Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Press Conference"

This is a weird photo prompt, and many of the contributors to Friday Fictioneers have puzzled over it.  Here's what I did with it.  Click the link above to see what the others did with it, and maybe try your own version!

Press Conference

“After a few adjustments we are proud to unveil the Municipal Monument.  As you know,” the Mayor brightly assured us, her hot pink blazer glowing in the noon sun.  “As you know, we wanted to give as many local Artists as possible the opportunity to contribute to the Monument. It is a tribute to our diverse populace, friendly to all.”

I turned to interview one of the contributors, a musky heap of burlap in huaraches, who chuckled, “Yeah, I started a great nude diving into the wall, but they made me change it into a hand. Yeah, that’s me below.”

100 words

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Just Like Candy!"

This week's entry into Friday Fictioneers isn't terribly inspired, but it will do. Sometime's it's just like that, you know? Please join us!

Just Like Candy!

“Oh, Sweetie, know what you can do with those?  You can stack them just like this –“  She began rolling the towels into logs and inserting them into the closet according to hue.  “And then we’ll go out here—“ she clomped out into the living room in her cherry-red high heels, thrusting her rear out as she bent from the waist in a calendar-girl pose. “—and fan out these magazines in an in-VI-ting array!”

“But the old batteries in a jar?” I folded my arms into my sweatshirt - Oscar to her Felix.

“Just like candy!” 

--100 words

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Online Book Club: *The Mind of the Maker* Chapter 3

UPDATE:  Well, guess what I saw last night?  Alec Guiness in *The Horse's Mouth,* about a quirky artist. It's kind of a comedy, in that dark sophisticated 1950's/1960's way, with some definite madcap shenanigans (destruction of a beautiful apartment in the name of "art").  But what's applicable to this discussion is one point when the artist regards a mural he's just painted, for which he had all kinds of vision--the raising of Lazarus--and he says something like, "Well, that's not what I had in mind at all."  Where was the problem?  In the Idea, in the Energy, in the Power?

Here's a link to the movie on Amazon Instant Video:


I'm a little discouraged that my last week's post is pretty lonesome, that I'm just talking to myself. [Update: I realize I didn't leave my proper link to last week's post on Cindy R.'s last week's post!  That's fixed now. How embarrassing.]

But to get ahead of myself, Sayers would say I'm a blogger whether anyone's reading my blog or not, or even, praise God, whether I get my blog post written or not!  (See p. 42.)  In any case, I'll plug along. I sometimes feel I can hold on to an idea only long enough to make a quick comment before my I.Q. plunges again.  Maybe it's my age.  In any case, this is another installment in the ongoing project of Ordo-Amoris.  

Sayers tells us that God, complete unto Himself as the "well-spring" is not manifest without a creature to witness the Creation. Makes me think, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?"  That circles back to the poet idea above, from p. 42.  God is Creator eternally, even before we had a Creation.

p. 35:  "Those who [in disputing about God strive to transcend the whole creation] are more mischievously and emptily vain than their fellows." (Augustine)

p. 36  Mathematicians and artists have a way of seeing things that allows them to get outside their environments far enough to be able to describe them (dimensions and things).

p. 39 Sayers says that a work is always consistent with its nature.  In the power, though, what do we do with the critical theory of our time--well, of the last century--that says the work exists unto itself, or only in the mind of the reader, never mind what the author intends?

She talks a lot about how the works exist in the mind of the writer as whole beings well before they begin to be made manifest in the Energy/Activity. But I have experienced having a germ of an idea and then seeing where it might be going as I develop it in writing. I've read of many novelists working that way, too. Would Sayers say they just didn't know everything that was already in their heads before they got it out?   She also says, though, on p. 40, that we must have the Energy/Activity in order to have the idea known to others AND OURSELVES. If it already exists in the mind, why must it have expression on paper in order to exist?  Or is the Energy manifest in our minds before the translation of words on paper?  I get the feeling she's pushing her analogy too far in both directions by changing "Energy" to "Activity" and thus making it more practical and concrete AND saying Power "proceeds from the Idea and the Energy together," very credal language. I feel like my daughter the day she set one foot into a canoe and left the other on the dock and soon fell in the water--the things are drifting apart.

p. 42   IS a poet still a poet if he has no way to express his poetry?  What makes a poet?

p. 43  I don't like the disdain of "men of science."  If they don't behave this way, if they're renaissance men, are they "really" poets, then and not scientists?  On p. 44, she sets forth the idea that science depends on progress, the idea that we're always building and improving, but that art recognizes single geniuses in every age, whose work cannot be progressed beyond or built upon but only added to by later geniuses.  But my husband Glenn did a great paper and talk on Benjamin Franklin a couple of years ago, making the case that he was one of those singular geniuses who had amazing expertise in multiple fields (statesmanship as well as science, for example). Some researcher whose name escapes me has shown how geniuses of different times stack up to one another by virtue of their prominence in their own time and our recognition of them in later time. So Galileo is one, and Newton, and some others.  But Benjamin Franklin is a rare genius who "has it all."  Would Sayers say he's risen above his being a scientist to become a poet, ultimately?

Here's the video of Glenn's talk. :-)  

I feel cranky in my response to Sayers, pressured to finish this chapter when I didn't feel like it, really.  Sorry about that! :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Online Book Club: *The Mind of the Maker* Chapter 2

Tardy, I sigh.  But I will post nonetheless and hope to get ahead of this week's game this afternoon. We will see.  This is an ongoing project of Ordo Amoris. Please join us!

In Chapter 2 of The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers explores "The Image of God" and helps us to see how our comfort with the idea of God as Father should extend to comfort with the idea of God as Creator, the ideal of how He does these things helping inform how we should do them.

The quote from Aquinas at the front of the chapter, saying that the things we compare God to are rooted more in Him than in the things, reminds me of Platonism, our search for the ideal beyond ourselves. When we experience something here that seems "just perfect," it is simply that our imaginations haven't taken us as far as they might, if the material world can still satisfy them, even briefly.  I watched a fascinating video clip the other day, linked on Facebook by Sarah Hempel Irani, a local sculptor.  It is below, and it explains how Greek sculpture progressed to the ideal human image and then beyond, to the level of impossibility. It's fascinating!

On p. 21 in my edition, she says, "The Jews, keenly alive to the perils of pictorial metaphor, forbade the representation . . . ", but isn't it God, rather, who forbade, keenly alive to the perils for man?

