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See You Next Year


So, the rhetoric of New Year's is sort of interesting... all of this talk of "new year, new you!" and an insistence that the next year will be infinitely better than this past year was, fresh starts and do-overs abound, and there's a strange belief that at the stoke of midnight, something magical happens: there's a countdown, a sparkly ball, champagne sparkling apple juice, and cheers and smiles and kisses. But why? What is it about this holiday (why is this a holiday?) that makes us want to celebrate? And why do we celebrate it this way?


Post at least once over break. You can write about anything you want, but maybe consider commenting on this New Year's phenomenon I was just rambling about...I'm interested to know what you think of it. Do you participate in the practice of resolutions? The countdown? Nothing? Are you surly about it? Okay, you get the idea.

The paper. Draft, brainstorm, develop, revise. Read the assignment sheet. Thursday and Friday after break will be work days so make sure you have stuff to work on. Those days will be more useful to you for the essay if you have a full (though rough) draft going into it.

The project. Read and annotate like a beast. Very few of you had the quantity and quality of notes I had expected to see at this point. That's not a jab; it's an expression of genuine concern. Read the assignment sheet. Really get to know your author's style. Refer to that "incredibly tedious guide" I gave you a while back. Remember the in-class work we've done with identifying style and writing style statements. You have everything you need to do well on this, but you've got to make use of those resources and pay attention to the assignment's objectives, articulated on the assignment sheet.

Get some rest. Play in the snow. Drink hot cocoa. Eat cookies. See you in January.


Not Gonna Lie

Try to be 100% truthful this weekend. Just see how it goes. At the very least, take notice of how many times you bend, smother, or evade the truth...and consider why you do that. Write about it if you want to, but otherwise your blog post topic is open. You haven't had one of those in a while.

For Monday, please read the essay "A Clack of Tiny Sparks" by Bernard Cooper (it's on our Moodle page). CRJ it if you'd like. At some point next week (not Monday) I will collect a CRJ from you. Consider yourself warned. Pay specific attention to how he shapes the narrative and uses it to say something.

GET GOING ON YOUR AUTHOR STUDY. Before you leave for winter break, you must show me that you are making progress. I will ask to see your notes/annotations/CRJ type stuff probably on Thursday. I might publicly shame you if you have nothing.

Happy weekend.


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Porridge

Among hundreds of frozen trees
the only cottage
was the cottage of the three bears.

I was of three minds
Like a table
at which there are three chairs.

The porridge steamed the chilly air
it was a small part of my ritual.

A girl and her porridge
Are one.
A girl and three bears and porridge
Are one.

Okay, that's enough fun. This weekend, blog about whatever you want, but approach it in a few different ways. What do I mean? "Fifteen Comments on Cookie-Baking" or "Six Ways of Looking at Sledding" or Twenty Observations on Sleep" or something like that. The goal is to toy with structure and perspective. Change up the usual--what are some other angles to explore? What are the different components of something you do all the time? If you have a low number, those chunks should be a tad longish. If you have a high number, those chunks can be little.

Remember to read and CRJ Eric Liu's essay "Notes of a Native Speaker" for Monday. It's on our Moodle page and I'll try to get it up on my website, too, but it's been giving me fits.

BLA on Tuesday and get started with your author study. Holler if you decide to 86 your author and replace him or her with a new one.

Happy weekend.


The Author Study

As an extended study of style, you will be reading an author of your choice extensively. This work will span the rest of the term and will result in a presentation of sorts in January. This is all I will tell you about the project at this time. For now, your task is to find an author whose work you wish to study in-depth. This author must be established/published, but can work in any genre. Here are some suggestions (you may propose another author to study but I get to say no for any number of reasons):

Sign-up is first ask, first get on Friday in class. Have a few options.
If you "don't get" poetry, don't pick a poet. And then sign up for poetry class because, seriously. 
Then secure copies of this author's work for to read and study

This is a good resource, by the way: The Electric Typewriter


Turkeys, Menorahs, Shopping!

First of all, whatever you plan to do for the next several days, I hope you enjoy the break and take some time to relax.

What I'd like you to blog about is the curious obsession we humans have with tradition. You can explore this in any way you'd like to--maybe your family has all kinds of traditions, maybe they don't, but you don't have to write about yourself and your traditions. One needs only to flick on the tele to see evidence of culturally ingrained traditions...what do you think about this? Why do we create and maintain traditions? What do we gain from them? Do you think having traditions is healthy and positive or bizarre and twisted? These are not questions you have to answer, I'm just trying to get the ball rolling because what I'm not asking for is a play-by-play of your Turkey-day festivities. Think more broadly about tradition than that. Comment on it.


You Are Supernatural: Weekend Blog Post

Hi there.

This week, we've spent a great deal of time on detail, observation, description, careful crafting of language to communicate a specific tone/feeling/setting/etc. Yesterday, Seth was talking to you about a number of things, but chief among them was imagination. Creativity. Inspiration. I cannot tell you how it pains me to hear you all groan But I'm not creative! Because you are. You've just forgotten.

And I am going to force you to remember.

This weekend, I'm asking you to go find cool stuff on the internet and when something strikes you as interesting, unique, creative, inspiring, etc, use it to prompt your blog post. Perhaps you snoop around on Vimeo and find some crazy video that gets your imagination buzzing--embed it in a blog post in which you discuss what you dig about the video and/or how it inspires you and/or something that you wrote as inspired by said video. Cool Tumblr images might take the place of the video. Maybe it's from YouTube and not Vimeo--that stuff doesn't matter, the goal is to find something interesting and let it inspire you and then write about it. Maybe it will inspire you to dig out your finger paints--go for it. And then blog about it.

You and your big, beautiful brains need to remember how to create.

Here's a super cool video to get you started:

The Vein / Magma from Dvein on Vimeo.


Your Observations

These are the observations you shared with us yesterday. 3rd and 4th block. This is how I recorded them, so if it doesn't make sense...well, then it doesn't.

Three spiders in house + Backstreet Boys

People are passionate about childhood movies

Turkey has an avg of 3,000 feathers

This month has rained more than snowed

Majority of items owned are blue

Lady bite apple in Target and puts it back

Listen—hear blood pumping in ears

Classrooms with windows = better participation

Gets dark at 5:18 dark blue to black

Humans baboon, chimps are only animals to kiss

9 yr old having a boyfriend

7th grade girls have horrible style (aero uggs and baggy jeans)

News makes my parents angry – they yell at the TV

Contrast b/w public cheer and angst

Making eye contact with teachers during tests is very very scary

Formula for WHS girl: Uggs, Lulus, Northface, Caribou cup

Pomegranates looks really strange  (overall)

When we blush, it evokes sympathy of those around us (adrenaline response to stimuli)

NPR!!!!!!!! Poems about food: eating is the only form of professionalism tha tmost people ever attain

There’s a water bottle in my ceiling

Bathroom stall 2nd floor D wing: Keep Calm and Breathe

Spyhouse Cafe—girl walking with 2 guys…chucked the flowers

Telephone poles look like crooked cacti

Norwegian chess player (peeps are obsessed)

Ellie stares at people at stoplights-- awks

DQ meal– chicken tenders come with toast

No 2 laughs are the same 

7 lovely logics: (advice)

All the classrooms in the horseshoes have windows with blinds (that are in bad condition) so during lockdowns, the blinds don’t really help…

Grandma’s house: tiling and carpet separated by thin metal transitions that wiggle

Strange how people share intimate details about their lives with their hairdressers (counseling)

Food: sensory experience versus cognitive awareness

In Romania Christmas eve—no decorations, Christmas day is when decorations appear

The way people treat their pets says a lot about how they treat other/their character

Trail run: in the woods, beware purple thorns

The world is never completely silent

People are either staunchly, stubbornly closed minded or apathetic

Highway, white sedan, little old ladies surrounding tall man

APUSH didn’t mention anniversary of Gettysburg…but AP CALC did!

