February 1, 2013

Reading Like a Writer; Writing Like a Reader?

2 months.
Mayan Calendar Prophecies did not destroy humanity. 
Shock and Numbness and then a thawing into rage about the Connecticut shootings.
Fine-tuning my submission to the talented and determined moms at IMPACT ADD:

Using “The Magic of 3” to Enhance Writing Skills for Kids

They kept saying I have to winnow it down because the audience is overwhelmed parents.

So hard to sound like you know what you are talking about when it is in a format that, in perspective, is sort of like a Super Bowl commercial. Not to dis dear Elaine, who is a do-gooder extraordinaire. She readily admits the irony that I am promoting and purporting to teach young and old minds alike how to write more concretely, thoroughly, specifically, elaborately, and powerfully, yet my guest writing piece had to be a shaved down version of all of those. 

What I have been thinking about lately, besides my new shelter miniature pinscher and the swift morphing of my rational Taurean self into a bona fide crazy dog lady, is that Writing remains hard and multi-faceted in its scope. 

I regularly read Anne Lamott, who writes about how out of a whole morning she gets a few stellar, keep-able sentences. Yes, she writes with both slang and broken grammar, about relying on the Bible and her own bodily nuances, but she is full of the touch of human frailty, with a sprinkle of non-TV humor on the top. Trivia Fact: She has almost 98,000 friends on her Facebook Page

This makes me more certain that good writing is way, way, way beyond just the "6 Traits"

......and that true masters of the craft are fewer and farther between than my "pie in the sky" "save the world via literacy" educator aspirations would have me believe.

And aren't all the teachers I talk to lately lamenting or adrenalized by (hah!) the Common Core Standards? They might not be the knight in shining armor we oh so hoped them to be. 
Don't get me wrong; I am psyched to finally witness some through lines being established in the wide spread of states that we live in (purposely omitted the word "united")

When I am asked for my opinion, I say that I think they are great overall, yet the explicit sub-skills of writing instruction are missing. And if I was a child right now and was suddenly told, "no more story writing" I would start to hate writing. I did not grasp the "voice" of an expository writer until college, and then it all came into my cells very quickly. 

But there are two sides to every argument:

David Coleman, president of the College Board, who helped design and promote the Common Core, says English classes today focus too much on self-expression. “It is rare in a working environment,” he’s argued, “that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’ ”

In true ADHD fashion, I am going to mention a classic book that I recommend and love, but that my students would loathe. So when I figure out the motivational and engagement piece about writing and reading, I will do a bang-up documentary, be on Oprah, and solve parent's teen problems. In the meantime, here is a plagiarized review of the book:

"Reading Like a Writer" is not a handbook or a manual. It is a love letter to the mysterious alchemy, the magic that occurs when a reader encounters a book, poem, or story that not only entertains him, but also moves and transforms him. Francine Prose's favorite writers may not be our favorites, but all readers who love literature will appreciate her enthusiasm and respect for the written word. Her suggestions about how to read more effectively are useful not just for budding writers but for anyone who would like to come away from a book with a deeper appreciation of the author's craft. As Prose says, "Reading this way requires a certain amount of stamina, concentration, and patience."