Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

One Writer’s Brain: Joshua Kehe

1. What was the most difficult writing situation you’ve had to deal with?

First semester of my Freshman year in college I had to write an annotated bibliography in Turabian for an Art History course. Having no idea what either an annotated bibliography or Turabian style was, I was a bit in over my head. To this day, I still have an unhealthy fear of Turabian. Slightly less fear for annotated bibliographies (this particular class had some extensive requirements for the annotations; so much so that I haven’t seen such requirements since), but it’s still there.

2. Do you write to learn, or do you only write to communicate with others?

I don’t think it’s possible to write without learning something about yourself. Writing is such a strange mix of conscious intentions and unconscious revelations blending together even as you pour the words out onto the page. I’ll start out writing something with certain thoughts in mind, and then halfway through I’ll look at it and think “Where did that come from?” It’s exciting when I can see what I truly think, feel, and believe rising up out of whatever detritus I initially found compelling.

3. If you could improve the world’s writers, what specific area would you address first?

Reading. Everybody needs to read. Constantly. This stretches from improving literacy rates in developing nations to encouraging people in the West to make time for books. Reading seems to have been regarded as an unnecessary luxury when compared with work, family, food, shelter, video games, and movies, but continued interest in the written word is essential to our development as both individuals and as a society.

Now, more in accordance with the question: Stephen King says, in his book On Writing, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”

That parenthetical statement is so key. I firmly believe that writing is best learned implicitly, absorbing the rules and idioms through our surroundings, rather than explicitly through grammar lessons. I’ll agree that grammar is necessary to learn, but it’s not where you start, and it’s also not where you go to deepen your knowledge of writing. Understanding the difference between a subject, a verb, and how they relate to one another does not show you the effects that placement can have upon the reader. It does not explain how you should construct a well-reasoned argument. It does not teach you how to evoke certain emotions or memories in the reader. Grammar is the skeleton of writing — dry and lifeless without the muscles of word choice, the nerves of a well-structured organization, and the heart of evocative imagery. These things you learn by reading.

4. What is a weakness you have as a writer?

Confidence in my own work. Almost every time I try to write something — whether for class, work, or my own pleasure — I spend almost as much time judging, critiquing, and worrying over my writing as I do actually writing. More often than not, the concern is unfounded. Sure, it’s bad on the first draft. That’s as it should be. But there’s always a solid foundation  there that usually excites me to continue working on the piece, making my earlier stress a bit pointless in the end. After all, that’s why we invented the second draft.

5. What question would you have liked us to ask you (about writing or reading)?

Nothing comes to mind.

September 28, 2011

Consultant Biography: Dave Leaton

Dave is the Director of the Truman state University Writing Center.  That is the most interesting thing anyone can say about him.  He was born long ago, before facebook, before Marxism came into fashion for the ninth time, before the internet, before laptops and desktops, before Light Beer from Miller, before the widespread consumption of turkey bacon, before Marxism fell out of fashion for the eighth time, before the Iran Hostage Crisis, before That 70s Show, before disco, before Phyllis and David York’s Tough Love, before Watergate, before Woodstock, before Armstrong skipped to my Luna–right around the time the War in Vietnam stopped being a “police action” and the beatnik identity was finally exhausted.

Dave is from Kansas (the good little bit north of Johnson County, south of the river, and east of everything else). Dave was educated successfully, despite periods of failure, such as the complete rejection of high school in 11th grade.

Dave enjoys doing cooking, cleaning, picking up after the kids, mowing the yard, doing laundry, and daydreaming about doing other things.  He is the occasionally proud father of twins (Dominic, after Steig’s dog, and Olivia, after the pig), but is increasingly channeling his inner Red Forman.

Dave enjoys books by William Steig, China Mieville, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick, Richard Russo, Neal Stephenson, ok, fine, this is going to take forever–I enjoy hundreds, perhaps thousands of authors, and I eagerly await additions.

September 28, 2011

News of the World

Title: “Quixote, Colbert, and the Reality of Fiction.” Author: William Egginton – Source: NY Times – 9/25/2011

Every so often, a defense of the humanities becomes necessary (the frequency seems to be increasing).  This is such a defense, and a defense of fiction as an epistemology in particular.  Egginton makes a good case for narratives providing the basis of all human understandings of ‘reality’.  A key quote:

Cervantes is not parodying the tales of chivalry but rather the inability to suspend the judgment of truth and falsity that reduces all narrative to one standard.

Fiction forces us to suspend not simply belief in the physical presence of the world but also our beliefs about relations–our historical and ethical understandings.  Fiction forces a dialectical mode of thought, and that, in turn, encourages critical thinking as a regular, working mode of thought.


September 27, 2011

Life as a spiraling force, movin’ through the universe . . .

. . . unencumbered by modular time concepts.

This is the first post.  It was forged by the Dark Lord Dave.  It serves as a replacement for that “Hello World” thing.  This particular component of the periphery is the “Consultant Blog” or “cBlog.”  This should be used for writing-related posts by consultants.  Please, someone, write another post and categorize it under cBlog.  Don’t make it too good, or else no one will want to follow it.