It’s fun to hold/smell money-- flashback and realizations about money

People have tics and habits and mannerisms

Brother’s long hair-- “weird woman”

Email: etiquette is missing in many exchanges with adults (it reflects poorly on them)

When teacher leaves the classroom during a test/quiz …cheating? Nope.

One camera for each level…surveillance

Hanukkah begins the day before Thanksgiving this year.

Ms. Boyd swears. (When girls fight.)

When a person dies, the brain is active for 7 minutes: WAKING LIFE

The girl who sits in front of me just had a 10 minute discussion with her table-mates about the popular game "Candy Crush". I have never played it, but apparently she heard on a night-time news program the previous night that changes to the game were in planning. There is mutual outrage among the involved parties. Clearly "Candy Crush" is a major part of their day to day existence. This is troubling ...


Happy Weekend

This weekend, you're exploring 10 words from that mondo list--look into origin and etymology, look into context, connotation, usage, etc. and write 2 exemplar sentences that demonstrate the accurate use of the words. These sentences should aim to be legitimate and believable--not halting and awkward.

Also this weekend, you're hunting for a passage of mind-blowingly good writing. Find and bring in a passage that exemplifies qualities of good writing--a passage that you'd commit to memory if you were ever compelled to do such a thing. It can be any genre, any form. No more than a page.

New BLA groups will meet briefly on Tuesday to finalize their plans. The following week, Nov. 26th, will be the first official BLA meeting. (That's the day right before Thanksgiving break.)

Keep up with those observations journals. Remember to blend fun facts, random things, stories, bits of conversation, thoughts, etc. Sometimes pause and write for a while. Explain why you find something interesting, what you notice about it and why it maybe seems interesting to you. Other times you can just record snippets.

As for your weekend blog post, please write something based on a conversation you overheard or participated in. Take this however you'd like, but offer a little blurb of introduction before your post that explains where and when this conversation took place and whether or not you were a participant or merely a snooping bystander. Have some fun with it. Craft your words, don't just barf up a story.


The Art of Looking

The Art of Looking is the article/essay you are reading for tomorrow. This link takes you to one of the greatest resources for interesting things I have ever known ever: I love it.

A more printer-friendly version is on our moodle page and I'm working on putting it on my website, too. Read it. Enjoy it. Heed the suggestions to observe your surroundings and learn from them.

This directly feeds into your observations journal.


Grades and Things

Hi cats and kittens.

Don't email me forty times about your grade and skyward and all that. Nothing is finalized. I am still grading and entering scores and adjusting scores and all of that good stuff. Settle.


Term 1 Final: Take Home Portion

Watch this video. Identify his argument. Respond to it intelligently. In under 300 words.

Due tomorrow when you walk in the door. Typed.


Scary Stuff

Hi. Sorry about the delay...things just happen sometimes.

This weekend, I'd like you to blog about fear. If this means you mull over the abstract concept of fear and wish to write about it that way, go nuts. If you'd rather write about things that scare you, or things that people generally find scary and explore why, sweet. If you end up writing about fear in some other capacity, that's fine, too.

And if you get to scared during this process, just pause and look at this puppy:
Isn't he just the ugliest puppy you've ever seen?

Speaking of fear, you all have this incredible fear of "failure" (and by "failure" I mean getting anything less than a perfect score on anything and everything). This is madness, people. I get why this happens, but at some point you've really got to settle down. This is just high school. This is where you are supposed to take risks and make mistakes and learn from them. But since I understand your neurosis, let me remind you that Monday will be a review/study day for our term final (course midterm). Bring in any/all materials you have and be prepared to make a mess of them and then re-organize them. This isn't really a test you can study for in the traditional sense. You can, however, review certain materials and remind yourself how to analyze and read closely. Actually, all "studying" really ought to be just this. Tests are designed to measure what you have learned thus far. They should be sprung on you without warning to be accurate. But you all freak out too much and there's too much emphasis placed on the results, so we've quit doing that. Instead we warn you well in advance so you can prepare, which isn't a bad thing if it helps you learn the material more deeply.

Happy "studying" everyone!


How About Those Zombies?

Alright, so.

You're revising your little tails off this weekend. Good. This is the writing process, folks. Remember to, first and foremost, write an interesting and solid essay. Stop worrying about what "I want"--I've told you what I want: interesting, thoughtful, and engaging writing.  Do that. Worry about whether what you're writing is any good in general terms not what grade you're going to get. If you do good work, the grade will take care of itself. If you panic and default to sad, boring, stilted, studenty writing, the grades will likewise reflect that. Consult the original assignment sheet--there is valuable information there--and go through the workshop/revision steps in that blue packet. I am only collecting your final draft, so go ahead and set the other drafts on fire if you want. Really, it's cathartic.

You need to read that "Extended Language" piece for our work next week. Reading all of that and working on your essay and blogging and doing everything else you must do is probably kind of a lot. Read it when you can, I am not going to sniff out those of you who haven't read it yet on Monday, but it will help you to make sense of what we're doing Monday and Tuesday so... you know, read it, but sleep, too.

Your blog post is not open topic this weekend. Instead, pay attention to the lyrics of a song you have been listening to recently. Post the song and/or the lyrics and then comment on them.  (When I say "comment on them" I mean make some sense of them, see what you notice about them, explain how they are oh-so-effective and why. Not like mad-rhetorical-analysis-why, but some kind of why.)

Oh, and stay warm because suddenly winter is all: 


Those Essays of Yours

Hey, remember when I moved your due date to Monday and you all cheered jubilantly? That was hilarious. I hope you learn something from this: I may expect you do so hard things but I am not altogether unreasonable, nor am I "out to get you" or some such nonsense. It took us a little longer to get through the documentary and I really wanted to be able to talk about it, so a concession I make is that we shove some things around. So what does this mean? It means this:

Tomorrow is our field trip to see King-Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals. Meet at the Trojan Head at the beginning of second block. Bring a bag lunch.

Friday you must have a printed draft of your essay in class for shredding and dismembering revisions and other workshop goodness. See blue packet you picked up for details about this revision.

