Thursday, December 08, 2005

Writing and magic

In today's final excerpt from his book Writing with Power, Peter Elbow talks about writing "magic," the notion that when you work on a piece of writing, sometimes something "else" takes over, imbuing your words with an almost supernatural power. Maybe you find a new idea popping up out of nowhere, or maybe you find yourself writing with an eloquence you never knew you possessed. Or maybe the wall of writer's block suddenly crumbles as you find your writing taking on a life of its own, words effortlessly bubbling from your fingertips.

I hope you've experienced at least an occasional moment of magic over the course of the semester, even if that "magic" simply consisted of you pulling an idea for a blog entry out of your posterior under the duress of a writing deadline!

In commemoration of today's final required blog entry, I want you to look back at what you've blogged these past three months, starting with your first hesitant posting and then covering the range of entries you've published since September. In looking back at these posts, what sort of "magic" do you see? What (if anything) have you learned from your experience writing & publishing frequent online posts? Looking over what you've written, is there anything about the writing or your experience of writing that surprises you? These are the questions I'd like you to address in your final required in-class blog entry. From here, it's up to you to decide whether you want to continue this crazy writing experiment: I hope, though, that some of you will have found yourself bitten by the "blog-bug" and will continue writing in this online forum...

(If you need additional proof that blogging is here to stay, consider the fact that "blog" was named one of the Merriam-Webster Words of the Year for 2004. That's a pretty impressive accomplishment for a funny-sounding four letter word!)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"The end is near" best o' blogs...

Yes, it's true: the end is near. Here are the winners from this week's Tuesday blog round-up (even though we know, of course, "there are no losers" and "it's an honor to be nominated"):


Finding your voice

"Voice" is the intangible personality or presence that gives power to a piece of writing. Voice is what makes your writing sound like "you" and no one else, and it is the quality or tone that either grabs a reader's attention or leaves a reader cold. Writing without voice sounds dry and detached; writing with voice sounds alive and engaging as if the words themselves have reached out and touched you.

One way to find your own voice is by writing frequently: this is one of the potential benefits of blogging. By writing (and sharing your writing) frequently, you can, over time, discover the "true voice" that lurks behind your words.

Detecting your own voice, however, can be difficult. We're sometimes too close to our writing to judge it objectively, and we sometimes can't tell whether a particular piece will speak powerfully to readers. This is why getting feedback on our writing is so helpful. Often our readers can find our voice more accurately than we ourselves can.

Today I'd like you to work with a partner to help one another find your blogging voice. In pairs or groups of three, I want you to read someone else's ENTIRE blog from the most recent posts to the very first one. (To do this, you'll have to use the archive links in the blog's sidebar.) As you're reading, I want you to right-click and open in a new window the permalink to a handful of entries (between 1 and 3) that you think demonstrate the strongest voice. In other words, as you are reading, make note of
  • the blog's best entry
  • the blog's most powerful entry
  • the blog's most genuine or "real" entry

When you've determined (and right-clicked) the handful of entries you think are the best, most powerful, or most "real," post a comment on the blog's MOST RECENT entry. In this comment, copy and past the permalinks to the handful of entries you selected, and tell the writer why you think these entries are particularly note worthy. Then, I want you to tell the writer how you would describe their voice: what sort of authorial tone or "personality" do they present to their readers? (For example, do they have a humorous voice, a trustworthy voice, a sarcastic voice, a witty voice, a confessional voice, a conversational voice, etc.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You might be in Keene're voting for Best of Blog!

This week's Best of Blog voting features one overwhelming winner and two Honorable Mentions:


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fresh off the web: this week's Best of Blogs

Once again, we have a run-away first place winner in this week's Best of Blogs competition...and one follow-up Honorable Mention.


Magazine articles...and Criteria-Based Feedback

Today I asked each of you to bring in a copy of an article from the type of magazine you could envision publishing the popular version of your research essay. Today in small groups, I want you to spend some time looking at these articles, reading them not so much for content but for the way in which they are written. Toward that end, I'd like you to take a moment to skim all the articles your group brought in: rather than reading these articles closely, I want to skim for the main point or idea (thesis) you think the article is trying to communicate along with the reasons why (argument) you should agree with this point.

