Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Spot Today

Beautiful place to write? I thought so, but I learned a valuable lesson today: I can't wait to return to my old place at my desk. Though nice to have an occasional change, there's no place like writing home.

Second lesson? I can write anywhere. It's not the place.

**Montauk August 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Writing Analogy

Wild raspberries for breakfast

This morning I went for a hike and trekked along a quiet pathway. When I emerged, I was covered with those mini-monsters that cling to your socks and pants, well-named: hitchhikers. I plan on taking a few more hikes in the area, so I decided to look for the plant, identify it and hopefully avoid it.  As I watched the side of the road, I discovered raspberry plants! Fresh wild raspberries. What a treat because I have been mourning my raspberry patch. While I was away, hundreds and hundreds of berries dried on the canes because no one (I shall not name the offending child) picked them. As I feasted and collected and dropped the raspberries into the fold of my sweatshirt for my fellow writers' breakfast, the experience reminded me of editing. Hang on, this might work. 

We write a rough draft-good ideas, but we know it needs polish-there are some hitchikers (poor word choices, too many theres and weres)  that need to be booted out of the car. While laboring to look for the offending sentences, ideas or syntax, we unexpectedly find the raspberries-the good sentences, the original simile. Once I had found raspberry plants, knew they were there, knew what they looked like, I saw more and more---so the final analogy is: when we consistently write we become better at identifying poor writing and creating good writing. When we make those edits, they go from nuisance plants to fruit-bearing raspberries!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Editing Paradigm Shift

I sense, that many of my students, when they see an edited, marked-up paper--they panic, deflate, feel overwhelmed.  I'm hoping this post will lead to a paradigm shift.

This past week, as a fellow of the Natl. Writing Project, I spent three days with fellow writers and mentors. One of those mentors is Chris Crowe (Mississippi Trial 1955). He also has a new book coming out in fall 2014. The current title (because the publisher might change the title)  is I Saw Death Coming Up the Hill- a-coming-of-age novel set in the Vietnam War era (1970's). This work of his has a fascinating history, not only of the time but of its creation.

Chris asked me how my revision was going and what I was doing to revise. I paused and realized that I wanted to hear what he had to say about revision and not what I had to say. So I said/asked, "I could really use some revision tips from you."

One of those tips was: Use your search option in word and search for "there." It is overused and usually combined with the  lazy "to be" verb.

Then he offered to take a look at a "few pages." I only gave him four and I wish like crazy, I'd sent him ten. He then sat down with me and explained every reason and suggested edit. He did this so deftly, it was an amazing editing experience. He set the pattern for the rest of my editing (only 200 pages to go). Now, in part, it was such a great experience because  1. my attitude--I do not have an ego with my writing. I realize I can only see so much and new eyes see so much more. 2. I love fellow writer's input. I'm not embarrassed that I spelled "house" wrong or embarrassed that the scene I just wrote is stupid or that I used "ok" fifteen times in one paragraph. Writing is mutable, flexible, erasable.

I want my students to "shift," to welcome edits, to be excited about edits, learn to edit, love editing, write more than two drafts and come to see writing as evolution. Keep in mind that the photos of Dr. Crowe's edits were made on writing that has already had MULTIPLE drafts, and it still needs work.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Writing Spot Today

Where is yours? Or your quiet, contemplative, peaceful place--if only for a minute.