Over the weekend, you'll have your usual weekend blog post, your essay to make awesome, and that "Extended Language" reading which is a xeroxed textbook chapter, so plan accordingly. This chapter should be read by early next week. Monday would be great. Tuesday is, I think, more realistic for you. It will inform the work we do next week and the work we will carryover into next term, so treat it accordingly.

End-of-term BLA stuff is right around the corner. I will tell you about it on Friday.


Who Loves MEA?

Enjoy your long weekend, get a good start on your rhetorical analysis paper--if you never got around to signing up, email me your first and second choice.

The following articles are full for block 3:
"Super People"
"Culinary Elitism"

The following articles are full for block 4:
"Culinary Elite"
"Outboard Brain"

So pick another one. Remember, you have the option of selecting one on your own, just let me know what you've chosen. Remember the objective is to analyze the rhetoric; it's not to attack or support the argument. We just did lots of practice with the Dan Kennedy piece. You even have a student sample essay. That was from this very assignment. It's all about how the language works to persuade. Read you assignment sheet a million times. It's all on there.

BLA on Tuesday.

Blog sometime over MEA. Open topic.


Funny Business

Your weekend blog post assignment is this: open topic. What does that mean? Write about something. Anything you want. Make it interesting. Give it some thought. Don't just tell me about the amazing autumn squash soup you had at Panera and how you have to babysit and argh, that just sucks.

In case you missed it, on Wednesday we watched these two videos and talked a little bit about how they use humor to communicate argument.

C is for Cookie which, remember, is a parody of V for Vendetta.

And then, this one:

Which is just awesome.

You brought in an example humorous argument and then you posted it on your blog and wrote up a little explanation/analysis of it this week. Some of you still haven't done this...what's with that?

Browse and sample your peers' work--you guys found some great stuff. 


Weekend Update


Remember when you did those great rhetorical modes blogs? Me too. Go back to your writing for that assignment and select one mode that you explored and revise that tiny blurb into a full post. The idea is to use the same topic you used for the rhetorical modes assignment but you can pick a new one if you really want to. Oh, and feel free to supplement your writing with other modes (as this is nearly inevitable) but make sure one mode is dominant and intentional. Create a label for this post that clearly states the mode you're playing with. (Labels option is immediately to the right of the posting text box. Just click it and type in the label: a mode.)

Other things. I will collect a CRJ from you next week (by Wednesday) so choose one that you did for an essay or article that we've read thus far. Options include:
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Gettysburg Address
  • Ain't I a Woman
  • On Compassion
  • Million Dollar Murray
  • On Dumpster Diving
  • Tax Soda
  • A Modest Proposal
This CRJ is a normal CRJ and not a massive, guided CRJ like you did this summer for "Letter from Birmingham Jail" it should, however, be a clear demonstration of your close reading skills.

You may be wondering when you're going to do some essay-writing. Rest assured that you already are flexing those muscles, whether you realize it or not, and that soon--very soon--you will be writing a full and proper essay. Details to come. First, we're going to play with satire and such.

Happy weekend. Have fun and be safe.


That Time Mrs. Cardona Was Gone Forever


So I'm as sick as forty dogs and can't get off the couch. I'm hoping this plague will subside and I will be back Wednesday, but for now: couch. That means a little rearranging. Again.

I read your blog posts in response to the essays and the movie and I have to say, I am really impressed by what some of you wrote. All of you did the assignment and it was great (well, actually, not all of you did...still waiting on a few) but a few of you composed pieces that would be lovely essays. And so, you have stumbled upon one of my motives for making you blog: you end up writing brilliant, essay-quality stuff without really realizing that's what you're doing. Mua-ha-ha. In any case, well done; keep it up.

Ok. Then, over the weekend, you read those animal rights essays for Monday and had that quiz and, as for all quizzes, you're allowed to use notes/CRJs and all that good stuff. Quick note about that: whenever you are reading an essay for class that isn't an obvious content essay (like Bitzer, or a chapter out of a text book, or something) it's a candidate for a CRJ. Remember I'm never going to collect all of your CRJs, but I will call for one around midterm (yikes, that's like now...let's call it next week, okay?) and the end of the term. You choose which one to submit. Yes, you could go back and re-read an essay and fake a CRJ but the fact that you can always reference them on quizzes is supposed to be your motivation for doing them when the essay is assigned. So, that got long-winded, but I just wanted to remind you of that/finally address it if I actually haven't but only think that I have. Keep pestering me if it doesn't make sense. Seriously.

After the quizzing time you had time to prep for the debate that is supposed to be tomorrow and I'm betting that you have questions about what you're supposed to be doing. Rest assured that if you've read the essays well and are willing to engage in friendly, dramatized debate with your classmates, you will do fine. What you really want to know, though, is how to prepare: I'd say type or write out an overview of each author's main argument and approach along with some comments regarding the pros and cons of these different approaches. Consider what a panel of experts might ask each author and jot down a few questions. This is not extensive, serious debate prep, but it should be solid and workable. Does this help? I hope?

Okay. Tuesday. The debate is not happening, so you get another day to prep--hey consider bringing in some props--could be fun. Instead, you're going to do some similar argument analysis and pro/con stuff, but with a different topic. This is meant to be a partner thing, but you can certainly work by yourself if you'd like. It's further practice in argument identification and then synthesizing your own response (ie: exactly what the AP exam measures). The topic is same-sex marriage which was way more timely last fall (when I collected these articles) but still an interesting argument to explore. Pretend like it's a year ago if that helps you. Or just run with the perspective that it's a year later and same-sex marriage has been legalized...what's different? What are the conversations surrounding this topic now? You'll find that a number of topics we explore are inherently political--that's where the meaty rhetoric is, so we go there.

I'm going to get off the couch for the third time today and make some more tea/get more NyQuil/reload my supply of tissues. Pathos, pathos, pathos, you can't be irritated at my absence because I'm sick, pathos, pathos...

Miss your faces, see you soon.


Blog Post #4

Hello from Iowa!

I'm attending the Iowa Writers Festival at my alma mater, Luther College this weekend. I hope things went smoothly in class with The Soloist. Isn't is an incredible film?

So this week we read explored a similar topic from a few different angles--those angles are what I'd like you to consider for your post this weekend. Asher focuses on the underlying human traits of compassion and empathy. Gladwell gives us a human face to an otherwise faceless problem and proposes a solution (or explores potential proposals) and then Eighner gives us a firsthand account of living on the streets via his highly informative and, at times, tongue-in-cheek manual. In exploring their chosen topics, these authors comment on things they notice and offer their own opinions, observations, arguments. The Soloist does the same.

The interview with Lopez offer the behind-the-scenes information that inspired the film and of course the film takes on its own identity and its own argument, but ultimately all of these forms are getting at the same issue. Please comment on this or a related topic. Make your own observations, make your own social critiques and commentaries. I am not asking you to summarize or analyze all of these texts. I am asking you to synthesize your exposure to them and create something new: your perspective. I want to know what you think of this subject, what stirs you, what grates on you, what you'd like to be able to do about it--whatever. Please feel free to reference the film or articles as necessary, but know that I'm really more interested in your own ideas.

Enjoy the beautiful weather!

