Sarah DeBacher | May 13, 2013
This weekend was intense in ways expected and not. The expected territory came on Saturday, when GNOWP welcomed ten of the twelve teachers who will be joining us during this year’s Summer Institute. We gathered in the Liberal Arts building on the campus of the University of New Orleans to write together, to build some community.
Early on, two of our teachers—Jeanne Patrick and Allison Lowe—shared a standout moment from the written conversation they’d just had. Jeanne had written about the importance of finding ways to make her students feel safe so they could then take brave risks in their writing. We all nodded in agreement. For risky writing to take place, there must be safety.
Risky writing is the brave, truth-telling stuff through which we do more than poke dead things with sticks—we wrestle with why they died; we take a good, close look at the effed-up fact that we will all, someday, (today, maybe,) die too; we lay them to rest, eulogizing worms and birds, and the dark stuff bubbling up in the children who abuse them, with an empathy achievable only through deep consideration and an acknowledgement that the First Thought might not be the right one. Risky writing does not pose easy questions or provide simple answers. It plows past platitudes and kisses complexity. It dives right into the depths of “I don’t know,” the only sure thing being that some discovery will be made, that the heart of the writer will be changed.
Sarah DeBacher | April 26, 2013
“Revision—re-seeing, is how the writer sees the world and understands its meaning.” –Donald Murray
I spent last weekend blowing bubbles with armadillos and getting in touch with my student-heart.
Allow me to explain.
Last weekend, GNOWP wrapped a year-long series of workshops at Carolyn Park Middle School. Saturday’s goal: revising and reflecting. To launch, we closed our eyes and imagined our yards covered in armadillos. Yes, armadillos.
When we opened our eyes, we listed five things we’d do with the armadillos. Next, we listed five more. And then five more again.
Our first lists had us shooting, shooing, cooking, and otherwise ridding the yard of armadillos. By the third go-around, we were doing yoga with the armadillos, conducting food-preference experiments, calling in a team of consultants to conduct a thorough armadillo-analysis. It was good, giggly fun, this armadillo exercise. And through it, we saw how the first thought may not always be the most imaginative one. In debriefing, we agreed that our students would love the activity. They, like us, love the fun stuff, if not armadillos.
Soon, however, things got decidedly dark. I asked the teachers to get out a piece of writing they’d been working on over the past several weeks and months. I handed out scissors. The teachers knew what was coming next, and they didn’t like it. Not one bit.
Sarah DeBacher | April 18, 2013
There’s been lots said lately about the negative influence of the Internet on students’ ability to write (to read, to think, etc.) And yet, what I appreciate most about the potential of the Internet as a tool for strengthening writing is its capacity for connecting students to outside-of-the-classroom audiences (often referred to in education-speak as “authentic audiences,” although I would argue that a teacher can, indeed, be an authentic audience). It’s also got great potential for collaboration with other writers—writers at desks across the country, on the other side of the world. Dead writers.