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Below are a some of my responses from the online discussions posted on Desire2Learn throughout the semester.


  1. Charissa says:

    I’m really enjoying Murray’s book so far. I like his writing style – it’s very accessible and easy to relate to. I really enjoyed the entire “Unlearn to Write” chapter, as well as the chapter with all the quotations from other writers. However I think the line that stuck with me the most was actually from the very first page.

    “Even experienced writers feel a sense of emptiness and ignorance before the first draft, but beginning writers believe their panic is a lack of talent and of knowing. The experienced writer knows this unknowing is the beginning of all effective writing and they have developed a craft that allows them to discover what they didn’t know they knew.” (3)

    I really liked this quote, because I tend to have a lack of confidence in my own writing and I’m constantly worried that my lack of experience in writing and in life in general will hinder my ability to write. This quote gave me some relief before I had even really begun reading the book.
    Similarly I liked the quote from WIlliam Stafford in the fourth chapter, “…one should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It’s easy to write. You just shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing…” (26). I always set high expectations for myself, and I’m sure that’s one of the problems I tend to have with my writing. I plan on keeping both of these quotes in mind while I’m writing in the hopes that it will help me relax and not be so concerned with whether or not the first draft is perfect.

  2. Charissa says:

    “Share with us which writers have most impacted your own writing and how?”

    I honestly have trouble coming up with one single author that has influenced me; I read such a wide variety of works and pull bits and pieces from each person I read. I think I got my initial desire to write from reading Tolkien. I was enthralled by the depth of the world he created and really wanted to create something similar. I probably won’t be writing the next Lord of the Rings any time soon, but he sparked my imagination and I’ve wanted to be an author ever since.

    One author I really love at the moment is Tana French, an Irish mystery writer. Her novels aren’t necessarily action-packed, but her style is just so compelling that even though there may not be a lot of action, they’re incredibly suspenseful and I can’t put them down. One of my goals is to add more detail into my writing, and French’s writing is an example of what I would love to be able to do. She doesn’t use too much detail to distract from the plot, but just enough to leave the reader on the edge of their seat.

    When I’m in the mood for a good laugh I love Jen Lancaster, a memoirist who has also written a couple novels. I love her humorous perspective on everything and would love be able to add humor to my writing as effortlessly as she seems to. Her books and her blogs never fail to make me laugh. If I ever attempted to write a memoir I would love for it to be as entertaining as one of hers.

  3. Charissa says:

    Gallagher – Even though I am not yet an educator, I really enjoyed the first chapter of Gallagher’s book. I have a feeling this one will come in very handy when I am teaching. One of the things that stood out to me most was the 1 topic = 18 topics diagram. I actually copied that into the teaching section of my writer’s journal because I thought that would be something that would be very useful in help students brainstorm ideas for writing topics.
    I was also very interested in how Gallagher pointed out the contradiction between the increase in writing expectations in the workplace and the decrease in preparing students for that in high school. We had many discussions about that exact issue, and the idea of “teaching for the test” in one of my classes last semester.

    Another one of the things that stood out to me in this chapter (aside from the idea of modeling writing for the students, which I posted on below) was this quote from page 8 “When students understand the real world purposes for writing (instead of simply writing to meet the next school requirement) they begin to internalize the relevance of writing, and more important, they develop an understanding that writing is an important skill to carry into adulthood.” Gallagher points out students who understand this are better writers. In a high school setting, if so much time is focused on how to meet the test requirement, how do you help students to understand the importance of writing?

    Murray – I loved how Murray managed to make research sound so interesting. Quite often I’ll look at research as the tedious step before I can begin writing. If it’s something I’m curious about myself, I don’t mind (I was the nerd who researched Wyatt Earp and the Amistad mutiny in middle school just for fun) but if it’s an assignment, not so much. But Murray put such an interesting perspective on it; he made me look at it in a completely different way. I particularly loved the little 2-page chapter “Take Your Eye Off the Ball.” My favorite part was the quote on page 132, “Writers work on the side streets, trading in the obvious that is not obvious until they call attention to it, in the commonplace which becomes uncommon when it appears in an essay, poem, novel, screenplay.” It’s our job to look at something from a new angle. My mom has always told me I have the ability to look at things from a different perspective, and notice things that someone else may not have. I suppose that was always the writer in me.

  4. Charissa says:

    “Murray provides a detailed list of outlines in chapter nine. Which of these outlines do you feel is the most useful, useless, creative, etc.? Why? How would you use this outline in your writing or in your classroom? Feel free to respond to this question in an outline form!”

    Like many have already commented, I’ve never been a huge fan of outlining. When I do feel the need to lay out my thoughts, they’re usually more in some sort of list form. If I had to compare my style to one of the outlines Murray describes it’s probably closest to the formal outline, without the formality. I’ll write a topic, then list points and repeat that but usually just in a list form, not a formal outline.
    I had a teacher once in high school who required us to use the index card method and turn them in with the paper. I ended up writing out the cards after I wrote the paper because I just couldn’t organize my thoughts that way.