See you Monday for the start of homecoming week...perhaps there will be some opportunities for rhetorical analysis in those dress up days...



Blog Post #3: Rhetorical Modes

In case you did not get the email with the invitation to our dropbox folder, here's a link to it: AP JJ Essays 

The message that came with that emailed link is as follows: 
Your homework is to read and score your selected (anonymous) peer's essay.

Do not identify yourself in your commenting. Be honest, but be helpful and constructive. Use the scoring guide you received in class to guide your comments and scoring. You must decide on a final score, you cannot give a 6.5 or some such nonsense. Do not score below a 2. Reserve a score of 9 for an essay that is mind-blowingly awesome.

This process should take you no more than an hour and no less than 20 minutes of careful reading and consideration. We will debrief on Monday.


Okay? We good? Good.

Moving on. 

Your weekend blog post is something a little extra special. It's also going to be a separate little assignment in skyward. (Yay points. How exciting.) Have some fun with this. Play with language. It's important that you understand and can recognize and employ these modes. We will explore them further on in class next week.

Step 1: Choose an abstraction to work with (fear, jealousy, war, family, joy, generosity, truth, grief, trust, loss, courage, etc.) for this writing assignment. You cannot choose "love." I already did (see examples below). Also, barf.

Step 2: Find the document on my website (or on moodle) called Rhetorical Modes. Read it. Print it. Snuggle with it. Fold it into a swan and carry it around in your pocket. (Note: this is not currently live on but it will be later. It is currently live on moodle.)

Step 3: Write a post "about" your abstraction in FIVE of the NINE listed rhetorical modes on that sheet you just folded into a swan. Write about 75-100 words per mode.

Number your little blurbs for identification purposes, but DO NOT indicate which mode each blurb is written in. Your peers will have to guess eventually and you don't want to spoil the fun. You will reveal it all in due time. 


Step 4:  Read what your peers have posted, and for TWO different peers, guess the rhetorical modes they used for each of their numbered blurb. (Remember how you numbered them? This is why.)

Write down your guesses. Also post your guesses in their blog's comments sections. If you are unable to post your guesses in their comments section for whatever reason, fear not. You can give me your written version the next day. Everybody breathe. 


Step 5: The Big Reveal!

The Big Reveal entails you posting an answer key of sorts that includes the numbers of each passage and the rhetorical mode in which it is written. Check to see how you did on your guesswork.


Below is an example of how your initial post might look. Do not simply try to copy my syntax and just replicate what I've done here. That's taking the easy way out. Don't be lazy. Some of the blurbs written below for the various modes are way shorter than yours will be. Write between 75-100 words per mode (which is really not that much at all...and you can write more than that). Remember, you're writing in just 5 (any 5 you choose) of the 9 modes while I've at least begun a blurb for each of them. Mine are also in a scrambled order, which yours should be too.

1. My five year old half-sister-in-law is convinced that love involves exchanging presents (when she is the recipient anyway), fuzzy teddy bears, sharing cherry Popsicles, and endless games of leapfrog. Perhaps she is right--about the teddy bears anyway. They're always there for a hug; they don't judge, they listen patiently, and they comfort. 

2. When I was 10, I fell in love. Don't laugh, it's true. He was the boy next door--er, well down the street and around the corner and up the hill a ways, but we shared a bus stop for 9 years. We weathered middle school crushes and dumps and bullying and that stupid geography test in 7th grade. We had inside jokes and stories and memories of dumb school bus shenanigans. We always denied the flirtation. That is, until 9th grade when we went to Homecoming together. In my book, he was perfection--for a while, anyway. That's how young love usually goes.

3. An elderly silhouette against the glint of the sun off the river, expertly keeping pace with one another. He gingerly leans over to brush a fallen copper-glazed maple leaf from her shoulder and then laces his long, bony, arthritic fingers into hers; the same fingers that bear the diamond he bought her so long ago, held their babies safely, fixed so many suppers, and dried so many tears.

4. Love your enemy. Easy to say, but not so easy to do. We love our friends, we love our families, we love our favorite foods, movies, music, celebrities -- but our enemies? While it is counter intuitive for sure, it can be an exercise in empathy and compassion; it can open our eyes to a situation we hadn't considered. Loving our enemies can free us from our own misconceptions and burdensome emotions. 

5. Falling in love generally takes three stages. Sometimes it can happen instantly, and sometimes it takes many more than three stages, but the vast majority of us has fallen in love following the three basic stages. First, we set our sights on someone...

6. When we think of love, we most often think of romantic, storybook, rom-com, idyllic, glassy-eyed, idiot-inducing, do-anything-for-you kind of love. This myopic view of love, however, can blind us from the very real, very pure, very wonderful other kinds of love that exist. Love is a complicated endeavor full of unexpected dips and sharp turns that can send you careening toward certain doom if you are not sufficiently prepared. It involves the heart, the body, and the mind.

7. Love is the result of millions of synapses firing in the brain, a rush of endorphins, and elevated serotonin levels. It is a chemical reaction, they say, induced by sight and sound and smell and touch.

8. The difference between love and hate is apparent. This pair is by definition mutually exclusive. The difference between love and infatuation, however, is often not so clear. We love the new George Clooney movie, we love our favorite books, those cute boots, we love white fudge Oreos. But the thing is, with only a few exceptions, we really don't. We favor those things over others. We don't love them. Are we infatuated with them? Perhaps. Infatuation is typically superficial and fleeting, love is neither. George Clooney? Chuck Klosterman books? Cute boots? Infatuation. Well, maybe it's love with George. Or maybe it's creepy obsession.

9. Love is not this elusive, unattainable, perfect thing that we make it out to be. Rather, it is in the everyday mundane details of our lives. It is the people who surround us and take care of us and lift us up and shake us out of our stupor when we need it. Love is the thread that holds us all together. Us, being the human race, of course. Love is there to give us a swift kick in the pants when we've gotten lazy or given up.

So "love" is off-limits. So is "guilt" since that's the abstraction in the document on my website. Sorry. But hey, guess what? There are so many more. So many.

Hey, one more thing: if you still don't see your blog linked over there in the student blogs section, email me your URL again. I had trouble with a number of them. Broken URLs, URLs unable to be found, etc. If you have your privacy settings as such that only I can see it, then maybe remind me of that? Thanks!


This is Water


So here's the greatest speech in the history of time. Well, perhaps not, but it's brilliant nonetheless.

I would also encourage you to watch the 9 minute video mash-up that someone made.

Let it sink in. Consider his message. Consider why this might move someone to tattoo a silly phrase on her, hem.

Discussions continue tomorrow.


Happy Weekend: Blog Post #2

Blog Post #2: Independent Speech Analysis

Step 1: Browse speeches available online. Famous speeches. Political speeches. Movie speeches. Whatever you want. Pick one. Search Youtube. Check out Ask your parents.

Step 2: Watch/listen to it a few times. Note your observations. Do you notice sneaky rhetoricals? Language techniques? What about the physical presence of the speaker--inflection, gestures, etc?

