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Showing posts from July, 2007

A Poem About Dog Sledding

The following poem was written by a former MMI cadet, Curtis Surovy, when he was in grade 11. It was published in Tale Spinners;Midnight Star Publications in Alberta, Canada (Winter 2005).

Finest Companions
Curtis Surovy

Adventuring up blue ice mountains
panting dogs conquer the frozen slope
where frigid air like thorns in the lungs doubles you.
With whistle signal sled travelers halt,
dismount and approach the humble beasts,
bare fingers course through frozen fur's sharp edges.
Their prideful stature spent, these finest companions
now compliant with loose tongues flapping, bellies grounded
blow out exhaustion with every breath
until standing again the hounds bark readiness
to descend, tails wagging.

Related reading: Curtis Surovy's letter to Wendell Berry; Trophy (poem about personal victory)

Building Student Portfolios

Three of my children had writings published before they were freshmen in high school. These pieces were the beginning of their writing portfolios and those portfolios gave them an edge when it came time to apply to colleges. One daughter’s Christmas short story was so impressive that she won a local short story contest and a full scholarship to Westover, a prestigious all girl boarding school in Middlebury, Connecticut.

Writing teachers should encourage students to develop writing portfolios. Here are suggestions on how to get started:

Use a three ring binder with dividers for Poetry, Essays, Short Stories, and Journalism.

Set a goal to have at least one published piece in each category every year.

After publication, place a copy of the published piece in the appropriate section of the portfolio.

Publications in magazines, poetry books or anthologies should include a copy of the cover page. Online publications should include the URL.

Include only the best work when submitting applications …

Depicting Violence in Fiction

My students are required to write short shorts. This demanding unit has proven to be helpful to students because they go through the process as a fiction writer. (For more on how to encourage students to write short fiction, read Fiction: The Germ That Spreads published here in April 2007.)

The secret to writing good short shorts is to begin the story as close as possible to the climax and to begin with action. Many students begin with scenes of violence, but they need guidance and examples in order to learn how to do this well. Here are some tips to share with your students.

There are three ways to depict violence in short stories.

1. Pack the narrative with details and draw out the action so that it seems that the event is taking place in slow motion. The objective is to draw the reader into the action. To do this well the writer must be selective about which details to include. Not every detail is necessary.

Example: Carlito heard the shot after he had fallen. The gutter was splattere…

Feel the Emotions: Evocative Poetry

The best poetry is evocative. It stirs emotions in the reader and raises sometimes murky images to the surface. Frequently a student's struggle to write evocative poetry can be traced to problems identifying an emotion they may be feeling. Writing teachers can help students by asking, "What were you feeling when you wrote this?" Often students respond with "I was thinking..." and you have to help them move from conscious thought to consciousness of a emotion. You might ask, "Were you afraid or angry? Were you feeling sad or discouraged?"

I've developed a method to help students get in touch with emotions created by strong poetic images. I turned to the work of 20th century Spanish poets, as having taught Spanish poetry, I was especially familiar with the evocative quality of Spanish poetry. The method requires students to keep a poetry journal and builds in time for reflection on the short readings.

Here are 6 evocative images to use with students…