blog, Writing

Spring Semester 2019

I’ve not paid much attention to my blog of late because I’ve been paying attention to my students. We are about 5 weeks into the semester here, and I’m still trying to get my bearings. However, even though I feel like I am trying to catch a speeding train, I’m having fun.

Funny how that works.

I am teaching a Strategic Communications course, and I love it. The course is geared towards young advertisers, public relations students, and marketers, and it is about studying, pitching, and writing narratives for various products, events, or ideas. The writing style, though, is different. It’s a different kind of storytelling, one that focuses on understanding the nature of branding and people’s response to brands. I’ve never taught a class like this before, but it is shaping up to be the most fun class of the semester.

My other two classes are Technical Writing for Engineers and a general education Rhetoric and Writing course. Tech Writing is always fun and challenging to teach because how do you make writing Usability Reports fun? It’s doable. You just have to be a little crazy.

The gen ed writing course is the one that I have the most experience teaching, and it is proving to be the most challenging. The main reason is that it is a required course. Most students don’t want to be there, and it shows. Since I don’t want to be one of those teachers who lecture, oblivious to their student’s engagement, I’m having to do a bit more work to get the students involved in their own experience.

Trials of a teacher…

How is your year going so far?

-K

blog, Uncategorized, Writing

It’s A New Semester

…And so far, things are going great. I could not sleep at all, so I am operating on less than 3 hours of sleep. I get to class and realize I have no dry-erase markers (ladies and gentlemen, the professor is unprepared for class!), so I run to the store to get some. Then, I get to class, and bring up my Canvas course page and — dun, dun, dun — it’s empty. I put all of the right content in the wrong class. I spent all week doing the wrong thing.

—sigh—

In any case, I have four classes I am teaching — two writing for engineers courses, one strategic communications (writing in advertising and public relations) course, and one traditional rhetoric, research, and writing course. I am excited about all of these course in their own way, but I am most excited about the strategic communications course because it is new. While I have done a bit of freelance copywriting (not much to write home about), it will be interesting to see what I can bring to this course and what I can learn from teaching it.

Onward and forward,

-K

blog, Writing

Word of the Day: What

You ever noticed that when dictionary-type sites do the word-of-the-day, it’s always a really interesting, uncommonly used word? Why not use common words, words that are a part of our everyday?

I was thinking of a word-of-the-day when I decided to read a few news articles to try and get some inspiration, and the only word that came to mind was, “what.” I kept saying it after each article: “what?”

Sometimes I said, “what the hell?”

Other times I  said, “what the [insert word here]?”

It’s such a useful word that allowed me to express my full range of emotions from confusion to incredulity, from cynicism to excitement.

It is a pronoun (What we need is love.), a determiner (He lost what little common sense he had left.), or an adverb (What does it matter if you had one pumpkin muffin already; eat another!).

Further, when successfully deployed, it is one of the few words that lends itself to non-verbal communication; facial expressions can do an excellent job at conveying the “what-ness” of a situation.

For example, you remember that time your co-worker said something so stupid that words simply failed? Or what about that time a loved one said they had a surprise for you, and you were left speechless? Both scenarios can be addressed with a well-placed verbal or non-verbal “what.”

In either case, let’s give it up for the common words too. I mean, really, every day can’t be an ‘anfractuous’ kind of day. Sometimes you just need to say, “what,” and let it go.

-K

 

Writing

The Wisdom of Words

These are some trying times. Things are difficult for me personally, and they are also hard and stressful for a lot of people. It seems like things have turned upside down and inside out. Soren Kierkegaard has a quote that captures this feeling perfectly. He writes,

What if everything in the word were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?

What if indeed! We have all experienced this kind of pain. More importantly, we perform it every day. So, to expand on Kierkegaard, what if the misunderstanding was really just an inability to see, hear, or understand?

I’ve been thinking about the word melancholy and its poetic nature. Susan Sontag once wrote that “Depression is melancholy minus its charm.” I wonder what it is about the word, melancholy, that makes it charming. Certainly, sadness is probably the furthest from charming one can be.

Perhaps children maintain charm in the face of sadness. Maybe we think that way because we don’t take the sadness of children seriously, much to the detriment of the children.

Poets and philosophers speak of melancholia as if it is a bridge beyond sadness or as Eli Cioran notes, it is “an appetite no misery satisfies.”

Fundamentally, to be sad and to be melancholy are the same. However, one of those words feels more despairing. This is the wonderful thing about words: they can demonstrate degrees of a feeling just by the feelings generated by the word.

But all is not lost. Herman Hesse has this to say about melancholy:

I began to understand that suffering and disappointment and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.

Well, if I am going to be transfigured, I wonder what I will become?

In any case, are there any good poems out there that can assuage the intensity of your melancholy feelings? Leave the titles in the comments below.

 

Writing

In Which We Commence with the Editing

In the immortal words of Dr. Suess,

So the writer who breeds more words then he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads

Welcome to this place, a place concerned with words. This little spot in this little corner of this vast web is animated by the power, flow, rush, and rage of words. One word after another, arranged just so, to communicate just this and that in some shape or another in order to tap into the infinite power of words.

But before one hits publish, one must edit.

And that is why I am here.

Welcome to my blog! This blog will concern itself with the arrangement of words in the stories we tell. Fiction or non-fiction, poem or prose, academic or popular culture, salacious or real Christian-like (or Buddhist like if you will), it does not matter; if it is written, it will interest me and hopefully you too.

As a writing teacher, writer, and academic, I have done plenty of thinking about writing and grammar. Sometimes I think it is important, for the sake of affect, to leave the errors in place. There are occasions when those errors need to be excised from the text. This blog will be the place where we discuss those decisions.

What I am looking to do here is promote the idea of writing as an art. The editor that I aim to be is one that understands this simple fact.

This blog will generally feature writings that catch my eye, writings that help us delve more deeply into the art of writing. One of the reasons I decided to be a copyeditor is because it is one of the few jobs where you get paid to be a professional reader (unless, of course, you are a professional reader). How crazy is that?

It is a dream.

Each week, I will cover a different text, and hopefully, together we can dive into the art of writing.