Step 3: Write up a brief overview/analysis of it. "Brief" means it wouldn't exceed a page if typed up in a word doc. Bullet points and blurbs are fine. Complete sentences are always expected.

Your written overview/analysis goes on your blog. So does a video of your chosen speech. Due Sunday 8:00 ish (I will start looking at them then) but you will share with peers in class on Monday.


Ain't I a Woman?

For tomorrow, you must read (and CRJ) this neat little extemporaneous speech by the one, the only: Sojourner Truth! Expect a quiz.  Sojourner Truth "Ain't I a Woman"

Also, in case you kinda sorta dig this logic stuff (or in case it's hard and you want/need more practice) here are a few resources for you:

Understanding Syllogisms
Syllogism Quiz
Norton Logic Tutor
Logical Reasoning (LSAT) -- this was your challenge today

I'll add these to my link list over there. Enjoy!


I Do Declare!

Read and CRJ (and/or print and annotate) The Declaration of Independence.

Perhaps you will feel compelled to watch this action-packed adventure flick:

But I hope you refrain. The only good part of that movie is Riley Poole. He's kind of adorable and pathetic. In any case, you're reading one of our nation's most important documents (hopefully not for the first time) and you're going to examine the language and argument of it. Woot.


Blog Post #1

Well, you survived the first week of AP Language & Composition. Well done, you!

Your first official blog post assignment is this: Tell me about yourself. Do this in an interesting way. By that I mean don't just ramble on about stuff you like/dislike. Craft a wee little story about some experience that reveals something about you.

But I'm boring. 

Nonsense! Even your days lounging languidly on your couch watching reruns of Chopped have some kind of story embedded in them. You will learn in this class that anything can be worth writing about if you write it well enough. Try that idea out on your first blog post.

Include an active link to something, at least one photo, and try to embed a video. Woah. That's a lot of things. You can do it! Please post by Sunday 8:00 PM if at all humanly possible. We can discuss and settle on a time that works better if this gets in the way of other stuff...but you do have all weekend and, of course, you can post earlier than the deadline.

A note about the blogging component of this class: your blog is a place for you to personalize your writing, to experiment with writing, to air out some ideas, to interact with your classmates (and,  I guess, the world) and most important, to develop and strengthen your writing voice. Barring significantly inappropriate writing (in either form or content) just completing the weekly task will earn you your credit for this element. It's not "graded" the same way an essay would be. But since we play how we practice, I expect you to get in the habit of, like, using capital letters and punctuation and real sentences in your blog posts. Try to give them some shape or personality. Have a point. Write something worth reading. And, because blogs are blogs, make use of the media aspects when appropriate. Some professional bloggers include at least one image per post so that an icon linking to that post can be generated. If it feels like I'm speaking another language, don't worry, you'll catch on. This should be fun. Take ownership of your blog. Personalize it. Add gadgets. Make it reflect your aesthetic. PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD, DO NOT USE A HIDEOUS ILLEGIBLE FONT. Consider your audience. Consider the purpose. Consider the form. Go nuts.

Happy blogging!


Well, Hullo There!

Normally I would post something strikingly witty and brilliant here, but summer still has dominion over my brain, and as such, I can come up with nothing more than: Usfbq3287rytfghbvjjzkd,djfa8.

Still, though, I am thrilled that you have found the blog and I will encourage you to bookmark it or make it your home page so that you get into the habit of checking it ALL THE TIME. We also have a Moodle page that you should get comfy with and there's a website and there's another website. I know this is confusing. I will streamline it all and we'll figure it out.

For now, just find these places and make a note to yourself about how to find them again.

Find "The Rhetorical Situation" by Lloyd Bitzer. Read this for tomorrow. You may print if there is enough paper. Otherwise you're on your own there. Digital copies with digital annotations are fine by me if you're comfortable with that.

You will notice a thousand other documents including an old syllabus. Most of it is the same so it wouldn't be a crisis if you looked at it, but you'll get a pretty new one tomorrow in class.

Note the cartoon. What argument does it make? How? How is it meant to be interpreted?

What is on September 21st at 8:00 PM? Take to the interwebs to learn more about this. What did you find? What do you think? How is this an argument?

I would say browse some of the fun things I have linked on my blog, but many of them will probably be blocked because they do not, at first glance, appear to be educational. But they are.

Now it's time for you to create your own blog. I recommend Blogger since it's all Google-connected and I'm familiar with it so I can help you out if need be, but you may use another platform if you prefer. I'm turning you loose to figure out how to do this on your own, but I will be here as a resource. You also have very smart, very capable classmates who can assist you (and I'm sure they'd love to). 

Make sure you give me a slice of paper with these things on it:
  • Your name/preferred nickname if this exists
  • Evidence that you found the things you were to find
  • Your blog's URL and your blog's name (you might not get this far today, that's fine)
Happy first-day-after-summer-died!


What. No Posts?

Does it seem weird to anyone else that Monday will come with completely new schedules? New courses, new faces, new stresses. I can't quite wrap my head around it. Then again, if this ice-rain/snow keeps on keeping on maybe we'll have a snow day! Doubtful, I know, but they say it's good to dream. I keep checking for your usual Sunday posts and except for a few of you dedicated bloggers, there are none. Not even the send-off posts I encouraged you to write. Do something for the sake of closure. Or don't because you spent the day napping and plan to watch a movie tonight instead because it's between semesters and--finally--you have no homework. I get it. I do.


I hope you will keep writing in some way. It doesn't have to be your blog, you can abandon it if you want to, but keep writing. You have all improved so much from those summer "Why I write" pieces. Your revision essays (after I scared the bejesus out of you and you went back to the drawing board) turned into really good pieces. Your writing is something that will change as you change and with each new challenge, you'll grow just a little bit more. Remember what Orwell said? By the time you've perfected any style of writing you have always outgrown it.

Ah, Orwell. I'm thinking about tattooing Orwell on one wrist and Bitzer on the other. What do you think? JK. But only sort of. Well, only about the Bitzer part. Orwell has about wisdom to offer and has taught me nearly everything I know that it would be fitting. But 

By the way, your vocab sentences were hilarious. I sent a few of the Mr. Motes' mustache ones to Mr. Motes. He enjoyed them.





BLA final assignment due sometime tomorrow (Wednesday).
Vocab assignment due in class Thursday. (You picked this up during final exam funtime, remember?)

Tomorrow we have more presentations and Thursday we have one last thing we'll do together. Any spillover presentations will go Thursday, too.

Rhetorical Analysis revisions are updated in skyward. There are no comments, but if you want your essay back, ask.

MC and short-shorts are in skyward, not test corrections or written responses, or that thing you had to draw. Those things will gradually make their way into the gradebook this week/weekend. Your revised revision essays are a work in progress. I've had time to look at, like, six of them. Be patient. Knowing your grade today, or tomorrow, or Thursday is really no different than knowing it a week from now when grades are finally "due" and become finalized. There's nothing you can do about it anyway. No negotiating. No more revisions. No more corrections. You've learned what you've learned and done what you've done. It's like that cliche about chips falling where they may or whatever. In the end, grades really don't matter anyway. I know your counselor is breathing down your neck about your grades and maybe your parents are too. They are well-intentioned, but only you can really assess what you have learned and what is of value to you.



