I was rereading my post last week and it was a mish-mosh of a bunch of topics all rolled into one post. I was trying to explain about how writing in the slice challenge stretched and encouraged me as a writer. I learned many things, but the biggest piece for me was the fact that every time I looked back at a piece I could always find things that I needed to change.
Revision, from childhood had always been such a nasty word. Back in the ’60’s and the 70’s we viewed revision as editing spelling, punctuation and grammar. And truthfully, my mom, a secretary at my high school was an expert. It was a very big part of her job, editing the case studies for the psychologists that she worked for. She also loved to dig into my papers and then would even retype them for me, what a mother, what a help!!!
I really could never be bothered with this mundane task of editing. However, when I was away at college it was the most aggravating part…my fight with the white-out and my brand new Selectric typewriter. I viewed revision as the last step…but what I learned, quite by accident was sometimes revision happened as I was writing. I would look back at the last page I had written and realize that I needed an example. I would write it on another paper with a number beside it. I would then put a number on my handwritten version and then just type the addition in when I was typing the final paper. I still feel that it was a miracle that I was able to think of this version of cutting and pasting on my own. I’m sure somewhere in my education they talked about the magic caret where I could insert something small…or just crossing out and replacing a blahhh verb with a stronger word. But honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot of teaching going on in the area of writing.
When I began teaching in the 1976, there was a new word on the scene. The word was ‘draft’. I kind of like trying new words but much to my chagrin, my sixth graders didn’t like it very much because after we wrote draft 1 I insisted on draft 2 and sometimes draft 3- and if the truth be told….reading a 3rd draft wasn’t exactly my cup of tea either. I was getting way to used to reading stacks and stacks of papers every weekend, over and over, yikes…it felt like Groundhog Day as I marked all those papers up. The drafts didn’t change much, even when I made my ‘stellar’ suggestions. The nerve! I guess they didn’t love my little love notes in their margins much either.
We weren’t doing workshop yet, I hadn’t even heard of the word. Don Graves had somehow flown under my radar early on also. Then one summer, as we made our way out of Chicago down I-80, I cracked open a book that would forever change my life. Nanci Atwell, with clarity and precision shared her experience as a writing and reading teacher in a sleepy little town in Maine. The vision was cast. I was up for the big experiment, and it changed my life and my students’ lives probably forever. I began to build community first and actually started to teach writing strategies. The best part was sitting with individuals and actually talking about their draft. My students were given choice on what drafts they wanted to publish.
It is a winding road, it’s a journey, isn’t it? Most of the time it is never finished. That is what our writing lives will always feel like. It seems to mirror our own. But at least with writing workshop we were on our way talking and laughing hard with each other.
So this post ends with a thank you to my mom who helped me with the mundane details that pushed me into greater and greater revision, those phenomenal professional writers that I happened on early in my career (Graves, Atwell,Calkins, and Daniels) and current visionaries that have encouraged my writing voice, Ruth and Stacey, and all of the people who so generously comment and commit to this great challenge. Good work always seems to happen when a strong and positive community develops.
PS because I know you know I like them…all I have to say is , wow, technology…aren’t we lucky? I remember long, long ago when I had to walk two miles to school every day in 24 inches of snow and, and, I had to write every story with a #2 pencil and, and, I had to sometimes look words up to know if the ‘i’ came before the ‘e’ and, and, and, there wasn’t a microwave or a Skype or a way to fast forward through all the stinkin’ commercials- but now, I really have deviated from my thesis and maybe this whole rant should be cut and pasted somewhere else.