P. 24 she notes that in science and math only formulae can avoid analogies, and she does a beautiful job explaining the problem with the wave/particle way of describing light.

P. 25 -- God as Father doesn't beget as men do. This made me think deeply about the reality that men might think they are begetting when they make love to their wives, bed a slut or prostitute, or even rape a girl -- but God controls the issue!  The man may think he's creating, bending the future to his will, but God controls all of that ultimately. "who -- not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man but -- of God were begotten."  (Young's Literal Translation)

P. 27  "We extend [the concept of a creator God] to the concept of a maker who can make something out of nothing; we limit it to exclude the concept of employing material tools."  I love how Sayers helps me understand philosophical concepts.  Then on p. 28, "We spend our lives putting matter together in new patterns and so "creating" forms which were not there before."  Cooking does that!  Fusion cuisine -- it's all fusion!

Finally, on p. 31, she says that "It is now [after three centuries of analytic bias] very difficult for the artist to speak the language of the theologian or the scientist the language of either. . . . [T]he human mind is once more beginning to move towards a synthesis of experience."  Hmmm.  Is that what all the "smells and bells" in emergent/emerging (I get them mixed up!) worship is all about?  Is that why we lament that we don't have any great Christian writers and artists just now--we're still working our way toward that synthesis?  Will or do the conservative synods, presbyteries, and other bodies of ruling theologians allow for or welcome artistic expression of theological truths?  How far can those be "embodied" to remain orthodox, how far can we take them in worship? We have used the poems/prayers from Puritans, *Valley of Vision,* in worship in years gone by -- does Wendell Berry qualify?  Your favorite writer?  HUGE questions here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday in November

Here's a little 100-word piece I made NOT for Friday Fictioneers, but for a collection the first hostess of FF, Madison Woods, is putting together--100 stories of 100 words based on the photo below.  Obviously it refers to a November Wednesday another year, but still . . .

Entry for Madison Woods’s 100x100 Project
Submitted 10/26/2012

Wednesday in November

Everything is late this morning.

In the chilly silence when I went out for the paper it wasn’t there. So dark—great banks of clouds  holding back the dawn.

Only later did I hear the thrum of tires, click of gears, and thump as the paperboy on his bike flung it into the yard. It won’t have the news we all stayed up late to hear this morning. And it’s still not decided. They’ll count and bluster and hold press conferences and file lawsuits.

But the clouds have lifted with the sun, and there it is at last. Another day.

100 words.

Friday Fictioneers: "Castle"

First things first--congratulations to Jen / Elmowrites on her great creative act of the week--baby Sebastian!

I missed Friday Fictioneers last week, but at the first glimpse of this week's photo an image formed in my mind, and ten minutes or so later, I had this:


Rosemarie must put her hand up against the wet pane—it drew her to take measure of her enclosure.  Last night she had basked in the yellow glow of the room, safe from the black outside. Then the patter of sleet, then the almost inaudible exhale of snow gathered on the window as she slept. At dawn the light was muted, grayed down, and with a catch of breath she untangled herself from the bed and set one foot to the cold tile, leaning across the space to the window.  Her curls caught in the starched lace of the curtain.

100 words

Please jump in and join us if you like. I really enjoy this part of my week!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Online Book Club: *The Mind of the Maker*

My wise, witty, and wonderful friend Cindy Rollins at Ordo Amoris / Dominion Family is hosting a nice, slow read through Dorothy Sayers' classic The Mind of the Maker, which I just love having an excuse to read.  I sat down this evening with my satisfying Levenger note cards

and started in with the Preface, Introduction by Madeleine L'Engle, and Chapter 1: "The 'Laws' of Nature and Opinion."  I'm going to post here my own contributions to the discussion, but first I'm going to read my predecessors.  You can find all the links here.

Cindy R. asks if we like Sayers' style--yes, of course, it's delightful!  She makes me long for the life I haven't had, that scholarly life in trimmed-lawn quads traversed by busy people in academic gowns with stacks of books, part of what always made Mystery! such a fun show to watch.  I love her naughty little limerick that is only tangentially necessary to her discussion of the "law" of probability in genetics--it doesn't say the fourth baby in a Mendelian sequence will be male or female or mulatto but that with enough babies we'll get roughly that distribution.

I agree with Sayers that it is depressing, distressing, that too many conversations end with frustration, when I see that the other person just doesn't get it. Will this kind of misunderstanding increase as education diversifies into the public mass education on the one hand, full of bureaucratized recordkeeping, and individualized free education of all the amazing sorts we've sampled as homeschoolers and online educators and students over the years?  Then those outside of the mainstream will find that only the most talented of the mass-produced students out there will be able to hold a real discussion--it's a contrast from the olden days when a talented farmer's son (or daughter) would surprise everyone and hold court in the marketplace or force his way through law school or write great poetry quietly after the chores.

I love Sayers' idea that the creativity of man is a reflection of the Creator.

I also really enjoyed L'Engle's Introduction in my edition, but I won't spend time on that here.

The Chapter 1 distinction between historical fact, like Grimm's phonetic law, and natural law--a statement of physical fact--reminds me of a great xkcd cartoon I saw the other day:  "Electoral Precedent."  Other political hints come in her note about how our dumb laws are superceded by natural law when those dumb laws lead to war, pestilence, and famine.  The good intentions are well illustrated by our friend Debra Hilton's observation that mosquito nets so lovingly sent to Mozambique actually result in MORE malaria because the locals use them for really efficient fishing nets, casting all the little fish up on the beach to die and thus end their careers eating mosquitos. Natural law will out.

I wonder about applying this idea to our ideas of when our children should marry.  By natural law they ought to marry at about 15-18, I'm thinking, but our society has smothered natural law with expectations and half-measures of contraception. But natural law will out.

I love the commentary on Aristotle's dramatic unities--I've been fascinated with those since Mrs. Schwerdt's 12th grade AP English class introduced me to them. How satisfying that we prove the wisdom of Aristotle when we naturally respond well to drama that follows those "rules."

