How To Spot Bad Writing – Jack Grapes

Film Courage: What’s the first writing exercise you give to your students?

Jack Grapes, Artist, Writer, Author, Instructor: They read the first three chapters of the Method Writing book and they have to write a journal entry in which they write like they talk.

Film Courage: How long is the journal entry?

Jack: It could be 500 pages but for the sake of the class they can only read two pages because otherwise they could be reading 100 pages and would be there all night. But I don’t say you can’t…write as much as you want in your journal for that day or that week but for the class limit it to about 500 words which is about two pages so that we can respond to it which 500 is a pretty good normal chunk. But just a journal entry, just write like you talk. I want to hear your voice. If you’re not writing like you talk we will point out those sentences where you had He skillfully said adverbs, adjectives, all that writerly stuff we’ll point it out and we’ll try to get you not to do that and then in anticipation of the next chapter we start identifying transformation lines and then the following week they have to write a journal entry writing like you talk but massaging a transformation line.

Film Courage: And sorry the transformation line again is?

Jack: I was hiding the birthday cake. Get rid of the birthday cake. What’s the story of your life and the truth of who you are? I was hiding, I didn’t want people to see me, I was afraid they wouldn’t like me if they saw who I was. They would hate me. I’m not a good person. I’m a bad boy. I was hiding ends up I’m a bad boy because I remembered being locked in the closet and I’m a bad boy. That’s just…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).



Jack Grapes is an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, teacher, and the editor and publisher of ONTHEBUS, one of the top literary journals in the country. He has won several publishing grants and Fellowships in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s also received nine Artist-in- Residence Grants from the California Arts Council to teach writing in various schools throughout Los Angeles. He is the author of 13 books of poetry, including TREES, COFFEE, AND THE EYES OF DEER, and BREAKING DOWN THE SURFACE OF THE WORLD. A spoken-word CD, Pretend, was recently issued by DePaul University. He is also author of a chapbook of poems and paintings titled AND THE RUNNING FORM, NAKED, BLAKE. His most recent publication is LUCKY FINDS, a boxed set of 50 cards that extend and parody the dynamic artistic productions of high-modernist poets such as Ezra Pound and Charles Olson. For more information on Jack’s classes, please visit here.




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