Monday, August 18, 2008

Meeting the Famous (and a rule for Real Writers)

From the interesting blog Soul Shelter comes a little tale from a writer about meeting a more-famous writer. The famous one has a run-down little structure in which he Writes, but we don't find out about that until the end of the piece, and in that little shelter is a closing piece of wisdom for all writers or aspirers to important things. You'll have to click the link to read it. :-)

This entertaining account reminds me of one of my favorite topics from my teaching days at Auburn University. Students had, in preparation for an end-of-term exam, read a journalist's account of a breakfast in the presence of Abraham Lincoln. The journalist gave a close description of Lincoln's now-familiar odd looks and just the sort of detail we'd want to know about the President in an article such as the journalist wrote. However, the original was edited down significantly, to leave out the "disrespectful" parts (the parts about how unattractive the man was--though the journalist described him with real restraint and awe). That editing itself is an interesting study. But to the assignment . . .

In the exam period, a timed writing, I asked each student to write about a famous person he or she had met. One had been hit in the leg by the erring golf ball of a famous golfer and got a dinner invitation as a result. A good proportion of the tennis team happened to be in the class in which I first gave this assignment, and two different students had met John McEnroe (notorious bad-boy tennis player at the time). For one student McEnroe performed as expected, ranting at reporters outside a locker room. But for the other--female--he was a charming and unrecognized companion in a long line for a soda at a tournament. When they got to the stand, he bought her drink for her and then walked away, and only then did she hear someone nearby say, "Hey--that's John McEnroe!" I had a great time reading those essays!

So I commend to you the assignment for students to write about meeting someone famous. Marlon Brando once offered my mother a stick of gum when she was a teenager. I once had novelist Larry Woiwode to Sunday dinner. . . .

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