But we also strain against the yoke when we find God's laws inconvenient or limiting to our freedom, we think.  Sayers says we should not ask, "Is it pleasant?" but "Is it true?"  "Creeds are statements of fact."  I don't have to strain myself to believe that Jesus was come down from Heaven, born of a virgin--I merely affirm what my whole being resonates to in the truth of that statement--what glorious truth!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Progymnasmata and The Modern Essay

Early this morning I wrote a response to a client wondering how to "sell" the Progymnasmata to parents interested in preparing their students to write "modern essays."  Below, in its email-y roughness but edited a bit for this post, is my response to her:

I have been very pleased that the Progymnasmata actually turn into some modern essay types with a bit of stylistic spin (and sometimes without it). For example, Frank D'Angelo (Composition in the Classical Tradition) uses a modern magazine essay, a eulogy or remembrance of Ralph Ellison, as an example of encomium/praise, and it's amazing to me how much the magazine piece follows the classic form.
Ultimately a student is supposed to use the smaller tools of the Progymnasmata in any way his rhetorical needs call for, and a student who can rattle off a quick proverb amplification knows just what to do when a typical quote-based SAT prompt comes around. The typical modern essay calls for perhaps definition (easy to use the amplification principles of proverb and anecdote to explore that), description (the principles if not the form of the classic exercise are appropriate here), comparison (there's a Progym for that, though more focused than the generic essay needs), thesis-support, and so forth. I think the speech-in-character is beautifully brilliant for a creative spin on a book report. Any student who can do what the Progym call for is well equipped to do high-level college essay writing, though some practice with the usual forms is not a bad idea, so students can make the leap.
I'm currently about to finish the book Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again, about a college president (not really a scholar but an administrator) who takes a sabbatical to go to St. John's College, the Great Books college in Maryland. He explains that St. Johns students go from the very old-fashioned, literally antiquated, Great Books curriculum there into all manner of jobs and graduate programs, including in the sciences, medicine, and so forth. I can see how they could, though I want to talk to my husband, a physics professor, about that. :-) In my experience the students who have done well in the Progym are over-prepared for whatever college writing will bring to them. Dorothy Sayers says in "The Lost Tools of Learning" that deep study of any one discipline can teach one how to study any other, and thus she champions Latin as the gateway to all learning. Memoria Press is grabbing hold of that principle in its curriculum, though I'm a little wary of it for those interested in the sciences and math.
For the modern essay as most of us know it, I can recommend Lucile Vaughan Payne's classic The Lively Art of Writing (Mentor Series)
I was dubious when Veritas Press Scholars Academy wanted me to use it for the Composition II course I developed (with a co-teacher and friend), but I'm in my third year of working with it and think Payne has some great principles for students needing to learn how to build a thesis-support essay. The instruction in this cheap little book (or portions of it) could be of great use as a supplement to the Progymnasmata.
How's that for a pep talk?

Friday Fictioneers: "When?"

Welcome again to my entry for Friday Fictioneers. We've had a change of administration (Thanks for previous service, Madison, and thanks for taking over, Rochelle!), so I'm not quite sure how to handle the links, but here goes anyway.


It’s nigh unto noon and still we haven’t started outside. The dog needs a bath, the flower bed needs weeding, the birdbath needs mucking out.  But still we sit here, and I’ll have to peel my forearm off the tablecloth when I do get up.

The coffee in the pot is treacly, just at the start of the scorching dregs.

That little tree needs to get planted, too, probably out near the road, where one day it will bud and flower and glow and flame for the cars driving by.

But who will live here to enjoy it from this side?

101 words

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Day Trip"

This week's Friday Fictioneers adventure is just plain silly, but a little creepy silly.  Enjoy, and click that link above to join us!  (You may need to enlarge the photo to see my character.)

"Day Trip"

“Wuhl now, ma’am, I done brought my chicken snack from KFC, like they told me in this here paper, and I’m a lookin’ for’ard t’ seein’ that there Jefferson Starship thang. But whut I don’ quite recollect is whether I shoulda brung a backpack and sit-upon like this here little lady behind me has got. I thought it was s’posed to be just a afternoon outin’, and we was gonna be back in time fer our reg’lar evenin’ routine at home.

“Could you tell me if I’m proper equipped to go see them friendly ET’s? Heard ‘bout ‘em nearly all my life!”

102 words

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Oasis"

It's time for Friday Fictioneers again!  I like to take a look at the photo prompt when it comes out on Wednesday and then just meditate on it a bit.  On a walk yesterday I imagined a setting in Mexico with a chihuahua and a cat and a bird, but by this morning when I looked again it became something different.

As always, I welcome feedback, including suggestions and impressions and approbations. :-)


Hard-baked, blinding white, chalky air, throbbing heat. Where has she brought me, my archaeologist love? She promised Rome on the way, just one day—we scattered pigeons on the square, craned our necks in the Pantheon as rain misted down on us, and I gasped at the art.

Now in Tunisia it is only the oppressive heat, never mind that it’s almost easy to kick up a Roman coin on one of the old roads. But I have a plant on the roof, and I found a can of blue paint for the door, so I’m sheltered here.

99 words

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "An 'Experience' "

Here's this week's attempt at a 100-word story based on a photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers.  I have gone over the word count significantly the last few times and decided to go spare this time. Please join us if you'd like!

An "Experience"

I was dubious about the lighthouse for our next B&B. The last was a comfy pink Victorian with a creaky fan and a claw-foot tub, crowded mantels, and tasseled velvet.

But here the seagulls screamed and swooped, and the spotlight high above us groaned. Our hostess, flecked with iridescent scales, thumped down the platter of fresh boiled fish, gestured to the lump of butter and the bottle of hot sauce by the tureen of hot grits, and grinned at us, arms akimbo. A sticky gust of bright wind blew open the shutters as we scraped back our wooden stools.

99 words

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Gateway"

I skipped last week but am back again with another in the series of Friday Fictioneers. Click the link to learn more and join us! 

We took a rocky path through rainy woods in the hills near the Portland neighborhood we'd grown up in. She knew I found her exotic and told me of how in Japan such trails have gateways where walkers compose themselves. We stood between boulders, I reached for her hand, and we climbed in step, her red Keds and my black ones disappearing into the leaves.
I asked more when we rested at the top, fascinated with the beautiful silky dark and light of her ancestors, her hair, her very still face. She scratched one long red fingernail against the corduroy over her knee and sighed as she mumbled about shiny pillars and a small roof—no good for shelter, just symbolic.
Two decades later I bought the hill, built the thing, and shored it up with brick from my childhood house--even lit it with spotlights. But she has long since disappeared into the city.
155 words
NOTE: If you want a REALLY great story, a true one that's nearly unbelievable, read my entry from yesterday

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rejoice With Me!

