Current/Recent Reading List

12 May 2008

A Summer of Torturous Prose

Well, I'm in the middle of a five games in six nights t-ball stretch (seriously, is this the major leagues?), so that explains the stony silence of the blog lately. This is, however, the last week of spring season, which is fortunate for the health of the adults in the house.

Just a little something to preview what my summer at the writer's project institute will be like. You see, when you throw together a group of highly intelligent people who love to read, who teach reading and writing, and who therefore secretly, or otherwise, harbor pretensions of making a best-seller list one day, you can pretty much assume the worst. In a situation like this, where these people will be doing a lot of writing for others to read, one can readily anticipate encounters with the "trying too hard" syndrome.

Whatever it says about me, I am absolutely resolved to avoid purple prose and forced metaphors throughout this process, even at the cost of being boring. However, as you check out the following three excerpts (all from different people) culled from a message thread on our group's website, you tell me if others share my attitude. The topic, btw, is what it means to be in the "writing state of mind":

"When I do experience the "writing frame of mind" while I am at my computer or when I have pen in hand, it is like steping into a wave and allowing the cool, calm watering words to seep onto the page. It is a comforting feeling, an excitement that I am rediscovering. I am allowing myself to write without the 'full outline.' I have a quiet expectation, but I am genuinely surprised when the ebb of this tide recedes and I examine what is left on the shore before me."

"When I consider my writing "good," the frame of mind occurs naturally because my body is possessed. There is a writing ghost who inhabits my spirit."

"When I'm in the writing frame of mind it’s as if my brain itches. There is nothing I can do about it, I can't scratch fast enough, deep enough, long enough. In fact, the more I scratch, the more I itch. The words pour out like a salve, and the passion that inspired it is calmed as the thoughts pour out on the page."

Well, time for me and my writing ghost to hit the sack. See ya.


Anonymous said...

Hey Whining Schoolboy. I read your blog. I teach Grade 11 and 12 ELA in Canada. The passages you revealed were awful. Somewhere between "trying too hard" and utter bullshit. I wonder what kind of writing they "inspire" their students to complete. Damn, I didn't want to get started - this assumes that ELA is supposed to put average students through what an "author" does. I think that is a lot of bunk. Nobody consciously exposes "jocks" to every type of sport. They are natural basketball players, baseball players etc. Just like true writers will write. School just gets in the way usually. As for teaching kids to think and write clearly so they can communicate with other literate beings - sure. But to pretend, first of all, that we know what accomplished authors do - they all do it radically different- and then to assume that's what kids need to do is foolhardy. My favorite example: we are meeting as teachers and discussing the "writing process" and the flaws of peer editing. You know some peers aren't good editors / don't give a fat rat's ass. The question is can the teacher edit it? The topic is what do real authors do? Real authors pass their text off to a professional editor who sorts out all the crap - grammatical flaws, misplaced names etc. So can a teacher edit? Well, if you are simulating the writing process...of course. School and curriculum never fails to astonish me at it's blinding stupidity. And hey, I like teaching. I sound bitter but I love spending time with young energetic people. I just question what I am asked to do.

School Master P said...


Wow - I love your fiesty spirit, and the fact that you agree with my assessment of the passages I shared. I'm sure there is more to come all summer!

The idea behind this writer's project is that as teachers do more writing themselves, they will naturally be better teachers of writing. I think there is some merit to this - especially with taking time to write along with students during certain times of the school year - but I don't think the point of the institute should be to indulge in overblown writing designed to impress others. Besides, what are these people reading, anyway, that influences writing like this?

Anonymous said...

Thnks for posting and responding tomy comment. I re-read it. I was a little intense that day. Here's how my teaching position is different than yours. I teach all the grade 11 ELA (two classes) and all the Grade 12 ELA (two classes). I am my own department. It's awesome. Small town of 1800 people. Could never teach in a big system anymore. Love your blog. Don't work too hard. By the way - with our dollar being par - my salary (maxed out after 15 years - I'm 19 years) is 67500. AFter two years of new contracts it will be 73000. Just interested in how that compares. I share cause ours is Gov't Paid - anybody can get their hands on the numbers. Lee

School Master P said...

Hi again, Anonymous! Well, if you have adjusted to U.S. dollars, then consider yourself lucky compared to our state. With my M.A., I would be making about $48,000 base salary with your experience, plus 7% supplement payment from my county (this varies from county to county) and a "longevity pay" check. We also get incentive money if the school meets goals for test scores each year.

N.C., and most Southern states, have always been near the bottom in state teacher salaries. Much of this is attributable to the depressed Southern economies which prevailed for about 100 years in the aftermath of the Civil War, and much of it is attributable to those same states being mostly agricultural/rural states until the last few decades. The good news here is that teacher salaries have been consistently rising for about the last 5 years or so, and the governor's goal is to get us at the national average.

I love the fact that you are your own department. But oh, the temptations you must withstand to abuse your power!