Welcome to Wavelength!

What’s your first move when you’re given an essay assignment? Do you check the due date, ask about the word count, consider possible topics, or, perhaps, wonder how you’ll ever find the time to write, let alone a topic to write about? Do you wonder if you’re up to the task? I know I routinely ask such questions about anything I write. These questions are part of the work of writing, which involves a careful consideration of a specific rhetorical context: purpose (why we’re writing), topic (what we’re writing about), and audience (who we’re writing for).

With this in mind, I want to suggest another set of first moves: Look for examples of what other writers have done when given the same (or similar) task. Review their work with an eye to figuring out what you’ll be working toward: structure, organization, tone, subject matter, voice, beginnings, endings, and middles. These of course are features you might discuss in class, but without seeing what those features look like in real writing, it’s hard to get going.

Writing samples, further, can help make you more aware of rhetorical contexts. In reading them you can begin to discover what audiences expect (and don’t expect) from you and from your work, which in turn helps shape and inform how you write. You can begin to work out possibilities for topics and approaches. In reviewing the work of other writers, you can begin to sense their motivations and purposes for writing, which can help you discover your own purposes.

In this essay collection, the distance between you and ‘other writers’ has been kept to a minimum. That is to say, all essays in this section of Wavelength have been written by students who’ve recently taken EN 101, 102, and 103 at the University of Alabama. These writers have negotiated the same rhetorical contexts you’ll be negotiating, so I hope you will see their work as aspirational. Teachers and students alike have generously shared these examples, and all work has been published by permission.

Scroll down to find a brief overview of each genre represented in this collection, a precis of each writer’s work, questions that you may (or may not!) wish to use to use to place your learning into a meaningful, relevant context. and I hope you will make this collection a key part of your learning. Feel free to engage, question, critique, extend, imitate! I’ve provided some additional resources for you to check out, and your instructor can share more. Happy writing!

-Luke Niiler
First-Year Writing