Our wedding, July 5, 1986

Three years ago October I lost my wedding ring.  Mid-afternoon on Wednesday I was aware of it on my hand, and mid-morning Thursday I realized it was not.

I had been switching out summer and winter clothes as cold weather was settling in in Western Pennsylvania—pulling short-sleeve, lightweight garments off my hangers and out of the drawers and hauling big plastic tubs of heavy sweaters around in my room. Some things went into the dryer for freshening up; some things went into piles for Salvation Army. And somehow in the midst of all that my ring slipped off my finger.

My husband had designed the engagement ring for me in yellow gold. The diamond—a modest weight but of high quality--seemed to float between two swirls like hands curling around it from either side, and later the jeweler made a wedding band to follow the curves. The slender band broke shortly after our honeymoon, so we had the two pieces soldered together.  I wore it for 23 years.

The Thursday I realized I’d lost it I dedicated myself to going through every pile and tub and drawer, everywhere it might have fallen. I took almost everything out of my closet and crawled along the baseboards, listened to sounds in the vacuum as I passed the nozzle everywhere I could think of, retraced my steps in the house and garage, dug into the car I was driving when I realized it was gone. Nothing.  I held back the Salvation Army donation bags until I had a chance to sort through them again and finally released them. When spring came and I switched out clothes again, I searched everything again.  No. And the next fall and spring. No.  And the third fall, no.  Nor spring.

I finally filed an insurance claim a year ago, complete with my loving memory of the details of the ring and a photo from our wedding album—my hand, a beaded lacy point from my wedding gown, orchids,  my husband’s gold-ringed hand next to mine.  The insurance company sent a check, but we just didn’t have the heart to shop for another ring.

Meanwhile I’d been wearing my grandmother’s large diamond in a white gold setting, with a diamond wedding band—lovely but not mine.  My heart sank regularly when I considered what we had lost, what it symbolized, its beauty. Regularly I prayed that we might somehow find it. One day this summer I prayed like that, while walking on a country road:  “Lord, if that ring is anywhere out in the world, somehow, by some means, could we find it?” Even as I prayed that, other things crowded into my mind, hopes so much more important than recovering a piece of jewelry that I was ashamed to pray for its return. But I knew the Lord knew my heart—the hope of the ring became a pledge I made to believe Him for the other things.

A few weeks ago our oldest daughter became engaged, her diamond ring a delicate antique art deco filigree in white gold, and last week I drove to town to buy some gifts for her kitchen. I stopped in a local store where a particular clerk always calls out my name with a smile as she sees me coming. She knows my husband better because he stops in more often than I do. But she always cheers my heart. As she rang up my order I just happened to look at her right hand and saw what looked like my lost wedding ring! I could not believe it and looked again, then looked up at her—I know in shock—and asked where she got it, how long she’d had it. She looked a little puzzled and said her husband had bought it for her, probably five or six years ago, somewhere local but she didn’t know where. I told her briefly how I’d lost my ring and that I was almost sure it had gone to Salvation Army with a donation.

She said she didn’t think he’d gotten it at Salvation Army. No, I told her, they probably realized it was valuable and sold it to a jeweler . . . .  By this time I was aware of a couple of people in line behind me and didn’t want to take more time, but I couldn’t just turn away. I looked at her nametag, with her initials, and was ashamed that I did not know her name, even while she knows mine and my husband’s so well. I looked into her face and said, I know with tears in my eyes, that IF there was any possibility it was my ring, we would give almost anything to get it back. She asked for my number and said she’d talk to her husband, but she felt sure she’d had it longer than the three years I had been missing mine.

In my car outside, trembling, I called my husband and told him of the possibility. He could not believe it, either, but I told him I was almost sure it was my ring. We discussed it later and felt we should wait at least a couple of days for them to talk about it, to work it out. Those days turned into a long weekend, and finally she called me. Her husband, too, thought he had given her the ring four or five years ago, but they agreed that if I was convinced it was mine they wanted me to have it, and they would not accept payment for it. He could not recall what he had spent on it, and if she was content to give it to me, he was content to let her do so. I told her a little more of the history of the ring—my husband designing it and our having the band soldered to it, and we even discussed the size. I told her I wanted us BOTH to be convinced it was my ring or that it was not, and to be at peace about that. We agreed to meet the following evening. I kept trying to remember the ring—WAS it my ring? How could I be sure?

I took my husband with me to meet N-----*, and as she walked up to us she smiled her usual smile and pulled the ring off her hand. As soon as I held it in my hand I knew without a doubt. We showed her the photo from our wedding. Oh yes, she agreed, it sure looked like it!  She knew I knew it was the one, and she gave me a big hug and said “Happy Birthday!” She explained that her husband and his brother liked to get coffee together in a nearby town and then go poking around different stores. When he had seen this ring he knew she would like it, especially the design of the wedding band soldered to the engagement ring—like the one he’d given her years before.  

In the day or so since I got the ring—today is my birthday—I keep looking at it and marveling at this little miracle. It could have been lost in my own room all this time, and well I know it. But maybe it went to a Salvation Army in our town, and then to another town twenty-five miles away, and then a man from our town saw it and bought it for his sweet wife, and she’s been wearing it for two or three years, believing it much longer.  And then I happened to notice it on her right hand—had I not seen it during those two or three years? And then, amazingly, she and her husband were willing to just give it to me, content to have been temporary caretakers of a lost thing.

May the Lord bless N----- and D----* in their love, in their generosity, in the days to come.

What woman, having ten silver coins**, if she loses one coin, 
does not light a lamp, sweep the house, 
and search carefully until she finds it? 
And when she has found it, she calls her friends together, saying, 
“Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!”  
Luke 15:8-9, New King James Version

*Not their real initials
** Greek drachma, "a valuable coin often worn in a ten-piece garland by married women" Ref.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"The Writing Revolution"

In this article by Peg Tyre in The Atlantic, we see the experience of a failing school as adults start investigating what's going wrong for the students. They learn that it's a lack of writing skills, so they implement a program that teaches the real nuts and bolts of writing, and with those tools students are able to build arguments and succeed.  How satisfying!

I'm interested in the debate linked here, too.  How about you?

PS  Thanks to my friend Jami for this corollary piece:  "Teaching Reading for Writing." 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "The Plans"

I believe this is my fifth entry for Friday Fictioneers. I highly recommend it!  Click the link and play with us!

The Plans

"They're all sparkly and gossamer and filmy and romantic!" she swooned, spinning around and hugging herself.

