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Showing posts from June, 2010

The First Ruler: Part 1

Alice C. Linsley

Dear Grandchildren,

I promised to tell you the story of the first ruler and so I shall. It is a strange tale about a time so far in the past that there may be parts that can’t be told, at least not until we learn more about the Firstlings. You mustn’t think that I actually lived in those days. Really I’m not THAT old, though doubtless I seem ancient to you.

One day you’ll recognize that this story is more than a great adventure. It is a window through which you will glimpse a world that only the best science – the study of Mankind – is capable of describing. That study is called Anthropology and perhaps one day you will take it up and make a great contribution to our store of knowledge. Until then, let us simply enjoy looking through the window at the Firstling who was called Ra, the father of the first ruler.

You probably are wondering where he lived. It wasn’t a place like where you live. It was more like a very big garden. There were trees of many kinds and flowe…

Naming Fictional Characters

Much thought must go into finding just the right name for a fictional character. Naming a character is like naming the new baby.

Names are more important than one might think. An ideal name will fit a character like a shoe fits a foot, a wrong name is like an off-note on the music scale. What if Scarlet O’Hara had been called Myrtle O’Hara, or Huckleberry Finn had been called Strawberry Jones? Names carry with them a specific history and connotations about a character’s personality.

Read more at Suite101: Naming Fictional Characters: Finding the Best First Name and Surname for your Characters

I'm working on a piece of fiction in which all the characters have one syllable names and no surnames. It is about the first people on Earth who I call the Firstlings. I wouldn't have guessed the challenge of coming up with meaningful one-syllable names!

To Kill a Mockingbird: 50 years of Magic

To Kill a Mockingbird is a magical book. That is the word. From the moment of its publication 50 years ago it radiated magic. To this day you may with confidence place it in the hands of anyone, anywhere, of any age, race or gender and know that if they do not love it, they have missed something transcendent.

The first thing to be said to clarify the magic is that its portrayal of childhood is wonderful. I mean this not as a stock word of praise from an author afraid of blundering stylistically if he writes “magical” again. I mean it literally: Mockingbird captures the wonder of childhood.

Once Scout and Jem befriend the visiting Dill, their familiar world cracks open with a series of delightful fissures caused not by the shattering impact of evil, though it surrounds them, but because it is expanding wonderfully and must do so. They are able to have a series of new adventures undreamed of before it all started yet somehow perfectly natural once they are happening. And this, to me, is…

Creative Writing with Middle School Students

Alice C. Linsley

I recently finished an 8-week writing skills class for middle school students and we had a blast!  They were asked to build their vocabularies by reading great literature and using unfamiliar words in sentences.  We then discussed their sentences in class and sometimes found we needed to clarify the word's meaning.

We started all our sessions with each student reading aloud the opening paragraph of a classic. We then discussed what made that paragraph great. Some of the books we discussed include:

Sir Walter Scott

R. L Stevenson
Treasure Island
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights
Jane Eyre

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishement

Jack London
The Call of the Wild

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncles Tom's Cabin

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Valley of Fear

Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist
Great Expectations
A Tale of Two Cities by

Herman Melville
Moby Dick

J.F. Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans


The Dying Christian to His Soul


Vital spark of heav'nly flame!
Quit, O quit this mortal frame:
Trembling, hoping, ling'ring, flying,
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.

Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Sister Spirit, come away!
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirit, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav'n opens my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?

--Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Summer by Alexander Pope


See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending Gods have found Elysium here.
In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray'd,
And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.
Come lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours,
When swains from shearing seek their nightly bow'rs;
When weary reapers quit the sultry field,
And crown'd with corn, their thanks to Ceres yield.
This harmless grove no lurking viper hides,
But in my breast the serpent Love abides.
Here bees from blossoms sip the rosy dew,
But your Alexis knows no sweets but you.
Oh deign to visit our forsaken seats,
The mossy fountains, and the green retreats!
Where-e'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,
Where-e'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise,
And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Oh! How I long with you to pass my days,
Invoke the muses, and resound your praise;
Your praise the birds shall chant in ev…

Wendell Berry: Telling the Truth

Dear Friends,

Your teacher, Ms. Linsley, has written to tell me about your writing class, and to ask if I might have something encouraging to say to you. This is an assignment that I take seriously, and I have been asking myself what you should hear, at this time in your lives, from an older writer.

The thought that I keep returning to is this: By taking up the study of writing now, you are assuming consciously, probably for the first time in your lives, a responsibility for our language. What is that responsibility? I think it is to make words mean what they say. It is to keep our language capable of telling the truth. We live in a time when we are surrounded by language that is glib, thoughtless, pointless, or deliberately false. If you learn to pay critical attention to what you hear on radio or television or read in the newspapers, you will see what I mean.

The first obligation of a writer is to tell the truth--or to come as near to telling it as is humanly possible. To do that, i…

Motivating Children to Write

Encouraging my two-and-a-half-year-old son to write isn’t a problem. Encouraging him to express himself on paper, rather than on the walls, is the issue in my household. But once the act of writing is mastered and scribbling becomes meaningful composition, how do parents motivate their child to write more?

Having a fresh supply of writing materials (i.e., crisp paper, colorful writing instruments, and reference books) can be helpful. After all, who can resist the temptation to mark up that stark white paper? However, the most critical factor in motivating children to write is to help them become aware of the many writing opportunities right at home. Keeping a journal, having a pen pal, or creating a family newsletter are just a few ways writers can find inspiration. Making children aware that writing doesn’t always have to be the result of a school assignment is essential.

Encourage your child to share selected writings with you, but realize that they may wish to keep some pieces priv…

Poem for Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe's My Last Door

My Last Door

for Georgia O’Keeffe
15 November 1887 ~ 6 March 1986

Death is not
some entrance made
from shades of bright desert sunlight
into a blackened square end
made in dark, silent

It is mystery,
& not so, ever carrying
a familiar scent, untasted, yet
common as childhood recollections
awaiting the Christmas

It is hope,
faith, and then some,
reality defined more firm than mountains,
built more certain than crimson tinted soil come
from ancient adobe desert

My last door:
a step through this square world
of tinted darkness into clarity, a real sunrise,
Christ enthroned beyond eternity, golden luminario,
a regal beacon foreshadowing all humble
journeys towards our true

-- Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo
15 January 2000 ~ Saturday AM ~ Driving in rural Georgia

Notes: “My Last Door” is the title of a work painted by artist Georgia O’Keeffe in 1954. We viewed this painting at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on 23 December …