Monthly Archives: January 2012

Tranquility Freeriders up!

Want to read about skiing on the Moon?

Well, I’ve taken a stab at writing about it.

Tranquility Freeriders from The Netwalk Sequence is now live.

Currently up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

Check it out.

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Getting back to horse work

Between health issues, work issues and other things, Mocha’s been on the back burner for the past month.  January’s probably the best month for such things to happen, because the arena gets wet, the weather is either nasty cold or else that upper 40s F that just about guarantees a wet haircoat no matter what I do, etc, etc, etc.  G turns her out regularly and gets worried if she doesn’t roll (he likes to see the horses roll in turnout and swears that it’s incredibly important).  Plus I’m sure she gets a little extra attention from him, as well as the college classes for groundwork.  So she doesn’t get ignored.

She does, however, get pushy.  G said she took off running hard this morning and did several loops of the round pen, then tearing down to do a sliding stop then a rollback in each direction.  He thought he detected a pattern to her playing because she’d do the same thing every time.  Doesn’t surprise me, I caught her brother practicing his sliding stops one time after coming back from the reining trainer.  Mocha definitely likes doing her patterns and thinking about her work.  Doesn’t mean she’s particularly cooperative, though, when it’s time for her to go back to work.  I ground drove her this afternoon and, yep, I had a pushy horse who needed to be reminded of the boundaries.

I like having her stand quietly until I ask her to move off.  That’s a safety issue when ground driving or driving a cart.  Driving 101, in other words.  Mocha was having nothing of that, however, and wanted to sidestep and dance around.  Not on her toes like a hotter horse would do, mind you, just two-tracking and moving around a little bit, fidgeting instead of standing.  So she spent some time backing up.  Got her to whoa again, went back to getting myself set up for the work.  She stood.  Then I asked her to move off and she wanted to go faster than a walk.  Hit the sidepull’s noseband and started two-tracking again, this time at a trot.  More backing.

This time she stepped out reasonably, and we had no further problems in the big circle warmup at all three gaits.  Challenges, however, resurfaced when we started the small walk circles.  When doing a small circle to the left, Mocha decided she needed to trot, so…More Discussions, More Backing.  We had to do several big circuits of small left circles before Mocha decided that yeah, she could walk those small circles to the left.  The consistency of the resistance told me that she was stiff in bending in that direction.  Not surprising, since she’d been moving a wee bit short at the trot on the left rein.  Not bad enough to count as lame, more of a muscle tightness/resistance.  So she needed the bend and flex to release that tightness.

But, of course, all she really thought was that it was difficult, stiff, and maybe a little ouchy.  Plus she was testing boundaries, so she resisted.

Mind you, none of this resistance was big or dramatic.  Just being pushy.  She never lashed out at me, never got dangerous.  Just testing boundaries to see what she could get away with.  Making sure the limits still existed.

The real battles came when two-tracking.  Again, it had to do with exercises involving stretching and bending her neck.  Moving to the right with a slight bend to the left—hoo boy, any excuse to avoid that movement.  Any excuse.  Not panicky, not mad, just the sort of resistance that said “I’d much rather not do this.”

I insisted.  After a bit, she softened up and as she softened up, she started moving better.  Her resistance lessened, and by the end of the ground driving session, she was moving freely, much more submissive, and, on the loose rein, much more relaxed.  One reason I’ve started doing this ground driving bit when I’ve been away from the saddle or unable to get a lot of saddle time in is because I’d sooner do this sort of session from the ground.  While she misses those cues of seat and leg, I think it’s beneficial for her to get this tuneup without saddle, bit or rider.  Tomorrow, I’ll ride her in Western tack, and she’ll be much more relaxed, supple and yielding to seat and leg than she would have been if I’d hopped up on her after a week off without the ground driving.  It’s like I need to remind her that we do this stuff for a reason, and the reminders just go better without rider and saddle.  Tiptoe into it, and then she’s back into the mold of yielding without the other stuff.

I’m sure that the amount of ground driving I do makes me a distinct minority amongst most riders out there.  But the more I do it, the more I realize it really does address some issues with my particular horse, and it’s a nice tool to have to keep her flexible, supple, and legged up.

Plus it can be awfully dang fun to work your horse and be able to admire how pretty she is at the same time…..