"But in some people's minds--most people's minds--they're creepy," the mother answered. "They have associations of death and haunted houses and witches--"

"--Or fairies and gardens and roses," The lovestruck girl replied quickly.  "And we can have little spiders--the friendly kind--to hang down from them."

"Now wait a minute!  Spiderwebs with dew I can handle, and a garden theme, but let's have some butterflies and pansies, not actual spiders!"

"Whose wedding IS this, anyway?" the girl glared darkly, fists on her hips.

And so began the weaving of plans.

110 words

My oldest daughter got engaged last week, and we've just spent several hours doing wedding gown shopping. I see a tiny bit of her in this character, but all in all she's delightful to plan with, and we have a peacock theme, not a spider theme. No "bridezillas" here . . . yet.  :-)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: Spring House

It's time for Friday Fictioneers!  Join us here and play.

Spring House

Brick by stone by mud and stick they closed her in, these cares. Square blocks of paperwork yet undone, a gray cold stone the aging father. Fruit flies hovered over the moldering harvest in baskets on the floor. The mending raised the lid of the chest in which it lay. Each thing cramped her, each thing walled her in.

But a window remained--an airy bright clean square in the pile. Through it she could breathe and gather sunshine, while the rivulet of her thoughts ran fresh beneath it all. A few minutes on the porch at dawn, a nourishing page of a book--or from her pen, a hymn at the piano, a tomato with basil and warm from the garden--

The window was more true and strong than all the misshapen stones around it, but they formed the substance through which the window let her soul take flight.

150 words

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Clouds in Toronto"

This is my fourth effort for Friday Fictioneers.  See the rest of the party here. Join us!

Clouds in Toronto

Calliope picked her long-legged way through the knee-deep fluff--one step down, then another, then an eddy back into the brightness. Hanging from a plume out over the insubstantial landscape, one finger pinched in her book, she wondered: What can be done here, if this is the best they have for summer? No shimmering cliffs blazed by the Aegean sun? No sea foam upon which Neptune could ride? Instead bleak towers sprung up from dark, dense woods lapped by an insipid lake.

Ah, but that could be a poet there, on that balcony, or could become one. Blindness could help here.

101 words

(In The Lively Art of Writing, Lucile Vaughan Payne says that if you have to explain a literary allusion, you've lost it. So I won't explain. :-) )

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Firmament"

This week's Friday Fictioneers has a photo that looks like where I live, and that's a start.  Please visit the link and try your own little piece of literature!


Today we had our first taste of autumn in Pennsylvania as the fog filled the valleys in our fields, slowly-rolling little clouds creeping up to the house. The temperature gradients explain it, but it is ghostly.

A friend visiting Alaska this summer peered through her binoculars for Denali among the clouds. When she finally saw it she pulled her companions' sleeves, but they would not believe her. Finally they made out the peak, dark rock and bright snow above a little tuft of gray.

Little children run through the farm fog, secure on the familiar ground beneath their feet, waving arms wildly and spinning through the mists. But they'll shriek sure as anything if the dog suddenly muzzles them out of the white, or a tree looms.

128 words

I have to share another photo, though, that my husband took of our own fields:

Twilight After a Rain

Monday, August 20, 2012

Need a Great Composition Course in Your Homeschool Curriculum This Year?

If you want a solid essay-writing course this year, appropriate for students about grade 8 and up, using Lucile Vaughan Payne's enduring The Lively Art of Writing as well as the venerable Elements of Style by Strunk and White . . .

  • Incorporating daily in-class writing exercises, lively interaction with other students, four substantial essays during the year with two substantial revision essays and impromptu writing in final exams . . .
  • And taught by me, the popular Chris Finnegan, or the sharp and youthful Jessica Sperry . . .
  • Meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, two ninety-minute classes per week . . .
  • Beginning just after Labor Day, with Orientation next week . . .
  • For $595, or approximately $6 per contact hour over the year . . .

Then join us at Veritas Press Scholars Academy for the Live Online class Composition II this year.  The last I checked, every section has at least one seat available, and most have multiple seats, so bring a friend!*

Here are a few of the comments I've received over the last two years:

"Your class has provided B. with a solid foundation for writing. I have witnessed the maturity in her writing skills. Your uncompromising standards required B. to push herself to perform at a higher level. The lessons learned were not merely writing skills but life skills. During the year I listened to bits and pieces of class, read your emails, and reviewed the comments on B's papers. In all of your communications you not only taught composition but  truly shepherded your students’ hearts!!  And as a mother I would like to say thank you for leaving your handprints on my daughter's heart!"  Mother of a student at Veritas Press Scholars Academy.

"My kids both LOVED your class. Thank you for . . . being an exceptional teacher to them. It was all I could have hoped for from a Composition class, and more." Fellow instructor at Veritas Press Scholars Academy.

 "I wanted to thank you for the semester you taught me. You gave me grace on many an occasion, and were kind enough to explain the simplest things that I somehow was unable to get. : p Thank you for everything; it was a good year!"  Student at Veritas Press Scholars Academy

*Note: This class does have a prerequisite, but if you believe you have completed the work needed to make it right for you, do apply and see what the administration says.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Resolution"

No, I have no idea what this picture is, other than perhaps a tree that grew around some manmade item of some kind, but my story for Friday Fictioneers is prompted by it. Please join me!

He couldn't let it rest until he named it. His soul paced up and down even while his body was stuck in a bus seat--foot tapping, eyes casting among the passengers, against the blur beyond the window.
This was familiar--often he awoke bewildered, until a triangle became a tilted doorway or a threat resolved to his coat hunched menacingly over a chair. 
He had not noticed it before at the bus stop. How was that? It seemed a PVC or plaster T-joint with clay extensions had climbed the tree he customarily leaned against, nestled into the crook, and extended one clay tube up to listen, to look, to what?
He would shinny up the tree to find out, after work, if he COULD work. Or stay on the bus and go back to know.
That's 136 words.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

An Experiment: Friday Fictioneers

My friend Janet has been posting a fun 100-word story (or poem) as part of a writing group for a little while, and I decided to give it a try, too. I'm late this week, but I thought I'd start anyway.  My husband is always pushing me to "write" instead of just helping others to do so, and I think this small start is manageable.

Here's the information:  Friday Fictioneers from Madison Woods

And there's the photo prompt.

