This activity is designed for early weeks in an ENWR section. Students bring in and analyze personal ads to discuss necessary connections between writer and audience. In the second part, students write their own personal ads from the point of view of their writing project or portfolio. The exercise works as an ice-breaker, it connects ENWR principles to familiar media, and it makes students condense their ideas into a format that is humorously and surprisingly effective for distilling their goals as writer.
Writing Project/Portfolio Personals
This activity is designed for an early class in an ENWR studio, when your students are beginning to formulate their writing projects or ideas for portfolios, and would profit from articulating their goals and intended audiences. The activity also makes for a good early semester ice breaker, usually precipitating humorous and surprisingly cogent introductions to each other's projects.
1) Before class, ask students to find and bring in at least one personal ad (non-offensive, non-pornographic). Most any kind will do, as long as they're a bit prosy. Personal ads abound online and can be found in local papers, including the Cavalier Daily, the Hook, the C-Ville, etc.
2) In class, go around the room and share what students brought in. You might start by asking who brought in the most egregious one. Then ask questions about who would read these ads, and better yet, who would respond. It's especially useful to make comparisons between different ads on the table: which ones would work, and why? How does the writer tailor their ad to make a connection with a particular reader? What has to happen for the connection between writer and audience to spark into life, or how do personals tap into an audience's motivations to read and respond?
3) Have the students each write a personal ad from the point of view/perspective of their writing project or portfolio. Stress making a connection to their intended audience. Give them 5-7 minutes to write and brace yourself for innuendo.
4) Have students read their personals out loud. Ask the class if, from the personal ad, the writer has made clear what the project is and who it's for. Encourage suggestions. At the close of the exercise, suggest how personal ads are literally "proposals" that work best when their goals and audience are made clear. When undertaking their own ENWR proposals or projects, audience identification should rank among the first steps.
"Me: sultry grant proposal on neo-cortical stimulants. You: outgoing, adventurous medical journal seeking something out of the ordinary..."
"Are you an alternative local newspaper who wants fresh talent to make sparks fly? Craving an energetic, young, flexible writer for freelance flings with potential to develop into a long-term relationship? ..."