Some words of wisdom:

"We writers translate the experiences we have been given. Our task is to translate with as much empathy and integrity as we can to be true to each experience. We translate life into the narrative that we create."

~ Terry Tempest Williams

This is what you need to do. This is it. This is everything.

After I made you feel two inches tall this morning, I continued to think about why and how your essays could have missed the mark so much. It's not that you didn't write sentences or paragraphs that mostly offered a coherent experience or commentary on something, it's just that--apart from a few exceptions-- there was nothing really there, under the words, that you were communicating. The so what was tragically missing. There was nothing really at stake in the writing. It maybe mattered to you, but it would never--could never--matter to anyone else. You didn't let it.

Last night, well into the wee hours of the morning, I was reading overly sentimental accounts of such and such, empty, cliche statements about all kinds of things, positions that reflected obviously limited and selfish perspectives, and essays that were just not essays at all. They were stories, some of them. Stories about this one time when or this person who, without any real connection to anyone or anything outside yourself. In re-reading your mission statements I'm realizing that you did not or could not see beyond the scope of your idea for a way to say something important--to translate your experience--to craft the narrative of that experience in a way that another human--any other human--could relate. This was the whole assignment, though: Take that starter and expand it. Develop it. Re-envision it. Make it into something more than it is now. Didn't do that? That means you failed. That doesn't mean you are a failure, though. Just the piece itself. I've written failures. Everyone has. I once wrote this terrible "analysis" of the symbolism of light and "whiteness"--whatever that means-- in Moby Dick a book you know (if you've been paying attention) I despise. It deserved an F. I would give it an F. Incidentally, it didn't ruin my life. I went on to write perfectly acceptable things and even the occasional amazing thing. Mostly I couldn't write well about it because I didn't care about it.

What I've realized, I think, is that you either lack the significant experiences, or lack the skills to render them, or lack the interest in doing so. Two of those things exasperate me because I have been trying to equip you with the skills and spark the interest since before September. I cannot give you the experience though. I cannot give you perspective and that is the last and final ingredient in any compelling essay. I also cannot, though I may try, make you care. Skills come with practice, experience and perspective only come with time, but the interest in doing so? That comes only from you. Now and forever. That interest must be beyond anything tangible and extrinsic. If that is not there, your writing really cannot be better than meh. Audiences know when you don't care. They can smell it from afar. Not interested in broadening your perspective to include anything beyond your own experience? Not interested in considering how this thing you wanted to write about connects to everyone in some way? Audiences know it and it slaughters your ethos, and your point--whatever it might have been--is now moot. But I also can't make you less self-absorbed. You're teenagers, that's what you're good at. Even you nice ones.

You know that I like you. You know that I geek out about good writing. You know that I want you to be successful in your written endeavors--and all the others ones, too. But you also need to know that sometimes you make me sad. And that's really it--sad. I so want you to get it. I want you to see that you have something to say and I want you to learn how to say it and then I want you to do that. That's why I teach this subject and not another that would free up my nights and weekends. I also want you to know that sometimes you will work super hard on something (note: hard work is something you have yet to understand completely) and that will still not be enough, but that doesn't make it nothing.

Want to know the secret to writing? The key to our final exam and the AP exam in May? Fall in love with language. That's it. Re-read the first passage on the practice test from this morning. It's brilliant. Figure out why it's so brilliant and the answers will LEAP OUT AT YOU LIKE THIS.


Living for the Weekend or #finalsFML

Boy, I sure love the weekend, don't you?

Well, perhaps you don't love these weekends at the end of the term when you spend your precious few moments of free time tweeting about how your classes/teachers/final projects/tests/etc are ruining your life and/or killing you. Just to keep things in perspective, consider the following (from Hyperbole and a Half):

0:  Hi.  I am not experiencing any pain at all.  I don't know why I'm even here.

1:  I am completely unsure whether I am experiencing pain or itching or maybe I just have a bad taste in my mouth.

2:  I probably just need a Band Aid.

3:  This is distressing.  I don't want this to be happening to me at all.

4:  My pain is not f***ing around.

5:  Why is this happening to me??

6:  Ow.  Okay, my pain is super legit now.

7:  I see Jesus coming for me and I'm scared.   

8:  I am experiencing a disturbing amount of pain.  I might actually be dying.  Please help.

9:  I am almost definitely dying.

10:  I am actively being mauled by a bear.

11: Blood is going to explode out of my face at any moment.

Too Serious For Numbers:  You probably have ebola.  It appears that you may also be suffering from Stigmata and/or pinkeye.

In other words, quit overreacting.

Your essay should show me that you have been paying attention to all of the things we have been studying and discussing about successful, effective writing. It should demonstrate your very best writing. There's no getting around that. I know I'm not supposed to say things like that because it "causes undue stress" or something, but we all know that writing does that anyway. By now you know what I'm looking for in quality writing and you know what I will and will not tolerate. (Will: mild cussing and appropriate snark. Not: anything trite, cliche, empty, boring, or ignorant. Note: this does not mean that your essay should necessarily contain naughty words and sass, I'm simply pointing out that those things are not forbidden while crappy writing is.) See previous post(s) and actually go read those documents I provided as resources. If you do not, or if you read them and choose not to heed their advice, I will know. Your writing will tell me; it always does.

Do you know what I want from you? Do you? Think about that for a while. What, do you suppose, is my ultimate goal here? What are my motives? If "torture" wormed its way into your response, you're only partially right. Ha. Just kidding... I'm being 100% serious though, please consider what my goals are for you and for your writing. Your weekend blog post assignment is to write a mission statement for your essay. What is your purpose? What is the point? What are you trying to accomplish with this piece? This is the so what question. If I finish your essay and I look up all quizzically asking so what? you did not achieve your goal. So what if you had this amazing experience this one time. So what if this place/person/activity is super special to you. SO WHAT. As a writer, you have to extend and communicate your experience to your audience so that they give a hoot. So that they see an application of this experience/message/story/argument/proposal/idea/whatever to their own existence. Remember the so what. 

My previous post outlines some other things and reminders. Like that event at the Loft Literary Center. Which you should attend. The night before our final. It will probably be a better use of your time than freaking out about something that an hour or two of studying won't fix anyway.



First of all, I encourage you to attend this FREE event next Wednesday at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I am obsessed with this place. I have never been disappointed by their productions and this one promises to be entertaining. The website I just linked too will also give you directions for getting there and where to park. (Tip: their parking lot is tiny so either arrive REALLY early or park elsewhere.) See you there.

On to the other things:

I have only met with three students about revision essays. This concerns me a wee bit. I really hope you are not making some kind of unforgivable mistake with your essay since there is no safety-net, revision option, and it basically serves as your culminating written work for this class. See previous post. Due Monday. I will collect the original essay and the new one only, not the in-betweens.