And here's my 97-word story:

She stared, blinking into the fluorescent glare that buzzed above the hospital bed, hearing the  soft beeps and whooshes. She was there, pinned, and he was gone—oh yes, she remembered the guard rail, the screaming crunch, then nothing but this.

How soon would the sisters let themselves in to the house to pick over their things, to pull open the box of letters—old intimacies, or pluck out the lingerie—new ones? Who would lay bare the furnishings of a marriage, when the couple were pried apart?
Three tears rolled into her matted hair.
You know, it's really scary to do that. Anyone want to join me?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back-to-School Freebie!

German silver binding, c.1700

Know a student who will need to write about great literature, history, theology, or philosophy this year?  Send him or her to Writing Assessment Services to download a free self-study short course to prepare for these essays. First developed in the late 1990s for students in the Great Books tutorials of Wes Callihan, Fritz Hinrichs, and Norm Lund, this versatile course gives students a thematic approach to the challenges of entering the Great Conversation, responding in writing to the things they have read and discussed in class.

Writing Prep Workshop for Great Books Papers is available through August and September.

German silver binding, c.1700

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What the Students Can Teach Us

How could a 16th-century play, in which the stage directions are minimal, be so unsettling?
Paula Marantz Cohen avoided King Lear for years, thinking her college students couldn't handle its bleakness. But once she taught it, she learned a few things.  Read more here.

I had a similar experience a decade ago when I taught The Great Gatsby to a class of mostly eighth-graders. They took Gatsby's and Daisy's and others' adultery in stride--they reserved their real disgust for the narrator Nick.  To their minds, Nick had a responsibility as a friend to save these people from themselves, and he didn't do it--he just stood back and reported what they were doing, even facilitated it a bit.

Have your students surprised you, taught you something in the literature you've encountered together, even in their own writing?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Five Topics

Into the Heart of a Supercell
(Great photo by my very own husband Glenn Marsch!)

It's a perfect storm: a post by my dear friend Renee Mathis (Mrs. Mathis's Classes), who is guest-posting on the blog of another amazing wise friend, Cindy Rollins (Ordo Amoris), covering the instructional ideas of the classically innovative Andrew Kern (The CiRCE Institute), derived from Aristotle (Topics of Invention on Silva Rhetoricae). We can't lose!

Here it is: Lost in Topica: Teaching and the 5 Topics, by Renee Mathis.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Doctor's Prescription for Writing

I am currently reading Otis Webb Brawley's How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011) He gives an account of his Jesuit education and the important lesson of Father Richard Polakowski, a beloved high school teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School.  "Polo," as the students called him, "had a maxim that no student who took his class could miss: 'Say what you know, what you don't know, and what you believe--and label it accordingly.'" (p. 75)

Use your intellect, gentlemen. Start with knowledge, find its boundary. DO not stop! Save room for belief, but examine it fearlessly, for genuine examination knows no limitation. (p. 75)

Dr. Brawley has used this lesson in his distinguished medical career, and I think we can take it right back to the classroom. Students should examine what they know, consider the limits of their knowledge, and press a little beyond that to take a stab at an opinion and stand by a truly "educated guess."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Imitation on a Small Scale

One of the best website designs I have ever seen is the very orderly Silva Rhetoricae, which organizes "the forest of rhetoric" into its "trees" and "flowers." If you go to the site and search for the term "imitation," you'll get a brief history of this amazing teaching tool in the first link. But beware--you can get lost in this enchanted forest!
Path to Harbison Chapel

As explained in the little article linked above, imitation can be used on a grand scale or a small one. Today I want to share a brief exercise from the first quarter of the course Composition II that Chris Finnegan and I developed for Veritas Press Scholars Academy two years ago. After discussing a larger portion of an essay by Theodore Dalrymple, "Sympathy Deformed," we focused in on this pair of sentences:

To sympathize with those who are less fortunate is honorable and decent. A man able to commiserate only with himself would surely be neither admirable nor attractive.
When we want to imitate something like this, we need first to understand it, and for many a kind of shorthand can help:

Sympathize = honorable, decent
Self-sympathize = unadmirable, unattractive

In logic this comes out as S = P, Not S = Not P.  In class we discuss simple examples like "kindness is good" and "unkindness is bad" to be sure everyone gets the core of the meaning.  Then we set them loose with an imitation exercise using Dalrymple's sentence structure (and double description).  Here are a few of the student examples:

  • Peace promotes both happiness and patience. War promotes neither contentment nor fortitude. (Rob Holzknecht)  This very simple one follows the basic rules well and illustrates the principle.
  • When a person's emotions are controlled, all those around him will have peace, but when his temper consumes him, there is no calm for anyone. (H.K.)  This has more personal application and makes us nod and say, "Yes, that's very true."  It's reminiscent of the "better a corner of the housetop" Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24.
  • The ardent flames of love melt away the harsh ice of terror, leaving only comfort for those in the midst of the passionate fire. A man with no love to detect in his soul is never to feel true tranquility, but will forever remain frozen in hatred’s cold grasp. (Aubrey Muffett) Fire and ice -- obvious contrasts that help to illustrate the point, though we have to buy into the writer's equation of fire with a kind of comfortable, passionate tranquility. I expect this student was reading Dante in another class. :-)
  • To have self-control is to have a chest full of gold. A man who can only fume and yell is like the beggar who, despite his cries for money and food, receives none. (J.G.) This one has concrete images (and sounds). Note that the first sentence is quite brief and powerful. The second illustrates futility even in the length and syntax, with that final "receives none" to clinch the deal.

Want to give it a try yourself?  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fees Changing August 1: Up, Down, and Steady

I am currently working on adjustments to my fees for the new school year, effective August 1. Some fees are staying the same, some are increasing, and a couple are even going down!

If you order by August 1 you can be sure to get the best rates, and I will issue a refund for any fee that goes down after that date.

Staying the same: Resource Membership for Apprenticeship Writing Workshop, Resource Membership for Progymnasmata, and 4-assignment and 10-assignment enrollments for Great Books Writing Workshop.

Going down: Resource Membership for Great Books Writing Workshop (from $100 to $50!), One-Time Evaluation (from $60 to $50).

Going up 3% to 10%: Apprenticeship Writing Workshop, Progymnasmata Tutorials, and Evaluation Packages -- and the larger package will have more flexibility, with more submissions.