After these various articles have made their way around your group, allowing everyone a chance to skim them, spend some time looking at each one in more detail, asking and answering among your groupmates the following Criteria-Based questions from today's reading in Writing With Power (pp. 252 - 254):

What is the quality of the content of the writing in this article: the ideas, the perceptions, the point of view?
  • Is the article's basic idea or insight a good one, and is it supported by evidence and examples?
  • Is the piece fitted to its audience? Has the writer understood their needs and point of view?
How well is the writing organized?
  • Is there a beginning? Does it start off in a way that allows youto get comfortably started?
  • Is there a middle? A body, some girth or solidity, some sense of meat and potatoes, sufficiency? Or does it turn around and say goodbye almost as soon as it has said hello?
  • Is there an ending? Does it give you a sense of closure or completion?
How effective is the language?
  • Are the sentences clear and readable?
  • Is it succinct enough for the purpose and audience?
Are there mistakes or inappropriate choices in usage?
  • Are there mistakes in grammar, usages, spelling or typing?
  • Is it neat and easy to read on the page?

Once you have spent about five minutes critiquing each of the magazine articles your group brought in, I want you to (as a group) sort them into two piles. In one pile, place the articles you think effectively communicated their point (thesis) and backed this point up with reasons and evidence (argument). In the other pile, place the articles which didn't fit this criterion, either because they were confusing, poorly organized, ill-supported, or had other flaws.

When you're done sorting, we'll talk as a large group about your findings.

Aged to perfection (aka last week's Best of Blogs)

Since I didn't get a chance to post last Tuesday's "Best of Blogs" in class, here are the results a week late. Drumroll, please...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Peer critique of intro & conclusion paragraphs

For class today, you should have posted to Blackboard a revised version of your research intro & conclusion; these paragraphs should be written in either a formal "journal" style or a more popular "magazine" style.

In groups of 3 or 4, read your groupmates' revised into & conclusion paragraphs and write a response to their Discussion Board post which answers the following questions:
  • How well does the intro paragraph "contextualize the background" by establishing common ground between writer and reader? In what ways could the intro do a better job of drawing in a reader by giving necessary background information?
  • How well does the intro paragraph state the problem or question that the writer's research addresses? In what ways could the intro be revised to introduce the research problem or question more clearly?
  • How well does the intro paragraph sum up the writer's response or "answer" to the research problem/question? What research claim does the intro state, and how could the intro be revised to state this claim more clearly?
  • How well does the conclusion re-state the essay's research claim (the response or "answer" to the stated problem or question)? How could the conclusion be revised to sum up this claim more clearly?
  • How well does the conclusion raise a new significance or application of this research claim: in other words, how well does the conclusion move "above and above" the introduction? How could the conclusion be revised to offer something better, more significant, or more practical than the general claim made at the beginning of the essay?
  • How well does the conclusion of the essay echo or even complement the introduction? How could the conclusion be revised to "tie up" the essay in a more artful way?
Feel free to add whatever feedback you have on your groupmates' intro and conclusion paragraphs. If this were your essay, how would you begin and end it?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Long-overdue best o' blogs...

Here are the long-overdue results of the Best of Blogs voting from October 18th (!!!)


What does it take to be "the best"?

You've spent the past several months keeping a weekly (or more!) blog...and you've spent the past several months reading, commenting on, and voting for your classmates' blogs. Looking back at past "Best of Blogs"--and thinking back on the entries you've written that you feel are "your best"--what do you feel it takes to be a "good" (or even "the best") blog entry?

Today, after you've done the usual Tuesday blog-read & "Best of Blogs" voting, I want you to spend a moment skimming back through your own & others' blogs, then post a comment here giving the THREE specific qualities that make a good blog post. In listing these three qualities, I want you to be as specific as possible: what exactly makes a post "interesting" or "funny" or "something I can relate to"?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dueling blogs!

Today's Best of Blogs vote resulted in a two-way dead heat for first place: