“Good” Writing

Tomorrow classes start at Queens College, the City University of New York, where I have an appointment as a Distinguished Lecturer. My writing class meets on Mondays and I am starting the class with a discussion of the concept of good writing, or writing that is Clear, Coherent, and Compelling, what I abbreviate as the 3Cs of good writing.
During the class, I am going to read examples of good writing, including Alice Steinbach’s introduction to her book, Without Reservation, that includes this sentence: Life’s like that, I told myself on a sad plane trip back to Italy: with awesome impersonality it ambushes us, changing our lives and the lives of those we love in an instant. Also this lead from Laurie Lynn Drummond’s essay, Girl, Fighting (Creative Nonfiction 22, 2004, p. 30):
The first time I got punched in the face–punched, not slapped or shoved or struck or thumped by a flying elbow gone astray, but punched as in a fist landing squarely on the lower quadrant of my right cheek–it was delivered just after midnight in an apartment parking lot off Airline Highway in south Baton Rouge by a man at least 5 inches taller and a good 70 pounds heavier than I was. I was not his intended target. He intended to hit his wife. She ducked. I didn’t. And I’m going to read Michael Winerip’s recent essays on parenting in the Sunday New York Times. Also the Author’s Note in my book Adventurous Women.

If you are interested in reading interviews with writers, check out http://www.identitytheory.com and click on interviews for Robert Birnbaum’s intriguing interviews with authors, including Dorothy Allison, Gretel Ehrlich, Richard Ford, Allan Gurganus, Samantha Power, Howard Zinn, etc.

Nonfiction Book Recommendations

For five days over the New Year holiday, I was in Bermuda. I saw, learned, experienced many interesting things that I will write about in another post. In this one, I want to write about books because that is one of the things I do when I travel– I buy books, in particular books that are shelved in the local section and unique books for young readers.

In the local section I found: Rogues and Runners; Bermuda and the American Civil War by Catherine Lynch Deichmann published by the Bermuda National Trust that describes how Bermuda became a bustling, brawling commercial centre smuggling aid to beleaguered Confederate rebels in their war with the North.

I bought the following books for young readers. I have not read them to any youngster yet, but I will and post their responses:

Caribbean Alphabet illustrated and written by Frane Lessac. A wonderfully illustrated alphabet book with more than one word on a page, e.g., I is island iguanas inlet and Z is zoo zebra zookeeper zzzz. The book ends with a section with the words for each letter written in sentences. The words are in bold face, e.g., I This little island is inhabited by iguanas which are large lizards with long tails. Fish swim into a tiny inlet. Z The zoo, the wonderful zoo, with zebras and zany animals. The zookeeper is fast asleep. ZZZzzzzzzz

My Bermuda ABC illustrated and written by Dana Cooper, a native Bermudian. Both the upper case and lower case of a letter are shown. Lovely illustrations and interesting text that will prompt readers to do research, e.g., Gg is for Gaff rig, Gates Fort, Government House, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the Grace, Goat and Goose Island and Gombeys who come out to dance on special holidays. And Yy is for Yellowtail fish, Yucca plant, the Yellow-wood and Yew trees, York Street, Yellow-Crowned Night heron, Yawning Road and Yachts, which dot the bays and harbours throughout the year.

Sea Turtles Hatching written and illustrated by Katherine Orr. Orr is a marine biologist who has worked to conserve sea turtles. The 32 page book is clearly written and conveys interesting information about sea turtles. I classify it as a hybrid book–nonfiction books that contain made-up material–because it includes two made-up characters: a boy who finds a hatchling and a park ranger.

Black History Month and National Women’s History Month

Terrific information and resources are available at:

National Women’s History Project www.nwhp.org In addition to useful online resources, check out their terrific catalogue.


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