best first sentence almost ever

June 14, 2011

First sentence of Diane Ackerman’s An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain:

Imagine the brain, that shiny mound of being, that mouse-gray parliament of cells, that dream factory, that petit tyrant in a ball of bone, that huddle of neurons calling all the plays, that little everywhere, that fickle pleasuredrome, that wrinkled wardrobe of selves stuffed into the skull like too many clothes in a gym bag.

blog doldrums

June 24, 2008

Well, this is just silly. I haven’t posted in over two months. Why have a blog? Eh? I haven’t written because I don’t think I have the time. I don’t have the time. Doesn’t matter. I still need to write. I’ve had blog-thought moments. You know the ones: “Wow, I gotta put that on my blog.” Then I go grade papers, or prep for class, or worry about health insurance. So, let’s see if I can short-circuit that direct path to not-blogging. Let’s see.

double-entry journal

February 26, 2008

I just finished writing my double-entry journal for Kenneth Bruffee’s article, “Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind,'” one of the readings we’re doing tomorrow in Writing Pedagogy. I asked everybody to do a double-entry journal for one of the Cross-Talk articles and then to do one-paragraph reactions to the remaining three articles we’re discussing.

And it took me probably three times as long to read the article doing the double-entry journal as it would if I just highlighted and penciled in marginal comments. Agh. Of course it takes longer. That’s important information! And I don’t use that information effectively. That is, I’ve taken to using  double-entry journals to ensure that students do the reading in my 102 classes, but I think I’m really wasting their potential to build that community of knowledge-makers that Bruffee’s article discusses.

Strange to read Bruffee AND write a double-entry journal AND be aware that double-entry journals can be a hugely effective tool in the Bruffeeian enterprise — and I need to think how to do that. Give enough time. Use journals as part of class conversation. Use journals as springboards for writing. More conversation.

essay envy

October 15, 2007

OK, so Cathie English, the teacher with whom I’m collaborating on the This-I-Believe-Nebraska-Alabama exchange, shared her essay on gDocs yesterday, and I totally love it. It’s gorgeous. And now I want to completely change the topic of my essay, and I don’t like my essay at all…and, and, and….this is a pretty typical writer’s response, I’m thinkin’, when the writer has not been working on her essay… Ahem. But I may change my topic. Maybe. We’ll see.

great class!

March 15, 2007

Last night we had works-in-progress presentations in the Writing Pedagogy grad class and I was energized by all the good work: Heejoo’s curriculum for teaching writing in a multilingual, multi-level ELL classroom; Angel’s investigation into how teachers’ comments on students’ writing (grades 6-12) affect students’ attitudes towards writing; Ginger’s lesson plans for portfolios in senior high school English using literacy autobiographies; Brad’s analysis of effective teaching for adult learners at a technical college; Amber’s lesson plans and tips for incorporating writing in math, social studies, and science in grades 9-12;  Kate’s research into memoir and her writers’ decisions as she constructs her own; Coko’s work on how to help teachers use poetry to teach writing; Amanda’s research journeys into travel writing; Colleen’s guides on how to write book reviews as a way to make reading-writing connections; Wendi’s field studies on early writers and how to help parents use a variety of methods to encourage early reading-writing connections; and my own journeys into the magical realm of how to manufacture time to do the writing one desires.


January 15, 2007

the serendipity of the web blows my mind…i love how hyperlinks take me places i could never imagine. so, for instance. i’ve just finished reading edmundo paz soldán’s Turing’s Delirium cuz Paz Soldán is giving a talk at UAH this thursday, and i’ve got two of his novels in english translation. and after i finished Turing’s Delirium, i kept thinking of neal stephenson and mostly of cryptonomicon, which i haven’t read but was pretty sure would be relevant…especially since paz soldán includes an epigraph from stephenson’s snow crash, which i have read. so i went to the novel’s website and read a good portion of the prologue and there’s a great section that includes alan turing as a character. but i also went to stephenson’s website (which has a well address…very cool [The WELL started as one of the earliest online internet communities — almost a decade before the world wide web]) where he links to “Why I am a Bad Correspondent,” a piece that explains why he doesn’t answer readers’ email or usually accept speaking engagments:

The quality of my e-mails and public speaking is, in my view, nowhere near that of my novels. So for me it comes down to the following choice: I can distribute material of bad-to-mediocre quality to a small number of people, or I can distribute material of higher quality to more people. But I can’t do both; the first one obliterates the second.

sage advice for writers — and on his website, stephenson also points to an article by jonathan rauch in The Atlantic Monthly Online that explains stephenson’s personality, that is, as an introvert. “Caring for Your Introvert: The Habits and Needs of a Little-understood Group” was published in march 2003 and still receives more hits than any other article. there’s a follow-up in a feb. 2006 issue (“Introverts of the World, Unite!“) that’s also worth reading. rauch suggests that internet could be re-coined intronet, since it’s such a perfect medium for introverts.

introversy is the term the atlantic monthly online uses for rauch’s article and the ensuing discussion (see the april 2006 piece “The Introversy Continues“).

I admire my students’ courage

January 11, 2007

OK, so I do this really tricky thing. At least, some of my students have called it tricky. After writers do their first timed writing practice or freewriting, I say, “Now we’ll all read aloud what we wrote.” There’s sound pedagogical rationale for this practice. In Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff’s classic booklet Sharing and Responding, the first kind of response they describe is “Sharing: No Response.” No matter what class it is, after I say we’ll read our writing aloud, I can hear the collective sucking in of breath: “Oh, no. Anything but that!”

But they read. Those who have phobias about public speaking, those who are not sure they want to be that honest, those who worry their language is wrong or will be misunderstood. They read. They stand behind their words. That takes guts. And I admire them.