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On aging and writing and other endeavors, sigh

Jim Van Pelt has an excellent reaction to one of those not-so-lovely screeds that proclaims that after a certain age, writers are all washed up.  Not going to link to the original blog, simply because I have to wonder if it wasn’t the result of a frustrated, newish writer old enough to know better who nonetheless fell prey to the temptation of smacking the face of an old-timer to get blog hits and, therefore, attention.  The middle school teacher in me doesn’t want to reward bad behavior, in the first place, and secondly, doesn’t want to continue to highlight something that the author will later most likely regret publishing.

But even as I read both Jim’s post and the original post, I kept thinking of exceptions to the rule, including George R.R. Martin himself.  Like the original blogger, I haven’t read the books in question.  My pleading, though, is simply that I don’t have the reading energy these days to dedicate to a series of books that big.  I read the first two or three books and, while I admire the intricacy of the plot threads and all, they were just too plain big and complex for me to read until the series was finished.  Now that may change, since I’ve managed to configure the Kindle reader on both my iTouch and my Asus Transformer (I love, love, love reading on the Transformer.  While I still have a huge pile of paper books to read down, I’m rapidly switching over to e-books for my new purchases, especially either hardcovers or mass markets in the genre).  The Song of Ice and Fire series might well be a better choice for e-book rather than paper.  I rocked my way through the latest Stephen King much more comfortably than I would the hard copy, so that’s what I’m thinking.

I follow GRRM’s blog.  Put simply, what I’m reading there and the commentary he puts forth about his writing doesn’t suggest a declining mind.  Rather, it suggests that instead of pumping out tons of quickly-written, not so-well-written prose, he’s putting in a lot of effort to craft his work more precisely and in greater detail, because he can.

The aging and creativity debate isn’t a new one.  Knee-jerk response suggests that aging means decline, that brain cells stop forming in early adulthood and it’s all downhill from there.  However, recent neuroscientific findings suggest that such isn’t necessarily the case.  We’re still forming neurons and connections well into our 50s; perhaps not as many as when we were younger, but it is still happening.

And unless you are subject to specific genetic conditions, much brain deterioration is preventable, as the article linked points out.  Preventing brain deterioration doesn’t require fancy exercises or special programs.   Rather, maintaining regular habits such as exercise, eating right and minimizing stress are all factors in keeping your brain healthy and productive well into your later years.

But what about this particular blogger’s argument?  He cites examples of authors for whom he believes their best work had been completed by their mid-50s, all within the genre.  He’d be supported by some writers outside the genre, who point to Nobel Literature prize-winners like Faulkner, Hemingway or Steinbeck whose greatest works were published in their early years.  Granted, in those three cases (as well as others), often the Nobel is a culmination based on many years of production rather than a single stellar work.

Counter this blogger’s assertions with the production of writers such as Robertson Davies, who was actively creating quality work in retirement.  What about Frederik Pohl?  What about Margaret Mead, or Ursula LeGuin, or other articulate, producing writers who continue their writing contributions well into their later life?

Age is what you make of it.  And despite what someone at the threshold of middle-aged panic might think, decline is not inevitable.  With age comes perspective and understanding.

I leave you with these words from William Faulker’s Nobel acceptance speech to consider:

He (insert from me, the young writer) must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Read the whole speech.  It’s a good thought.

ETA: After reading the comments on the post, including the latest, it’s clear the writer considered getting a lot of responses as a “win.”  So, not clearly thought out….simply written to provoke comment.

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What I love about good editors

Good editors are priceless.  I’ve worked with several wonderful folks, including the lovely lady who is editing most of my Netwalk Sequence work, and they all have similar characteristics.

First, they quickly grasp the vision you may not always be able to consistently articulate in your work.  I don’t care how good a writer you are, you always need editing.  What I have noticed in the difference between dealing with a beta reader/critique group and an editor is that a beta/crit group often wants to rewrite your work in their words, or else says “There’s a problem but I don’t know how to revise it.” A good editor understands your intent, identifies when what you’ve written is inconsistent with the overall thrust of the work, and picks up when you’ve dropped the ball on what you’re trying to say.  Additionally, a good editor can make appropriate revision suggestions without taking over your voice.  It’s a fine art.

(that’s one reason why I’m reluctant to rejoin a critique group.  Another is that it took me years to get over the undue influence one group I participated in had over my work and writing voice.  I literally could not write fiction for quite a while without hearing their voices and arguing with them as I wrote, and ended up paralyzed as a result.  Not good.  I’ve had good betas, but they aren’t the same as an editor with an editor’s vision)

Secondly, especially with a short story collection or magazine, the good editor looks for work that is consistent with the style of the other writers in the anthology or magazine.  Good stories benefit from the company of like stories.  Story placement in an anthology or magazine is an art, and I have liked my placement in every magazine or anthology I’ve been in to date.