Your blog study project is the last grade to go into the almighty Skyward. It goes in the 85% category. It's your last opportunity to demonstrate that you understand how language works. Show me that you get rhetoric. Give us your astute observations and analysis of the blog--all elements of it--and talk about how it all works. What makes this blog interesting/effective/entertaining/etc? Your presentation has to work. It has to be obvious that you know what you're talking about (the elements of rhetoric/language as well as the various components of the blog--content and form) and that you have carefully prepared your presentation. Remember, you should be so comfortable with your blog that you could just show up, pull up the blog and go, but you should not literally do that. Prepare. Have a visual aid for us. Make your visual aid rhetorically appropriate (remember visual arguments? remember font?). Also, use your visual aid/handout. Like I said, we're not going to keep a tally of your ums, but if we think you're unprepared or it seems like you don't really know what you're doing, we--your audience--can tell and, as the magic of rhetoric goes, that defaces all your credibility and then we will get restless and unruly. Just like you are analyzing the content and form of the blog, you are evaluated on the content and form of your presentation. As a rule: never forget your audience.

Some resources for your consideration:

A caution: if you're gonna get all fancy on us, you must be practiced and not lose sight of the goal here. If you're going to play it safe and go with Power point or the Google apps version, or whatever else you might be plotting, you must be practiced and not lose sight of the goal here. Creativity is always worth something, but creativity can't simply replace quality content. They have to go together.

BLA final assignment: Figure out your arrangements for viewing your group's documentary together. If that's impossible, figure out a way to at least have a discussion together about it. There are online "view together" tools that allow virtual discussion as you view. Fine. Do that. There is something about watching a film as a group that cannot be replicated, though, and I want you to experience that. I want you to have conversations about the film as (or probably after) you watch it. What argument does this film raise? Is it the same as/similar to/different from the argument your book raises? Is it more or less effective? What rhetorical features of the film make it so? Then allow your thoughts to simmer a bit before you post your response. I'm interested to know what you think about the book you read and the film you viewed, but you cannot simply voice your opinions. You have to also explain them and comment on what these arguments mean for society (or whoever/whatever). Compose a legitimate, thoughtful, intellectually sound response.

Final exam: I do not recycle tests from previous years so that copy you just paid 20 bucks for is basically worthless, unless you plan to set it on fire to keep warm so your final exam doesn't exist in its finished state at this time, and probably won't until I hand it to you. You can expect it to be fairly similar to the term 1 final, though. There will be MC questions, there will be some writing, there will be some things that challenge you to prove your skills and your knowledge. Weird, huh? A final exam that does these things that final exams are supposed to do? My point: review what we've done. Revisit anything that isn't solidly a part of your everyday thinking. You can pretend to study by leafing through things and trying to memorize terms if it makes you feel better, but that is not the same thing as preparing for a final assessment of what you've learned.


Revising the Revision Essay

First, I hope you didn't waste any of your time today. I hope you gave and received honest, useful feedback. Some of you need to hear that this piece you are working on, as it is, has no point and is boring and full of cliches. It hurts to hear this. It's not fun to admit that the work we have done doesn't... work, and probably just needs to be abandoned. It's not fun to admit that we have made a mistake.

It's great and terrible thing, this writing business. Perhaps you now better understand what Orwell meant when he likened writing to a long bout of some painful illness. It's a horrible, exhausting struggle indeed.

But why? Why is it so trying?

Or maybe more important, why do we do it then?

Orwell explains (remember, the four motives?) this, too. But even more than our motives for writing or the circumstances under which we are to write (in your case, because I'm making you), there is this thing about writing which is inherently self-aggrandizing and ego-centric (I have something to say and it matters enough to write it down and force people to read it! Ha! I am amazing!) and also self-deprecating and other-focused (Ugh, I can't believe I actually wrote this. It's garbage. People are going to judge me. I will bore them. What do I have to offer that is any different than what has already been offered?). We write for an audience. Sometimes that audience is ourselves (with, say, a private journal or diary, I suppose) but generally that audience exists outside of us--it should. Never lose sight of your audience.

Writing goes something like this: You have something to say. You figure out the best possible way to communicate what it is that you have to say so that someone else can read it and understand exactly what you mean in exactly the way you meant it. Or at least a close approximation of what you meant and how you meant it. All writing comes down to form, audience, and purpose. The first thing I taught you is, essentially, the only thing you need to know about writing and must always remember.

It's just that... it's hard. You're obsessed with your own aversion to failure, but (eh-hem, Orwell) all writing is a failure because it's at best a secondary representation of an idea. Turns out no writing can perfectly convey our ideas; we can only get close. But we must strive to get as close as we can. This is precisely why cliche kills writing, why empty, trite, boring phrases which reflect empty, trite, boring ideas are so poisonous to good writing. Not only does that kind of writing suck, the ideas behind that kind of writing suck, too, and are not even kind of close to that initial idea you had--that thing you have to say.

Now, having something to say--having a purpose--is not the same as having a thesis in the five-paragraph-way or the inquiry-based, researchy, MoPro way.  There are different occasions for writing--for rhetoric--for arguments. There are different forms and modes. You know this. You have learned this. Yet, you are acting as if you have never been exposed to this idea before when, in fact you have: since you started that summer prep work for this class. Not every essay is a thesis-driven essay. This is not the same as having a focus or purpose. Every essay must have a focus or purpose. You have to say something. But if you write an essay that has a neat little thesis package at the end of the first paragraph, I will feed it to my dog. 

You have to write an essay that matters in some way, that is interesting, that reveals something. If there is nothing at stake, if there is nothing in conflict, if there is nothing that gets your gut even a little bit as you're writing. Write. Something. Else. Consider the essays we've read together. Remember when we talked about which ones we enjoyed reading? Which ones we wished to model our own writing after? THIS IS THE TIME TO MODEL IT. If you cannot pinpoint at least one essay that serves as an inspiration or mentor essay for yours, that's a problem.

I would caution you against, but will not outright forbid, the following: writing something satiric, writing a proposal, writing a topical "about" essay for, these contain dangerous sinkholes. 
  • Satire is fun. Being all outlandish and snarky and taboo feels daring and satisfying (I should know, that's usually my m.o.) but it's difficult to do well. I fail at it most of the time and I've had many years of practice. You will think you are being clever and wry and all that good stuff, but usually, it just won't quite work, and for this essay, it's just not the best idea. We will be working with humor and satire in these next couple of weeks; save some of your snark and hyperbole for that. 
  • Proposals are nice and formulaic, but require a great deal of justification and research and are often satire (see previous caution) or devoid of personal connection and voice, which are primary components I'm demanding to see for this essay. This does not mean that a proposal couldn't involve interesting discussion of something that really matters--and matters to you, or couldn't beautifully demonstrate your voice, it's just that they often don't because they're inherently more direct and down-to-business. 
  • Similarly, those "about" essays I mentioned can end up lacking personal connection, lively discussion and exploration, or the substantial research that they require. This is not the time to write a persuasive, research-based essay about some hot-button issue unless you can successfully and maturely couch it in something else. Fascinated with insect reproduction? Awesome. But beware of listing facts and sounding like a textbook. You aren't writing a report; you are writing an essay. An attempt at exploring a particular subject. An attempt and deriving some conclusions about something and making some kind of connection to something that matters somehow. 
It's not that you can't or couldn't write about the social hierarchy of the American red squirrel and apply this to some observation you've made about humanity--perhaps about your family, or your peer group,you can. It's just that you must make that additional connection. Further, you must explore the implications of this connection: what it says about us, what it means. This is true of any topic. You might want to write about hipsterism. Fine, cool, go for it. But say something new about it. Make a claim with it.

