Thursday, June 11, 2009

Topic: Reading and Writing Identity

10-second review: Defining a writing identity begins with reading.

Title: “Developing Personal Literacies: Writing Through Reading.” N Paley. English Education (January 2009), 177-186. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: [RayS: I’m going to write the author’s reasons for forging a writing identity through reading. I state clearly that I don’t understand anything of it after the first sentence.]

Reading is fundamental to the development of a thoughtful, writing self. Rich and wide-ranging reading experiences affirm the complex pleasures inherent in the human experience and the communicating of those experiences through writing. Reading helps you see yourself in a more-dimensioned way, which then helps you better see others in the world in a more-dimensioned way, thus helping you better to write something of meaning and critical value about both. Reading provides crucial knowledge to help you identify the politics of your writing interests so that you can understand what you might want to choose to write for in your life, or what you might write against.”

[RayS: The author then gives nine “Tips for Writing”]:

1. Choose a plan. 2. Record every drop. 3. Specify what you hear. 4. Watch yourself separate and describe it as best you can. 5. Don’t look up. 6. Fall through the night. 7. Never trust them again. 8. Return the gift. 9. Good luck. p. 185.

[What do you think of the author’s comments? RayS.]

Comment: In one of my very early writing workshops for fifth-and sixth-grade teachers in 1973, I invited eight writers to address the workshop’s participant. One was a writer of children’s literature, two were newspaper reporters, another was a lawyer and several others wrote as part of their careers, but not to publish. Each of these writers addressed our group, one a day.

The first questions we asked was, “How did you learn to write?” Their answer? “I don’t know, but I never remember being without a book when I was growing up.”

I always ask that question of people whose writing I respect. The answer is almost always, “I never learned to write in school. But I never was without a book when I was growing up.” Of course, these are older and more mature people. The tide begins to swing toward school with the emphasis on writing beginning in the 1970s. Still, my experience has been that people who read learn to write, even without direct instruction in writing. RayS.

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