Monday, July 28, 2008

Again with the commas!!

After having spent a powerful and moving week focusing on finding my voice and writing, writing, writing it was back to the old grind today. I have plenty more to share about the voyage of writing that I am on but first, a comma commercial.

Regular readers of this blog know the fixation I have with commas. (OK - well, there are just three of you that I can claim as regular readers but I am grateful to each and every one of you!) I post about them here and here and here. Bottom line - I have an obsession with commas.

So I just plain laughed out loud reading this post over at Poynter Online and his fight to retain the serial comma. My favorite line of the entire piece happens when Poynter reads his editor's writing and finds that she leaves in the serial commas she is constantly deleting from his work:

"So the editor who takes out my serial commas fights for her own. It's like being a Yankee fan married to a Red Sox fan. You can't win."

I am not sure where you stand on the issue of commas - but this piece sure does make you think about style!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I am cherishing our writing block this week. It just long enough to write without having your brain shut down. It comes in the morning while I am still somewhat fresh (albeit a bit sore from Boot Camp!). And while writing, I am surrounded by quiet, despite having at least ten Fellows around me.

I shared my "portrait" for the third time today in a peer review. Two of the times I shared my purpose for writing and my intended audience. The third time - I did not. I wanted to see if the piece could stand on its own legs.

It did and so it is soon to be something that is "publishable." Where? I have absolutely no idea but since it was written within my community, for my community it will probably be here.

The revision process has not been easy. I've had to not only look at the words but how I put them on paper. Is the tense correct? Spelling? Did I really mean to say that there - or is it more powerful three paragraphs down? But because I care about the piece - I soldier on each day giving it fresh eyes.

It makes me think about our students and the revision process. Do we give them the chance to write about something they care about, are invested enough in to want to revise? Or - as I suspect may be the case - do they revise because we tell them to?

Janet said it powerfully in our debrief session today. I am sure that I am not capturing her thoughts exactly but the heart of it was as follows:

"I need to let go. I can teach kids how to revise their work but I can't make myself go it."

Have we become so detached as teachers of writing that we have forgotten what the process feels like?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finding Your Voice

“Genre is our choice of the kind, the shape, the parts our writing, speaking or communication might take. Voice is our choice of words, rhythms, gestures, tones—the particulars, the individualities our writing, speaking, or communication might take.”
Richard Strong

This week, I am immersed in learning while at our annual retreat for Communities for Learning. In addition to the great food and great minds that are here, it is a chance for me to explore my own work and refine it. This year, we also have the option of participating in a daily writing block.

I was inspired to find my voice through my blogs during our summer retreat 3 years ago. At the time, I was frustrated in my job and struggling to find a purpose for what I do. After having spent a week with Richard Strong and Harvey Silver around engaging students, I came to our summer retreat ready to focus on literacy in social studies and to integrate what I had learned from Silver and Strong. Much to my surprise (and sheer joy!) Richard Strong was spending time with us as well!

I worked diligently on my protocol that week, being sure to sound like an expert and ready to impress people with my work and knowledge. And then I got to meet with Richard and share my work. He was very, very thoughtful and after reading through it and marking some pieces with a red felt tip marker, he put my work down and just looked a me. And looked at me.

I could tell he was searching for the right words and panic struck my heart - would I be rejected by someone I just felt invigorated by? How would I handle this devastating blow?

He leaned back in the chair and said something to the effect of "I have watched you these past two weeks learning and interacting with your peers. I know the content you are writing about and know that you know it as well. But what I read on this paper is not done in your voice. I don't know who is writing this or who they are writing to - but this is not you."

And so began my search for voice.

Our writing block today began with a discussion about the genre that we write in as Fellows, as well as how we share our work. And we discussed digging deep to find our voice and then crafting the mold in which can reside for others to read. I chose to participate in the writer's block because I want to stretch myself, to take some risks in my writing. Writing for a blog post is easy - but can I write a script or a portrait? Have I really uncovered my voice - or I am just putting one out there that sounds like me?

And so continues my search for voice.