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Write about how parts of an author’s life may have influenced or inspired specific topics addressed in one of his or her short stories.
When we read, we often get so involved with the characters and events of the stories that we don’t think about the authors. Authors don’t simply come up with an idea for a story out of thin air. They are inspired by something and feel compelled to flesh out the inspiration in their literature. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that authors write themselves as characters. That would be a stretch (and probably boring!). However, there is no escaping the fact that the background, experiences, and beliefs of authors find a way into their literature. For example, Junot Díaz is Dominican but was raised in New Jersey. Much of his literature contains Dominican American characters and is set in either the Dominican Republic or in New Jersey. Another example is Flannery O’Connor, who had lupus. She was an ill woman whose life was cut short, and she often writes characters with some type of illness or deformity (though never lupus). You can see, therefore, that this personal experience inspired her art. James Baldwin is a great example of an author who was inspired by his social and political beliefs. He was a strong supporter of civil rights and felt compelled to write stories about the struggles of African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s. This idea that literature is influenced by the lives of its authors is the premise for your research essay.
Steps: Step 1: Choose one of the authors we have read this semester:
James Baldwin Raymond Carver
Edwidge Danticat Junot Díaz
Flannery O’Connor Amy Tan
Step 2: Do research on the author’s life. Learn as much information about him/her as you
can. Learn about childhood, family, relationships, health, political ideas, culture,
religion, important experiences, etc. ***See below for research guidelines***
Step 3: Select a short story that your author wrote (not the one we read for class). Make sure
the story you choose is actually a short story and NOT an essay, poem, or full length
novel. *If you choose Amy Tan, feel free to pick a chapter from her novel, The Joy Luck
Club. Just make sure it’s not “A Pair of Tickets.”
Step 4: Read that story at least three times.
Step 5: Look for topics addressed in the story that are somehow influenced or inspired by
elements of the author’s background.
Step 6: Write the essay.
Step 7: Make sure all MLA standards (including paper format, in-text citations, & works cited)
Step 8: Revise, Revise, Revise!
Intro: Use an effective introduction strategy (Unit 1) that includes a brief introduction to the author AND the story you’re writing about. Transition smoothly into a clear thesis statement that asserts how the author’s life may have influenced or inspired specific topics in his or her short story.
Body paragraphs: Alternate between author information and how that information has influenced a specific topic in the short story you chose. This could mean that you write one paragraph about the author information and then the next paragraph about how that information influenced the short story. Alternatively, the info and influence could be housed in the same paragraph. That’s up to you. Just make sure you give enough attention to both pieces because this essay is not simply a biography, and it is not simply an analysis of a short story. It requires you to think critically and make connections.
*Note: Don’t write a whole biographical section and then a whole story section. The organization needs to be more purposeful than that (see above).
Conclusion: Use an effective conclusion strategy (Unit 1) that logically ends the essay.
You must adhere to MLA 8 guidelines, which means it must include properly integrated quotes,
summary, and paraphrase, properly formatted in-text citations and a properly formatted works
cited page. More information about MLA guidelines is provided in this unit’s coursework.
Research Requirements (4-6 sources total):
1. One (1) resource is the short story by your chosen author (not the one we read for class) • The story can be found online or in the library
2. Three – five (3-5) biographical sources about your author • Acceptable biographical sources include books, articles, a reliable website, written interviews, and recorded interviews. • You are allowed to use two general websites from the Internet (NOT Wikipedia or any type of student help site like enotes, Spark Notes, Shmoop, Bookrags, etc.). If you have found your short story online, it doesn’t count as your general websites from the Internet. You can still use 2 biographical sources from the Internet.
• All other sources must come from the library databases or from books about the author. If you find a good biographical book about an author and use more than one chapter from it, you can count that as two separate sources, but you must individually cite each chapter in your works cited page.