Writing about your mom/dad/sister/grandma/buddy/dog/third-nephew-once-removed? Why should anyone else care to read it? What are you revealing about this person (or about yourself, or about family, or about the nature of friendship--in which case your essay would actually be more an exploration of friendship than about that person)? What does your essay suggest or imply about the relationships we have? About our priorities? About our traditions, tendencies, etc.?

See? You can write about anything! You just have to write with intention and do something with your topic that matters. And, you know, dazzle me with your writing skills.  

So I kid around and exaggerate and intentionally say things to cause you stress and shock and joy and dismay because that's how we learn: when we're shaken out of our complacency, but in all seriousness we've been together for umpteen weeks and we've done so much and you've grown so much that I don't want to see you sell yourself short by opting for an essay that--on it's surface--appears to be the easier option. That essay is, I assure you, a trap. I want you to write something that you will be proud of. Something that you can confidently say demonstrates your writing skills, your ideas, your voice.

End lecture.


Update: evidently nothing works. Moodle is dead to me and my own site is giving me trouble, so... I resurrected an old Google website. It's pretty much empty except for the four things I want you to read. Maybe I'll add more later. Find them on the "library" page. Here's a link:


This weekend, as you're working on your essay, read the following pieces via "Doubt is Torture" from Writing Down the Bones, "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser, "Heavy Sentences" by Joseph Epstein and "How Long," a memo that should seem familiar to you because parts of it are in the syllabus. Originally written by Wayzata's own, Dave Motes. There are other suggested readings, but definitely read these four.

Write a blog post in which you rant about one or several things that irritate you. Pet peeves, etc. See if you can figure out what is it about this thing that sticks in your craw. Why does it bother you really? Due Sunday 10pm as per usual. 

Maybe visit the blog you're following/studying. Clock some reading/analysis time. We'll talk about next steps soon. 

Collect some words for your term 2 vocab assignment. Don't know what I'm talking about? See previous post mentioning it.

Note: Your revision essay is due Monday 1/14. This means you might get it back before the end of the semester or you might not, in which case it's a good thing you'll still be a student at this school and could conceivable pick your essay up after our class has parted ways. It also means there will be no post-grade revision option. All things come to an end.

Happy weekend.

Oh, here's some more:

[what follows is essentially plagiarized from Prokott's blog, but we're kind of the same person, so it's fine.]

That Inevitable Part of the Semester When You Hate Me Even Though I Am Trying to Help You: ON THE DISCONNECT

Every year as a teacher, I struggle to help students build and maintain the bridge between reading and writing. As a whole, our class is a pretty great bunch of readers and observers. But we haven't yet mastered the skill of understanding that we're reading as writers: that the reason we read the essays we do is so we can use them as inspiration for our own work. That is, when we made that giant map of Bernard Cooper's essay on the board and labeled all the paragraphs and where the images occurred and were reinforced--that's what we do with our own essays, once we reach that stage of the writing process. Crazy. But that's what we do; that's what writers do. If you came to class this week thinking your essay was done, thinking that you could just tune up a few things: you were wrong. I'm sorry. I write this not because of the conferences I had yesterday, but because of what I've seen from writers in the past, in my own classes and the classes of the other AP Language teachers. You. Are. Not. Done. Probably not even close. You. Might. Have. To. Start. Over. Who cares? Just keep going and don't worry about it. Open a blank page and journal. Learn how to ask yourself the right questions and then how to answer them.

Anyway. One thing that is critically important to good writing is creativity. How to be creative and think outside the box and find the connection between what we read and what we write is what we have to figure out. That's hard.  But the first step in generating your own material is, ironically, to COPY. Don't steal, but start by copying. You can't exist in the vacuum of your own work because we read those essays so long ago. I know writing seems like a lonely thing--but it really only is if you're Emily Dickinson and refuse to come out of your upstairs apartment because the dude you love is totes married--so, understand that you are not eerily peering from behind your black velvet curtains unto the rainy, slick streets below, but are actually part of a community of writers. These are your peers, but they are mostly the ghosts of essays-we've-read-past. Orwell sits on my shoulder, and he should sit on yours; there should be a little Bernard Cooper in your ear and a David Sedaris looking back at you in the mirror and a Nancy Mairs whispering what's at stake is this really a language esasy? from your plate while you're eating your grilled cheese sandwich. These writers should be like the "face of Jesus" that self-important zealots think appear to only them.

You are supposed to copy them. You are supposed to have all those handouts and worksheets and hints and tips I've given you all year in front of you. You should borrow sentence structure every now and then from each of them. If your essay covers a similar issue--say, identity--you should be going back to those essays and examining how that particular author organized. Did he use space breaks? How did the essay open? How could I borrow that format but then change it to work for me? This is how genius is born.

Some people say you can't teach creativity, but that's not a very creative approach. I am telling you right now how to be creative; there is no magic creative button. There is only channeling what works, what you love, and then thinking I love this so much I must somehow make it mine. (Not in a Fatal Attraction way, though. Yikes.)

When I write, I pull my favorite books from the shelf and spread them out like a buffet of Christmas cookies in front of me. 
And I take little samples of each: delectable phrases, strong stanzas, powerful sentences, images that sucker-punch me in the stomach or make my skin crawl or make my heart race or make me sigh but in a good way. Those samples give me ideas.  They become part of my own work the way that we carry around with us all of our past experiences and those color who we are and what we do.

The point: STEAL. MODIFY.

I've been writing for a really long time, and I've gone to school for writing for a really long time. All my closest friends are writers, and I write for fun and I read books for fun and every day I think about what could be an essay and why everything in my life might be something at stake that I can metaphorically examine later.

And I still struggle with writing. This is the part of the term where you guys just trust me. Even if I tell you it's not working; even if your workshop group really liked it. Trust me.

This is not the time of the semester where you forget everything you've learned about form, audience, purpose, where you forget that you've been exposed to a plethora of accomplished essayists, where you forget what the whole dang purpose of this class is. It's January. It's cold. It's almost time to be done. But you have to get over it. If anything, embrace this darkness and turn it into your essay. I write my best when I'm really crabby. When the world is so gray and the cold numbs my bones and my hands turn red with freeze rash.

Writing is hard. I don't believe there was ever a day this term where I said: dude, get over it, writing is no big deal. So easy. Nope, never said that. In fact, on the first day of this class, I explained that you would fail in this class a million times and that failure was part of your success. When you hear this you thought yeah, that's for everyone EXCEPT for me. And now you're realizing it is for you. And you. And you.

Yeah, but that doesn't make writing any easier: writing is hard.