    “Gallagher is adamant about writing teachers modeling their own writing for their students. He admits that most teachers do not practice this technique in their classrooms because they are not comfortable with exposing their writing in this way. Do you agree with Gallagher on the importance of this practice? How do you feel about writing in front of students? With this in mind, how would you implement modeling in your classroom?”

    This was actually one of the ideas in Gallagher’s chapter that I found really interesting. I can’t think of one teacher I’ve had who has actually demonstrated their own writing that way in a class. I did have teachers who would make transparencies of some of our work and correct them on an overhead to try to show us where we could improve our writing. That’s what I kept picturing as I thought about demonstrating writing, a teacher standing over an old overhead projector, writing for the class.

    I do think it makes sense that you would want students to see that writing can be a challenge even for professors at times. It kind of levels the playing field and would make them feel less intimidated. I know I’ve felt a lot better about my own writing since we’ve been reading the Murray book and I’ve discovered that a lot of my struggles are things experienced by all writers. It’d be good to teach students that as well.

  5. Charissa says:

    I found Murray’s concept of a focusing line interesting. It gives you a place to start and a way to focus your thoughts, but it doesn’t sound nearly as intimidating as a thesis statement. I used to always struggle with the idea of coming up with the perfect thesis statement, as it is so important to the rest of the paper. But a focus line doesn’t seem to carry that weight. It can evolve into a thesis statement, but it doesn’t have the intimidation factor.
    Another thing that really stood out to me was in the “Read the Reader” chapter, when Murray states, “The more you don’t like the response of the teacher, editor, reader, yourself, the more you should pay attention” (152). I tend to be resistant to criticism and get stubborn when I think I know better how something should be written. I think this is a really good piece of advice and something I need to keep in mind.

    Elbow Reading
    Until this class, I really haven’t done any kind of reader feedback/response work since I was in high school. I have rarely even allowed anyone to read anything I had written aside from research papers. So I have very little experience in this area, but I found this reading very interesting and helpful. I liked how the author pointed out the paradoxes in responding and reminds us that ultimately the writer is in charge. We need to listen to the responses we are given, but we can ask for specific feedback and we can also decide whether or not we listen and make changes based on that feedback. I think those are very important things to keep in mind.

  6. Charissa says:

    1) Between pages 298 and 299, Murray discusses his ideas on purpose in writing. My question is, what are some of the ways that writers can detect that they have an effective purpose in their papers/freewrites? As writers, do you usually see the purpose forming for your pieces before you start a major project or does it manifest itself during or after the project?

    I had highlighted on page 299 where Murray says, “Writing is thinking, and writers discover what they have to say by saying it. The message cannot be entirely predicted, and so the writer not only chooses the form of writing according to the message, but adapts that form to fit the evolved meaning.” When I sit down to write, I usually do have a purpose, whether it’s a journal entry or an assignment, I at least have some vague purpose to my writing. However, there are many times when that purpose will change or evolve as I’m writing. A good example would be with our WPP first draft. When I started writing that I had no idea what direction I wanted to go in for the actual project, but the more I wrote the more I began to see what areas of my subjects’ writing I am most interested in and what would make the best focus for my study.

    2) Murray discusses the ways to keep a reader interested in what they are reading and on page 301 he states, “The reader responds, above all to voice, to the individual who stands behind the page.” With that said, how do you show or represent your voice in all of the various writings that you do? Is it possible to adapt “voice” for certain topics as Murray suggests? In what ways have you had to do this with your own writing?

    I feel like I’m still trying to find my voice. I have a more formal voice for communicating with certain people via email and a similar voice that I use when writing papers for class, but I’m not sure I know what my creative writing voice is yet. I haven’t done enough creative writing to really discover that. But I definitely think we change voice with topic; the voice I would use for my creative writing wouldn’t be as formal as the voice I used when I’m emailing professors.

    3.) In our reading, Murray covers editing in Chapter 26. On page 279 he recommends an editing system built on using three readings: the first is quick to make sure there is a dominant meaning and enough info to support that meaning, the second is a little slower and looks at form and structure, and the third reading is a slow, careful, line-by-line editing. Do you currently use this method or just one or two of the steps? If you don’t use the three-reading approach, do you think this method is something that could work for you? In what way would it help you to edit your writing (or not)?

    I definitely do not use this or any specific method when I am editing or revising papers. I tend to be a revise as you go writer. Whenever I get stuck in my writing I go back and read over what I’ve already written, adding, removing and changing passages. I especially do this when I’m writing long papers and am having trouble reaching the minimum requirement, or when I don’t want to waste paper printing it out and revising a hard copy. I’m not sure I would adapt the three read approach, at least not while I’m a student. There’s just not enough time in my schedule to spend that much time revising. However, after reading through his revising steps I have been thinking about changing the way I revise my papers. I might actually start printing the paper and doing a combinations of all three of those reads at one time.

