Posts tagged ‘highschool’

May 6th, 2011

Learn from the Classics

by Madeleine Rex

We’ve read some very well-known books in my English class this year (many of which I’d already read). We began the year with Of Mice and Men, a book I’m a huge fan of. However, it wasn’t until I dug into it for a second time with the aid of my fabulous (or “rad” as one of my other teachers described her) English teacher that I realized just how spectacularly detailed Of Mice and Men is. There’s something that writers like Steinbeck have managed to do with word choice that gives their words layer upon layer of meaning.

There’s a passage in which Steinbeck describes Lennie’s and George’s physical features, such as the way they walk and the angles of their face. It’s mystifying. I’d never noticed before reading it in class that Steinbeck manages to write the sentences in a way that reflects the image he’s trying to create. The words he uses to describe George’s skinniness are, well, skinny words, and vice versa for Lennie.

Ray Bradbury accomplishes something similar in many parts of Fahrenheit 451. When we’d discuss the intricacies of Bradbury’s or Steinbeck’s word choice, I was almost exhausted by the very thought of putting that much consideration into the words I choose. Certainly, diction’s important to me and something I love to deal with, but I can hardly imagine creating something so complex. It’s far more fun as a reader to untangle the meanings of specific paragraphs or individual sentences of other people’s books.

In Les Edgerton’s Hooked: Write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, he says:

…every word needs to count and to represent much more than the few syllables it takes to utter.

Some writers have truly taken that advice to heart and created magic. I aspire to be half as brilliant before I die. Leaning to play with words and create illustrious images is a process I’ve yet to master and likely never will. But isn’t it fabulous to read a paragraph in a book and simply gape at it? Stare at it for ten seconds, and then reread? I love it when I come across something so magnificent that I wish I could tattoo it on my mind and carry it around with me as a constant reminder of what words can accomplish.

Someday, I want to make someone feel that way. Don’t you? Let’s look to the masters. Reread those books you were forced through in high school because there’s a pretty decent chance you’ll learn more the second time around. Don’t analyze. Analysis is too cold. Savor. Enjoy.

P.S. I just got my 100th follower! Thanks, Vy! There’s a giveaway coming up soon! Goodness knows you guys deserve it for putting up with my irregular posts!

March 18th, 2011

Bags of Flour and Their Relevence to Our Books

by Madeleine Rex

The two weeks before winter break, about a quarter of the kids at my school were wandering the halls, babies in tow. 16-year-olds leaned against lockers in the Commons, their babies dressed in onesies and hats, snug in the crook of their arm. They wandered through the Arts Building, through the Multi-Purpose Room, down the E Hall, the C Hall…

I’d have to say the things that disturbed me most were the chopped off babydoll heads that were glued onto the bags of flower. A friend of mine stooped so low as to chop legs and a head off a teddy bear and attach them to her “baby.”

Freshmen like myself take PE all year, and sophomores take Health. I get the impression that the “drag your bag of flour around for two weeks” assignment is a crucial one. I’m guessing the official purpose of the assignment is to teach the students parenting skills, but I’d bet the lesson most of the kids get out of it goes along the lines of: “Wow. Towing this baby around all day totally gets in the way of my texting. I need both hands!” Thus, the assignment serves as a more subtle way to say, “At least use protection.”

I have a point. Promise.

Let’s say that books are babies, and obviously, we are parents. Some of us rushed through the whole experience, writing 15,000 words a week, and at the end of the month were left with wrist pains and a manuscript/baby.

Others thought, “Why not?” but didn’t really make an effort. They moved fairly quickly, but they weren’t sucking 5 Hour Energies down and staying up into the wee hours of the night. The baby that landed in their lap was surprising, but not necessarily a surprise.

And then there are those who examine their financial stability, the time they have to spend at home, the schools in the neighborhood… those who plan meticulously and then move at a steady, intentional rate toward, uh, birth.

(May I request that you ignore the creepiness of this analogy? Moving on…)

However they got there, they end up with same thing – a manuscript/baby.

With a baby comes responsibility. There are logical steps to take – bottles, pacifier, crib, car seat, stroller – and they must be taken. There should be no compromise. The baby needs particular things in order to grow, develop, and thrive.

See where I’m going? No? I’m just freaking you out?

I took the middle road when writing my book. I moved fairly quickly, but I wavered and wandered down out-of-the-way pathways, feeling my way through and going with the flow. When I finished the first draft, I was left with this alien object – I was in a sort of shock despite all the hours I’d put in. Amidst this awe was one undeniable fact: I had to take care of it now.

The Lemonites needed and continues to need constant support, nourishment, guidance, and love. How I take care of my baby reflects my diligence – just as the kids who showed up to Health with a flour bag completely intact and dismembered babydoll head screwed on tight all earned an A. They tackled their problems and slammed them to the ground, thereby excepting their responsibility as a “parent.”

As writers with young, impressionable books – books that would flounder and wander down forbidden paths if it weren’t for our care and guidance – it’s our job to take the necessary steps toward a healthy, productive life for them. It is our job to make certain that our books/babies meet their potential. Steps such as revision, revision, revision, revision, revision, and then queries.

Slap on those babydoll heads, wrestle into those onesies, because it’s time to take the hand of our WIPs and pull them out of murky waters. Lead them to a bright, prosperous future.