Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Think Therefore I Revise

Through an author chat on Skype, YA author Irene Latham helped reinforce our ongoing conversations and lessons on revision.  Especially for a topic such as revision, it is so helpful to have another mentor, a different voice, delivering the message in the classroom--revision not only matters, it is the pulse of the writer's process.

If you aren't revising it, you're piece has gone dormant--perhaps it has died without any hope for ressuccitation.  Without revision, cold winter, shadowy and still, settles on your writing.  Deep in your brain, you know you are done with the piece...and if you care about your piece, and you leave it unrevised, it carries with it the same emptiness and foreboding found in a George Ault painting.

Similarly, when we leave books half-read, we might take pity on it and try to muscle our way through it again. Someday. Mostly, we leave half-read books as they are because they are not our kind of people.  We don't connect with them and so we shove them on shelves--we may reconcile that our trophies of gentle guilt can sit there because we paid $9.99 for it.

Why do we leave our own writing so callously at times?  Certainly, people who see themselves as writers pay a much greater price than $9.99 to place it down on paper.

But those are people who see themselves as writers--what about our students---what about our students who do not see themselves as writers?  ...or our disgruntled students who experience knotty and straining feelings when they hear the word "revise?"  ...or our students who do not see themselves as writers?

Some young people absolutely believe that they have as much business being called a writer as we do asking them to dig in the soil so that they may see the sun.

Who dares have such an impulse?

It is with that heart that I try to lead my students through revision as matter of course--it is how we do business.  Dig...and find the sun.

And so Latham (italics) helped deliver the message to my 8th grade class:

Each time you read--read for something different: plot, main character consistency, dialogue consistency, supporting character consistency, voice (which can be very elusive)...just ask yourself "does this sound like me?"

Each time you read (no matter if essay or fiction) get smaller and smaller with each reading.

Read just for similies and metaphors.

Read just for color or sound or repetition.

Read for the senses.

Last...at the very end...read for sentence structure and editing.  True, our impulse is to do this first.

Our impulse? or our training?

Every first word we write is the revision of previous thought, experience, or desire.  As I've read (and believe) writing is thinking.

And if we are ever done thinking...

We have to model revision, and we have to model how to think about revision--this type of thinking, this type of living.  It is on this current generation of English teachers (Year 1 to 30+) to reconsider the impulses we are drilling into our students.

An impulse to prune, snip, close...so that we might accept winter?

Or an impulse to dig, dig, dig...so that we might find the sun?

George Ault - artist

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