Going up 20%: The first hours of Consultation, which include free Resources or Resource Membership. I recognize the limited resources of small private schools and home schools, and it is my desire to work with clients to offer the most efficient and economical version of my services to meet their needs. Sometimes that means using existing curricula or materials developed for previous clients, or even charging only part of my time to develop materials I can use for other clients.

As an example, for an initial consultation of under $200 I have had email correspondence and an hour-long phone meeting with staff members of Samuel Fuller School, researched a curriculum they were interested in, and created for them a long-term plan for a solid writing program as the school grows, with a Resource Membership and site license in perpetuity for all my Progymnasmata materials. They desired more guidance for the year, and teacher training, and when they determined a budget for these services I came up with a plan that prioritizes their needs: full customized syllabi for two grade levels of Progymnasmata instruction for this year, evaluation of early assignments from the two classes, and phone/online coaching of the teachers on these assignments and at least two later ones as the year progresses.

May I do the same for you? Order an initial Consultation by August 1 and enjoy the lower rate throughout your project!

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Assessment That Blesses" Available Until August 3

While there's still time, listen to this talk from Andrew Kern of the CiRCE Institute: "Assessment That Blesses." And then watch for an upcoming post from me about how to apply these ideas.

  • Andrew's main message is that everybody has anxiety related to education (the student, the teacher, the parents), and that anxiety gets its power in assessment, or judgment.  On what basis will work be judged--how should we measure it?
  • To be effective, assessment must be based on the nature of the student, the nature of the subject, and the relationship between them.
  • Judgment is based on right thinking (based on accuracy, based on wisdom, based on grace), and the feedback we give students should be this measure:  what is the goal, and how far have you come along the path toward that goal?
  • We must give honor where it is due.  When a student is talented, we should praise God for that.  When the student shows virtue by working hard, we can praise the student for that.
  • When truth enters the soul, it always brings joy.

Those are the kernels of wisdom I gleaned from this talk, and I've been thinking over them for the last week or two. Stay tuned for where that thinking is going . . .
Teaching excellence

I chose this illustration photo of a really engaged teacher, Lorien Foote. It's no surprise she was given a Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Central Arkansas!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Setting the Stage for Argument

When students have to argue in their writing, they often do it adamantly, plainly, without persuasive subtlety. But an argument essay works best when the writer can draw the reader along, a friendly arm about the shoulder, persuading the reader to agree with him on minor points until suddenly they find themselves together at the writer's conclusion, and it all seems so obvious.  At least that's the hope.

In the Progymnasma called "Confirmation/Refutation," a writer works through a set form of argument, examining the possibility, probability, credibility, and other characteristics of a proposition. The exercise gives students a chance to investigate or promulgate an urban myth, pet theory, or historical dilemma of their choice.  In the Intermediate level of my Progymnasmata Tutorial I provide my own investigation into George Washington's wooden dentures.  This summer one student decided to look into the claim of Herodotus, and later others, that Helen was never in Troy during the decade-long siege of Homer's epic.
Helen of Troy busk at the V&A, London
Michael Helvey, 10th grade, begins by setting up the history of the original story and establishing Homer as the ultimate extant source of the tale, and then showing that Herodotus is inconsistent in his quibbles and that almost no-one else agreed with him--oratory students of ancient times even took on the ridiculous challenge of TRYING to argue that Helen was not in Troy.  Then he fast-forwards us to a few centuries ago and shows how more recent thinkers have revisited the question:
In the Age of Reason, everything was most unreasonably thrown into uncertainty, with Descartes setting out to “doubt everything,” and the chronological snobbery so characteristic of Modernity automatically casting every fact from the ancient and Medieval worlds into suspicion. When men were unsure of their own existence, it is no surprise that they also doubted the veracity of Homer. John Stuart Mill, reflecting the temperament of his age, referred to the “alleged siege of Troy,” in his The Subjection of Women. Earlier, Blaise Pascal wrote that “Homer wrote a romance, for nobody supposes that Troy and Agamemnon existed any more than the apples of the Hesperides. He had no intention to write history, but only to amuse us,” (Pensées, part ix, §628). For them, Helen was not only not in Troy, but neither she nor Troy had ever existed.
A greener student might have argued something simple, like this:
In the 17th century Descartes argued that Helen was not in Troy, and John Stuart Mill questioned the whole story, calling it the "alleged siege of Troy." Others agreed.  So great minds of a few centuries ago doubted whether Helen was in Troy or even existed. But even though they doubt the story, that does not make it false.
Note how this "greener" version just puts the facts out there plainly, showing us only that people disagree, and some of those people famous smart ones. The final declaration, typical of a young writer, relies on the declaration that the existence of an opposition does not prove that opposition. That's a pretty thin argument.

But look at what Michael does in presenting this material. He uses "unreasonably thrown into uncertainty" and "chronological snobbery . . . automatically . . . casting every fact . . . into suspicion." Note the negative constructions, the twist of criticism, the accusation of narrowmindedness!  This last would be especially appealing to today's reader, even if he is himself a purveyor of chronological snobbery. 

Even more effective, note his explanation of the mindset of Descartes and Mill, "men unsure of their own existence."  Instead of dismissing these big names with reference only to their conclusions, he quotes them, letting them speak for themselves. And of course a man unsure of his own existence would be even more unsure of the existence of a woman or a city a couple of millennia before!

By presenting his opposition with interpretations of their mindset and culture, by quoting them directly to let them speak for themselves, Mr. Helvey shows true command of his material, demonstrates his deep understanding, and helping us trust him for the conclusions that are to come. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Brave Metaphor

David Kern, in his blog Wanderings, has a review of the movie Brave that I'm not sure I completely agree with, though I appreciate the challenge of his critique.  But I want to celebrate a great little paragraph introducing a metaphor you can understand even if you know nothing about the movie:

It’s as if the writers decided to transplant the thematic heart of the film, only they failed to properly connect all the ventricles and veins with the rest of the organs, leaving it to pump aimlessly, purposelessly. 

Well done, David!  Thanks to Lynne Spear of Sweetbriar Films for the original link.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Great Moments in Teaching

I'm so glad this teacher, Michelle Kerr, writing on the blog of Larry Cuban on June 27, 2012, shared her exhilarating hour in the classroom, and I'm glad Rod Dreher let us know about it!

"The kids carried the conversational load on that poem for ten minutes."
     --"The Miracle and the Moment"          

I love it when that happens!

She goes on to describe how what happened didn't really fit her lesson plans, that she was supervised that day and knew she'd be missing many of the stated objectives.  But something important happened there.

