After 5 PM on the 18th I will neither accept nor consider any letters of appeal. I do apologize for the tight turn around, but I have an engagement on the 20th that will make me unable to consider appeal letters after that point in time. So, the 18th is the last day that you can turn them in while still allowing me enough time to read and respond to them before the 20th.

So, this time the appeal process will be as follows:

1. Go home and read over both my letter to you and my comments on your individual essays

2. Decide if there’s something specific that you think I overlooked or misinterpreted or just plain missed that would maybe justify you getting a higher grade on either this portfolio or in class participation

3. Write me a letter calmly explaining your objection and clearly articulating why you think you deserve a higher grade and what you think that grade should be based on that reasoning

4. Resubmit your portfolio to me with your appeal letter no later than 5 PM on 12/18

At this point, I will read your letter and then email you my decision. If I do decide to change your grade, I cannot tell you the new grade over email, but I will change it on the registrar’s page where you can see it.


1. “I tried really hard” is not something that I’m going to find persuasive. A’s are for quality work, not for effort.

2. “I didn’t know…” is also something that I’m not going to find persuasive. It’s your job to be proactive when you don’t understand something. So, if you were confused about what the assignment meant, then you should have contacted me about it well in advance of the due date. Also, “I didn’t know that I was responsible for work that we did in class on a day that I was absent” is also a no-go. You are always responsible for work that you missed.

3. What I will potentially find persuasive is you engaging with specific points that I made in my letter to you. For example, if I said that your paper was organized in a way that was confusing, you could counter with reasons why you chose to organize it that way. Also, if it’s a simple case of me saying that something wasn’t in your portfolio when it really was, you could easily draw my attention to that in a way that I would find compelling.

One final caveat, grades can either go up or down on appeal. So, be sure to consider whether or not you want to open yourself up to the risk of losing more points before you submit an official appeal.

For tomorrow, please bring in drafts of your two reader-ready pieces for the peer-workshop. These drafts need to contain new work, i.e. things that you have done to make the pieces more reader-ready since the original essays. So, they cannot just be the original draft with my comments on it.

Everything from Portfolio 1 including the checklist and the letter that I gave you

Exploration 5 brainstorming activity from class

Exploration 5 with my comments

Exploration 6 with my comments

Interpretive paraphrasing activity from class

Project 4 with your peer-partner’s comments

Project 4 with my comments

One of the radical revision prompts from class

Project 5 with your peer-partners’ comments

Project 5 with my comments

Exploration 7 peer-partner activity from class

Integrating your quotes activity from class

Exploration 7 with my comments

“What I really mean to say is…” activity from class

Editing to make nouns and verbs do the work activity from class

Eliminating passive voice activity from class

Eliminating an unnecessary “that” and clothing a naked “this” activity from class

Your two reader-ready pieces with your peer-partner’s comments on both

Two reader-ready pieces that are labeled as such (i.e. with “reader-ready” appearing under your name)

No rule says you can’t use “to be” verbs like “are” and “were” or start a sentence with “It is” or “There are.” Likewise, no rule says you can’t use gerunds, verbs ending with –ing like “running.” But we sometimes fall into these constructions without looking for other options. See how many “to be” and “-ing” verbs you can eliminate—with what gain in voice.

First version: There was a time when I believed that if it was in a book, it must be true.

Edited: I once believed all books tell the truth.

First version: We were dancing and talking all night.

Edited: We danced and talked all night. (Context and rhythm matter, so use your ear.)

Some sentences depend on “that” to make sense, but often you can drop “that” from a sentence with no loss in meaning—and maybe a big gain in voice. On the other hand, when “this” appears in a sentence without an accompanying noun, your readers may puzzle over what “This” is supposed to mean. So see how many “that”s you can drop and if you have a “naked this” you can clothe ….

First version: He said that he’s leaving and that he’s not coming back.

Edited: He said he’s leaving and he’s not coming back.

First version: When I left, I promised to write my friends but never did. This puzzles me now.

Edited: When I left, I promised to write my friends but never did. How quickly I cut those ties puzzles me now.

Passive voice constructions can really bog down your essay and make things significantly more confusing than they need to be. A passive voice construction is a verbal phrase where the subject receives the verb’s action. For example, saying “the apples were purchased at the store by me” instead of “I purchased the apples at the store.” So, try finding and rewriting these passive voice passages in the active voice.

1. Read through your paper circling any and all passive voice constructions

2. Go through your essay and, on a separate sheet of paper, rewrite each passive voice as an active voice

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