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."