If you teach, I hope you have the joy of many such moments, and if you learn, I hope you are part of a miracle such as Ms. Kerr describes.  Aren't our best memories of our educations from moments like these?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Everybody Needs an Editor! (repost)

This post first appeared here in November, 2008. I am going to re-post select items from long ago as I enjoy them and hope you will, too.  Since I posted this I read Christopher Buckley's very moving Losing Mum and Pup, which suggests that perhaps WFB was indulged and not edited sometimes when he should have been, especially in the last years. CRM

Let me start by saying I admire William F. Buckley, Jr., and was sad at his passing. We have subscribed to National Review Magazine since before we could afford it, as I am fond of telling people. But I have a love-hate relationship with WFB's writing. He is famous for his impressive vocabulary, and that is kind of fun, but I think he writes some of the worst sentences I have seen in print. In the excerpt below describing the religious background of the Reagans' son Ron, who became an atheist in his teens, the first sentence is perfectly fine, but I'm not sure what he means by the second. Does the "it is popular" suggest that the belief so described is faulty? What risk are people assured of being eliminated? Which people?

We do not need to assume that a familiarity with history recalls the Ninety-Five Theses of Luther, or the causes of the Thirty Years’ War. It is popular in quarters of young America to believe that deference to individual religious inclinations eliminates any risk of submitting to indoctrination.

The next sentence, in the next paragraph, is also fine. But the final sentence is just poor, violating my teacher sensibilities about the need to enliven prose and to use more active verbs and clear nouns, and not to turn verb phrases into noun phrases. Note WFB's use of the passive voice, which has its place, but in sparing doses:

When Ron Jr. went on to reject his father’s political positions, ruing the Reagan presidency, it was not necessarily the result of alienation from the family per se. Weight by the son to his father’s principles is here given, here withheld, after thought is paid to them, cursory or profound, and how they figured in the allegiances of the parent.

From The Reagan I Knew, by William F. Buckley, Jr.
At the National Review website November 26, 2008

So how would YOU fix that last sentence? Here is my try, preserving much of the language of the original:

The son thought-- sometimes cursorily, sometimes profoundly-- about his father's principles and about how they figured in his allegiances, and he gave them weight or withheld it accordingly.

I still don't like it much, though, so here's another try, with more freedom of vocabulary:

Ron Reagan watched his father's principles at work, especially in his allegiances, and, with a teenager's alternating deep and shallow thought, respected or cast off those principles accordingly.

So can you do better? I probably can, though the exercise shows me that WFB's words "principles," "allegiances," "figured," "weight," and "accordingly" were very carefully chosen! :-)

Are there some famous writers who just don't appeal to you--people whose writing leaves you looking around bewildered, wondering what you're missing?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Scrabble Poet

Here's a great game idea. But it's more than a game -- it's an art form.

Use the tiles from a Scrabble game to create a poem.  Mike Keith, in "Scrabble Tile Poem," did several stanzas of iambic pentameter, each using all 100 tiles.  Now THAT is a challenge!

Can you think of other ways to play with these tiles?

Thanks to Abraham Piper's 22 Words for this piece.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Inspiring Introduction

Read this introduction to a 900-word essay by an 11th grader and consider what works and doesn't work for you:
Coiled about the globe, a conglomeration of desktop computers, mobile devices, wireless signals, cables, and data centers form the complex, interconnected network known as “the internet”.   By seamlessly streaming information to over 2 billion of the world’s population, this mammoth machine has snaked  its way into nearly every aspect of our lives.  According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project Survey, over 80% of American adults use the internet and another 80 % of that utilizes  it daily (Trend Data [Adults]).    The primary appeal of the internet rests in the convenience of being able to access endless information at the tap of a finger.  However, this mass accessibility and abundance of information has been detrimental to society by catalyzing the propagation of plagiarism, pirating, and porn.  (Nathan Wakefield)


The alliteration at the end is obvious and memorable, and it would be especially effective in a speech. It might not be quite to your taste, though. And yes, the paragraph has a few errors, especially in subject/verb agreement. But let's look at more . . .
What about that opener?  "Coiled about the globe."  You can visualize that, can't you? Does it fit what it's talking about -- the internet? I think so.  What "coils?"  A snake, of course.  Look at the next sentence, where the "mammoth machine has snaked its way" into our lives.  And of course most of us* have visceral negative reactions to snakes -- theological ones, too.  So it's pretty clear that this writer intends to say negative things about the internet, as those three P's at the end confirm.
The overall effect is a vivid, energetic image that binds the assertions to our minds in a persuasive way.  This is an effective introduction.  And a great conclusion would remind us of the snake image, and probably the P's as well. Although the author has another metaphor in his title and conclusion, he does link the conclusion to this intro with the idea that the internet is an agent of temptation. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

*Our family members actually like snakes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What Revision Can Do

Revision is one of the least-appreciated parts of the writing process, but it is so important that every student should be required to revise.  However, revising without guidance is just about as frustrating as getting the favorite old assignment: "Now just take out a piece of paper and write whatever you want to!" Instead, students who need to revise need to know WHAT they need to revise.  A good evaluation can show the way.

Paper Weaving

I have just posted at Writing Assessment Services a file that will give you a peek into the process I have done with just one student, in just one course, in just this last school year.  Check out the file here, and note that I'm remodeling the site, so it's inconsistently spiffy just now.

Here's a taste of what the file includes.  First the original conclusion, and then the new one.  I think you'll see a great difference!

All in all, soccer is the most entertaining sport there is.   It is suspenseful and ever changing.  There are plenty of other reasons why soccer is well liked, but without a doubt this reason is the most appropriate one. Whether it is the cultural background, or simplicity of rules, soccer is currently favored by numerous individuals.

In conclusion, it is the rarely made goals, required teamwork, and the ever-changing possession of the ball that makes soccer an entertaining and suspenseful sport for everyone.  When compared to basketball, soccer games do not have as many points flying around.  This makes soccer suspenseful, and easier to follow.  When compared to swimming, soccer is more of a team sport.  This makes soccer a good learning experience for younger player.  Compared to football, soccer is more unpredictable and ever changing.  Yes, hockey games have rarely made goal, baseball is a team sport, and basketball is unpredictable.  Nevertheless, all these aspects together make soccer the best for anyone interested in sports.   

Many thanks to Elizabeth Siddiq for allowing me to share her hard work!

In case you missed it, get the whole file here.