Thirdly, it’s not about their ego, except as a presentation of the overall work or imprint.  They aren’t seeking to tear the writer down but build the writer up so that the published work is the writer’s best effort.  They want to build the writer up.  Critique groups often fall into the trap of one-upmanship and it’s not pretty when that happens.  One vibe I’ve gotten from some of the rejections of the ilk I critiqued in my rejection slip post a few weeks back is that in some form, ego slipped in the door.  There are very positive rejection critiques out there, but they share the characteristics of the good editor request for revision in that it’s not an issue of ego/one-upmanship.

(Another factor is that many newer editors are often uncomfortable with just saying “This doesn’t work for me” but have to find something–anything–to justify the rejection.  Straining like this ends up with cockeyed rejections of the sort I ranted about.  A good editor is secure in his or her own vision and can say “hey, this missed the mark.  It doesn’t work for me.”  They don’t need to give a specific reason.  Editors, trust yourself.  If you don’t think it works for your imprint/publication, but you can’t articulate why, don’t worry about giving a reason.  Don’t force it.  Forcing it comes off poorly.  You’re the editor of the anthology/magazine/imprint.  It’s your overall vision, and the writer’s work is just a piece of your overall work.)

Good editors are like gold and are meant to be prized.  Enjoy the opportunities to work with them.

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The life of introverts

Hello.  My name is Joyce, and I’m an introvert.

Right now I expect about half the folks who’ve known me in adulthood (especially since my late 40s) to go “HUH?  WHA?!  YOU!?”

Um.  Yeah.  I cover it well.  But, like many of my writer tribe, at heart I really am a quiet (but not shy) introvert.  That outgoing, bubbly persona?  Requires equal amounts of time where I just retreat to a corner and don’t deal with anyone other than closest family.  I need my quiet time and one feature of my long commute to work has been the ability to have the time to myself with nothing other than the particular CD that currently reflects my mood.

I don’t even like radio, much less audiobooks.  Occasionally I’ll call someone and talk on the long empty stretches of my drive, but for the most part, I really do prefer just me and the music.

Some of my favorite times at the barn come when it’s just me and Mocha.  I used to chatter to my horses when I was a kid, but now I really don’t talk much to the horse.  For one thing, Mocha’s made it clear she doesn’t care for a lot of monkey chatter–it’s all about the work once the tack’s on, for another, many times I’m still decompressing from work.  That doesn’t mean I don’t mind it when barn rats fill the arena and alleyways…that can be fun, too.  But I really do like those dark, quiet evenings when it’s just me and Mocha.

Same for the slopes.  I like skiing with my DH, but I could never regularly ski with a group of people.  Besides the logistics of managing four or more people in a ski group, I really like skiing quietly, observing the world around me.  I never did replace my Shuffle when it died out because I got back into the world of quiet skiing, and now I really don’t want the sound track.

What got me off on this tangent?  This lovely post over at the Book View Cafe, which also references this Jonathan Rausch essay at the Atlantic.  Both are great reads.

How did I ever turn from introvert to apparent extrovert?  Spending some time in the political organizing trenches as a young adult didn’t hurt, and then working at the process of socializing with others more effectively.  I had the assistance of several extroverted friends who were kind enough to give me tips.  Learning from the lobbying process how to schmooze with people whose interests were nowhere near mine, and how to create a persuasive argument for my position was also a big help.  Learning not to flinch at my own verbal gaffes but push on without dropping a beat was another key.  Learning about mental rehearsals, thinking ahead about what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to, and how I wanted to come off with it was another huge factor.

The other big piece is that I also started to pick my physical image very carefully.  My clothing is often introvert armor, and I’ve learned to pick non-fussy stuff that’s not likely to lead to embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions whilst making me look reasonably good.  I pull this off most of the time.  Sometimes the magic doesn’t work, but hey, that’s what it is.

The final factor was becoming a middle school teacher.  Middle school, more than anything else, requires a strong sense of confidence in yourself to the degree that you are not afraid to make fun of yourself.  Hey, middle schoolers tend to think all adults, especially school staff adults, are stupid at least part of the time.  If you’re too much of a stuffed shirt and can be brought down by the skewers of kids just starting to play with the art of verbal darts, you shouldn’t be working in middle school.  There will be days when it all falls to pieces and that’s part of the flux of middle school, because those days get balanced by the days when everything is wonderful and soaring.  Developmentally appropriate.