  7. Charissa says:

    I found Dulce Cruz’s article interesting, though I was somewhat hesitant about her method of choosing films. I think it’s a great idea to try to get students to view something new and unfamiliar, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to use films that the students could identify with more. Especially if the class fulfills the freshman composition requirement, you may have students in there who are not interested in studying literature or film and foreign films with subtitles could lose their interest. Aren’t there plenty of others films you could choose from that would cover similar themes (race, politics, ethnicity, gender, class, etc.) that would be more accessible to students?

    The one example I am thinking of in particular is when Cruz discusses using Red Sorghum in class. If this were a higher level film class then I could understand using more complex films like this one, but if it’s an introductory film class I feel like the films should be a little more accessible to the students. I also don’t see how this technique would be applicable at all in a high school setting. I know there are some high school students who are interested in these types of films, but I personally can only think of one person of all the high school kids I know who might watch it.

  8. Charissa says:

    1.) I think allowing students to choose their own topic for something like a multigenre project is crucial to keeping them motivated and interested in doing the work. You’re likely going to have some students for whom this would be outside their comfort zone – they’d rather just write a paper and get it over with – so letting them focus on a topic of their choosing will help eliminate that dissonance. I also think this could work at almost any level if you adapt what elements the student needs to incorporate based on the age group.

    2.) What I liked about Romano’s rubric was that he wanted at least one of each of the elements he listed, but then he also wanted each student to include more than just those items. I think this allows for flexibility and creativity on the student’s part. I believe in order to truly work effectively the rubrics need to have flexibility, to encourage the student to branch out and not just do the specific work outlined.

    3.) I think Romano’s colleague was being overly sensitive (and a bit ridiculous). I believe an mgp would foster creativity and stretch a student’s imagination – help them think outside the box or look at things from different angles. Is there room for it in the classroom? I would like to think so. I have no experience in a classroom, but I would like to think something like this could be worked into the curriculum somehow. However, I’m sure some school districts may not see it that way.

  9. Charissa says:

    1) The first step is to overcome the stigma that writing for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is to make sure the students understand that we as teachers believe it matters. If we can prove we believe it, then they’ll be more likely to believe it. We can do this by showing them our own writing for this medium – sharing our own tweets, etc. I think it’s also important to show them that you can do so much more with Twitter than just tweet about the flavor of coffee you ordered at Starbucks, such as the account that tweets flash fiction. I think the important thing the important thing about getting them to understand that this kind of writing matters is to get them excited about it and excited about participating in a larger conversation.

    2) I agree with Lee; I’m not sure that multigenre and digital writing are inseparable, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of the expanded options digital writing provides. The projects we’ve just started in class are a good example of how you can easily and effectively incorporate the digital medium into a multigenre project. I think in the world we live in today, not to take advantage of the digital medium would be a disadvantage to students.

  10. Charissa says:

    I think the aspect of this class that helped me grow the most was sharing my writing with other members of the class. Until this semester I had never really let anyone read anything I had written that wasn’t a research paper for class. Sure I have my own blog, but I never considered any of that writing “creative” writing, so it didn’t concern me at all what people thought about what they were reading. All my creative writing had been kept private because I was so afraid if I showed anyone I would learn that my writing wasn’t nearly as good as I had hoped/believed it was. Therefore allowing anyone else to read what I had written – especially for the purpose of offering feedback – was a big step for me. Even harder than that was to actually read anything I had written aloud in class. Reading my writing aloud was even more intimidating for me than allowing anyone to read it themselves. This whole process of writing and reviewing each other’s helped me grow a lot. It really helped me face one of the biggest dears I’ve had with my writing, and has helped make me a little less nervous about the idea of submitting a story for publication. I think experiencing that fear and working through it in this class will give me something to draw on when I’m working with students experiencing the same anxiety in a classroom setting.

  11. Charissa says:

    I think the key to creating long-term writers is to get them interested in writing – show them that writing doesn’t have to be just something they have to do in school to get a grade, but something they can enjoy and have fun with as well. That’s one of the things I think is good about the multi-genre project. More and more students are beginning to use these online mediums anyway, allowing them to incorporate that into a project instead of assigning another research project would be beneficial and allow them more creativity; it could be something they could have fun with. I also think about some of the examples from Gallagher, such as having the students write reviews and post them on Amazon or IMDB. This is something they may do anyway, but don’t necessarily think of it as writing. If we can incorporate the writing they already do and show them that the ways they are already expressing themselves is a form of writing that can be just as important as “classroom writing” it may go a long way towards keeping them writing in the future.

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