Featured Column: Metropolitan agenda
Since 1976, Metropolitan Diary has been a hotbed for reader-submitted stories about these “New York-only experiences”. Each week, its editors write, New Yorkers and visitors to the city “share anecdotes, memories, unusual encounters and heard snippets that reveal the spirit and heart of the city.”
What we love about this column is that it’s a great role model for storytelling. Each story focuses on a small, memorable moment – a conversation overheard, an encounter on the subway, a small act of kindness – that often ends up saying something bigger about human nature, the world we live in or just the unique New York character. .
What stories do you have to share about a community you belong to, be it your city, your school, or even somewhere online? In this lesson, you will read several stories from the Metropolitan Diary and then write your own about a memorable encounter you had, which surprised, thrilled, or inspired you.
Ideas for teachers: Use this lesson as part of our unit on narrative writing. If the students like what they wrote, they can expand on it and submit it to our Personal narrative writing competition until November 17th.
Have you ever had a meeting in your city or community that surprised, delighted or inspired you? Maybe interacting with a friend or stranger at the bus stop, in a skate park, at your job, in a classroom or online, in a video game chat, or in the comments section of a article? It could be something that happened to you, or something that you observed or heard.
Take about a minute to brainstorm places in your community where you often see special, unusual, or funny things happening.
Then use the start of the sentence below to write for a few minutes about whatever comes to mind:
One encounter I had that I will never forget is …
First, choose at least three of the Stories from the Metropolitan Newspaper from this PDF read. If none of these inspires you, you can find many more in the Metropolitan Diary section.
You can read a whole set in class, one with a partner and only one. For each story you read, answer the questions below.
Questions for writing and discussion
As you read, mark up and take notes on what you notice about the way these pieces are written. Here are some questions to consider for each story:
1. What is the momentous event or moment that this story focuses on? Why do you think the writer chose it?
2. Ed Shanahan, the editor of the Metropolitan Diary, says he often looks for stories that have “vivid memories of people, places and things” and “settings that instantly put the reader in the city”. Circle or underline the descriptive details of the story. What do these details contribute to the story? Why do you think the author included them?
3. The purpose of Metropolitan Diary is to share stories that surprise, delight and inspire. What kind of response or reaction do you think the author of the story you read was trying to get from the reader? What word choices, literary devices, or other “writing movements” help elicit this answer?
4. Most of the stories readers submit convey some sort of universal message about human kindness, happy coincidences, bonding, or what it’s like to live in New York City. What do you think is the message of the story you are reading? What lines help communicate this message?
5. Mr Shanahan says he also keeps a close eye on the kicker, or the last line in history, and almost always cuts out comments like “that’s why I love New York.” Why do you think he’s doing this? How does the story you read end? Do you think the ending is effective? Why or why not?
6. Which of the stories did you find the most interesting, meaningful or compelling? Why? What did the author that you admired and would like to try in your own writing?
Now it’s your turn: write your own story modeled on the Metropolitan Diary about a memorable encounter in a community you belong to. You can continue what you started in the warm-up or write something completely new.
Here are some guidelines:
Your story has to be about a momentous little moment – and it has to be true (i.e. it happened to you or you were there when it happened).
The stories in the Metropolitan Diary are all about New York City, but your story can be about any community you belong to.
Try to keep your article under 300 words like Metropolitan Diary articles are. Yours can even be under 100 words, like most stories you read, as long as it has a beginning, middle, and end.
Play with form. You can write your play like a traditional story, but it can also take the form of a poem or a short play.
Consider the larger message you want your room to convey. What does this anecdote say about your community? What does it tell us about the world we live in, human nature or life itself? Then see if you can use some of the writing movements you’ve noticed in the Metropolitan Diary plays you read to help communicate your message – descriptive details that evoke a sense of belonging, literary devices that elicit a sense of belonging. reaction and a kick that subtly, but effectively, tells your reader what your article is about.
If you want to take it a step further, try making your own pen and ink drawing, like the ones created by Metropolitan Diary illustrator Agnes Lee, to accompany your piece.
If you like, post your finished work in the comments! (You can post comments of up to 1500 characters, or about 250 words. If your story is longer than that, you can post it as two comments.)
Want more lessons of the day? You can find them all here.