After teaching a tough middle school crowd, any adult social function is a piece of cake.  Period.  I might walk away telling myself “Well that was a crash and burn moment,” but after middle school teaching?  I know that things will be better next time.

But I still need my quiet moments.

See you all in the silence.

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Every teacher’s fantasy

I don’t think there’s a teacher I’ve ever known who doesn’t have this fantasy.

It’s not about the perfect class or the perfect principal (although those are often secondary fantasies).

It’s about starting my own school.  You know, the one where you and your bestest teacher friends who of course are the BESTEST TEACHERS EVAR find the funding and the facility to set up the ideal program.   We all have this dream, even the most jaded, burned-out twenty-seven-year-veteran-clinging-by-her-fingertips-to-qualify-for-pension-status.  Sit in the faculty room long enough and bits and pieces of the dream surface.

“You know, if I could only get these resources, wouldn’t it be cool to try this.

“I’d love to do this, but the class schedule/pacing guide/district curriculum/principal/director of curriculum and instruction/setup/whatever else exists to impede innovation doesn’t allow it.”

“We don’t have enough time to do X, and we need to spend more time doing Y.”

Off-site, in secluded restaurants or people’s homes, wherever it’s safe to talk without administration present, more details surface.  Like I said, every teacher has the seed of what the perfect program would be somewhere in their brain.  The picture they have generally is populated with the perfect students, it’s always sunny, and bird songs fill the air.

(so why do images from the creepy Red Room scenes in Twin Peaks keep whispering through my brain?)

I have that dream as well.  A special ed super-tutorial service, incorporating basic academics with horse therapy, focused on kids with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and mild emotional issues.  An hour of academics followed by horse time, with a lot of groundwork.  LOTS of groundwork.  Maybe incorporate a little bit of mildly spoiled horse rehab where the rehab doesn’t involve dangerous behaviors, just pushy horses who need a tuneup in manners and that would be a challenge for more skilled kids as you go through the skill development progress.

It’s not likely to happen.  It requires the right combination of insurance, customer base, and facility.  I’m pretty dang sure the customer base doesn’t exist where I live now, and I couldn’t afford to move and go through what is needed to set up a program like this in the places where the customer base is.  Additionally, I’d want to work with kids who wouldn’t have the money to pay for the service…which means flogging a non-profit.

Lots of legal and business impediments.

But that doesn’t mean that the idea doesn’t still linger in the brain.  Occasionally I take the dream out and play with it for an hour or so, thinking over structure and process.

Then I pack it away.  Like I said, not likely to happen.

It is a nice little dream, though.

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Ski Day #7–Holding Steady

So over this past week of wild weather in the Pacific Northwest, Timberline’s managed to pick up over 40 more inches of snow.  That puts the local snowpack at around 80% of normal, which is a very good thing, not just for skiers but for the entire region.  While the west side of the Cascades soaks up water for ten months out of the year, without that snowpack in the mountains, the water situation on both sides of the mountains gets dicey in summer weather.  We dry out fast and, because of the winter/spring damp, we get lots of vegetation.  Not enough winter snow=high potential of fire in summer.  Bad fire.

But that gets into forest management blatherings, which is a totally different and opinionated subject.  Back to skiing!

The conditions on Sunday were heavy, wet powder.  Wet powder?  Yeah, that’s a western Cascades (and probably Sierra) standard.  The flake size is fine and granular like the drier powder that flies up, but it’s a wetter flake and, as a consequence, a heavier flake.  It’s produced when the temperatures are just below the freezing point.  Dry powder comes in the Cascades when the temps are in the high teens/low twenties (Fahrenheit).

Ski result?  Skiing in fine, dry powder is like skiing in powdered sugar.  It’s soft, gives easily underfoot, pushes away from the ski easily without holding its shape.  It’s lovely stuff to ski on a bright crisp bluebird morning high above the tree line, up at 7000 feet. After a couple of hours skiing dry powder you can pull off your skis, and the wax job still looks good, if not still pristine.

Skiing wet powder happens during storms.  It’s soft and fine-grained like the dry powder, but it doesn’t flow as easily.  It compresses easily and holds a shape.  A lot of times it lies over ice, and pushes away just easily enough for the skier to rasp across the top of the icy patch on a steep slope, then ram right into the heavier pillow of snow below the patch.  Skiing a hillside in that condition is best done earlier in the morning, before other skiers have beaten it down to ice.  Unless you really like ice.  I don’t, at least not water-slick ice.

So yesterday we had wet powder, falling heavily.  The fine flakes were wet enough to crust up on my goggles when I was skiing directly into the wind.  The early runs were nice, if heavy underfoot, though the last pitch of Uncle Jon’s Band turned to scraped ice early on.  DH and I negotiated that pitch nicely but we took our time, waiting for less-experienced skiers/boarders or more aggressive out-of-control skiers to clear out of the way.  Timberline’s clearly marked an alternative with a big EASY WAY sign, but still there’s folks attempting that pitch who aren’t ready for it.  I don’t mind the slow, careful skier who traverses from side to side (though the snowboarder who sideslips the whole way is annoying because that creates nasty ice patches, oh well), but the crazies who careen out of control unthinkingly are different.

Luckily I don’t see too many of those.

It’s Family Season, which means there’s a lot of kids, lessons, and family groups out skiing.  The dynamic of a ski season is interesting to watch.  Before mid-December, those of us out on the slopes are the die-hards and ski bums out for the solitary thrill.  From mid-December through the end of February, families descend on the slopes.  They cluster in flocks of four or more.  Most of the families have good etiquette–they’re out there for the experience, they’re patient with their weakest skiers, they don’t yell at their families or shove and push in the lift line without regard for other groupings.  Their kids usually are grinning and having fun (in part because this family is sensible and plans for short periods of the slopes when the kids are little, extending gradually).  They’ll split out their group in the lift line if there’s too many of them for one chair and have prearranged meeting sites or coordinate electronically.  If there’s a wide skill range, they don’t try to keep everyone together but split up with check-in points.

Then there are the others.  The parent (usually a father) who overfaces a young and timid kid on a tough slope and yells uselessly while the kid fights his way down (it’s usually a father-son dynamic).  The parents who don’t switch off slope time with lodge time to manage young kids and snarl at the crying, unhappy results.  The mother who screams across the lift line at the spouse who’s gone into the singles line so he can get to the top and wait for them (or not), then pushes ahead of everyone she can get her kids to shove by as much as she can.  The group that flails cluelessly down a slope above the level of most of the family, terrorizing all in their way and ignoring the rule that downhill skiers have the right of way.

Luckily, there aren’t that many of those folks, but one group of those can sure make it seem like there’s a lot of them.

The lesson groups are fun to watch, especially the under-fives.  It’s fun to watch two blue-coated instructors with a line of seven teensy-tinies, all consciously working on “pizza, french fries, pizza, french fries” down gentle slope lines.  We passed one group going down Kruser on our last run.  The head small, a teensy little girl, lost control and couldn’t stop as I passed them.  I heard the instructor hollering at the kid and I kept an eye on her (she was on my left side).  Normally, I’d have turned in that one area because it’s a rather steep little rolling hollow, but if I’d turned, I’d have risked running her over (could have avoided her but it would have been nervous-making).  So I straight-lined it since a turn was a speed-management convenience.  There would be a spot where we’d potentially intersect, but I knew I could stop and be in a position to help her stop if need be (several years night skiing with the school kids has taught me a few things).  But I didn’t need to.  She got herself stopped before that point, had a little bit of a thrill, but no harm done.

Seven runs, two hours.  Nice ski day.  We’re both getting our legs back after the Junecember/Junuary interlude.  Hope it remains wintry for a while.

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So Gingrich won South Carolina….

Does anyone else feel the stirrings of old ghosts?

Damn, I think the peacocks have to be screeching in Woody Creek as the unquiet shadow of Hunter S. Thompson stirs from his scattered ashes.  Likewise, the grinning specter of Ken Kesey is rising in the fogs of Elmira (or was he a Veneta boy?  Us Eugene/Springfield natives get confused by that there section of South Springfield–wink to all my local friendz and readers….).  And Ed Abbey’s bad self decides that maybe it’s time to bid farewell to his fellow buzzards deep in the desert Southwest……

Abbey, Kesey and Thompson.  Damn, that could be an interesting set of commentaries on the Gingrich win in SC….or, for that matter, this entire circus of the 2012 Republican primary.  Add in a backing band of Jerry Garcia, Jim Morrison and John Lennon, with Janis Joplin as lead singer…well, could be quite interesting.

But I digress.

Nonetheless, the uncanny feeling that those three Pranksters (in spirit if not formal title, save for Kesey, of course) are stirring and itching to comment on this year’s political scene isn’t going away.  More in-depth commentary, including a disturbing conclusion about the Palin-Gingrich axis, later.

I’ve a date with the slopes this morning.

Who knows what uneasy shadows I’ll see walking the cold mists of morning there?

More later.

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Sandy River Flooding pix

Interesting lessons learned from doing the photo shoot yesterday:

1.) Moving water closeups get blurred unless you have a rill of whitewater for the autofocus to work (I wasn’t playing with apeture/speed settings, could have but I was trying to get in, get shots, get to work).


2.) Framing through trees can be hard:

(actually, this one isn’t too bad)

3.) But sometimes the magic works

4.) During big weather events, pack the damn camera!

I could have gotten much more impressive shots than this:

Last night I was standing on the bank about thirty feet behind those sandbags in the picture above, with the river up about a foot higher.  I had permission then; I didn’t have permission in the morning.

Following this Sandy River flooding story is…interesting.  Thinking very hard about it.  It’s a shallow glacier-fed river and the biggest impact on flood levels during the winter is the freezing level up on the Mountain.  A combination of a Pineapple Express weather event, sizable snowpack, and freezing level retreating up the Mountain means a lot of water gets dumped into the river.  The river bed is gravelly and sandy (ergo, “Sandy River,” as William Clark dubbed it) so it’s not inclined to stay in its bed.

Meanwhile, after last winter’s disastrous floods, there’s rumors of scandals in the wake of flood restoration and repair.  It will be interesting to watch how this shakes out.

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On Writing and Teaching Writing–Part One

This is the beginning of a series.  Today is just a rough consolidation of various thoughts I’ve had over the years about teaching writing and how it affects my own writing process.  I apologize in advance because I’m dashing this off before dedicating some time to copyedit revisions on Netwalker Uprising and then running up the Mountain to do flooding prevention on a rental as well as a quick photo shoot of the Sandy River in flood before going to the Day Jobbe….so it may be discombobulated.  However, this is laying the groundwork for the series.

Anyway.  One concern I’ve had over the past eight years of teaching is that, while there has been a slow but steady improvement in test scores in the areas of reading and writing (in spite of what reform rhetoric would have you believe), there has NOT been a matching improvement in writing.  One study that came out in the state of Oregon several years ago flat out stated that test scores in writing have been static for thirty years.

Why is this happening?  We’re now requiring a more rigorous program in reading and math, to the degree that kindergarten curricula don’t resemble what they did thirty years ago.  Why isn’t writing showing a similar improvement?

I have several theories.  First of all, back about 20-30 years ago, a study came out asserting that teaching grammar did not improve writing quality.  My reaction to that study when I read it was somewhat unprintable (My Masters project focused on a specific writing remediation technique that my group’s adviser was testing out; it was my assigned job in the group to do the lit review and write that section of the paper).  I won’t go into the problems with that study but let’s just say that in general education it got picked up and applied, especially at the K-8 level.  Special ed was an entirely different proposition.  Sped does not agree, and there are many excellent studies which demonstrate the need for grammar and conventions instruction along with other means of writing remediation.  If you want to look them up, I suggest starting with Karen Harris and Steve Graham’s work in Self-Regulated Strategy Development (University of Kansas and University of Nebraska both have excellent linkage and materials).  Cognitive Strategy Instruction is another keyword.

Secondly, many (but not all, definitely not all, I do know some fine writers in this group!)  K-8 teachers admit to an uneasy relationship with writing.  It’s my thesis that in order to teach writing, you need to be comfortable with the process of writing. Doesn’t mean you have to be a professional-level writer or be selling your writing, but you do need to be able to write clearly, concisely, and correctly (I dearly enjoy the exceptions to the rule and had a lovely discussion with another teacher yesterday where we agreed that the use of the Oxford comma would have clarified a murky phrase in a news story affecting our building).

Thirdly, most consultants who teach teachers about writing can’t write narrative to save their lives.  They can’t write creative nonfiction, and their technical work product, while grammatically correct, isn’t written to clarify understanding.  It attacks understanding and buries it under snowdrifts of jargon.  The moments when they seek clarification are painful because they then trend toward the cutesy end of the swimming pool, complete with perky fontage. There are good consultants out there but again, many of them trend toward a special education background and they tend to minimize the ky00t.

Add all this together and you get major problems.

That’s it for now; must do other stuff.  Let me know if you want more of the same….

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