Monday, May 30, 2011

9 Rights Of Every Writer_Chapter 8

A college friend once received this comment on her writing: "I think you have it in you to write competently, though not brilliantly." This is precisely what we say when we hand someone a formula. (p. 121)

Spandel firmly disagrees with a formulaic approach to writing as a means to support struggling students. As we will have many opportunities this summer to discuss our own experiences as students and teachers on the topic of formulaic writing let's hold off on debating the pros and cons of formulaic writing at this present time.

Instead let's celebrate the authors in our lives who have written a piece of text deemed by us as readers as written both competently and brilliantly.

Please upload a sentence, paragraph, section or link to an entire essay that you believe was written brilliantly!

(And if you feel so inclined to also share your own opinions on chapter 8 feel free to do so too!)


  1. I have always found the power of these simple lyrics to be beautifully brilliant!!

    Oh the time will come up
    When the winds will stop
    And the breeze will cease to be breathin'
    Like the stillness in the wind
    'Fore the hurricane begins
    The hours when the ship comes in.

    And the seas will split
    And the ship will hit
    And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
    Then the tide will sound
    And the wind will pound
    And the morning will be breaking.

    Oh the fishes will laugh
    As they swim out of the path
    And the seagulls they'll be smiling
    And the rocks on the sand
    Will proudly stand
    The hour that the ship comes in.

    And the words that are used
    For to get the ship confused
    Will not be understood as they're spoken
    For the chains of the sea
    Will have busted in the night
    And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

    A song will lift
    As the mainsail shifts
    And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
    And the sun will respect
    Every face on the deck
    The hour that the ship comes in.

    Then the sands will roll
    Out a carpet of gold
    For your weary toes to be a-touchin'
    And the ship's wise men
    Will remind you once again
    That the whole wide world is watchin'.

    Oh the foes will rise
    With the sleep in their eyes
    And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'
    But they'll pinch themselves and squeal
    And know that it's for real
    The hour that the ship comes in.

    Then they'll raise their hands
    Sayin' we'll meet all your demands
    But we'll shout from the bow your days are numbered
    And like Pharaoh's tribe
    They'll be drownded in the tide
    And like Goliath, they'll be conquered.

  2. Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good.
    - William Faulkner

    Taking a risk is what makes us grow in whatever we choose to undertake.

    Holly French

  3. I recently read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson to my class for the first time. I enjoyed it and my class loved it.

    One winter morning, a letter arrived at the House of Wong from her father, who had been traveling the four seas. On the stamp sat an ugly, bald bird. The paper was blue. When mother read it, she smiled. But the words made Grandmother cry and Grandfather angry. No one gave Sixth Cousin even the smallest hint of why.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. AH! Yes brilliant, beautiful and simple! Here are a couple of my favorite, words written with great sincerity.
    You can pet him, Mr. Arthur. He's asleep. Couldn't if he was awake, though; he wouldn't let you. Go ahead.-- To Kill a Mockingbird

    I hear you still talk to me
    As if you're sitting in that dusty chair
    Makes the hours easier to bear
    I know despite the years alone
    I'll always listen to you sing your sweet song
    And if it's all the same to you

    I love you oh so well
    Like a kid loves candy and fresh snow
    I love you oh so well
    Enough to fill up heaven overflow and fill hell
    Love you oh so well

    And it's cold and darkness falls
    It's as if you're in the next room so alive
    I could swear I hear you singing to me

    I love you oh so well
    Like a kid loves candy and fresh snow
    I love you oh so well
    Enough to fill up heaven overflow and fill hell

    The world is blowing up
    The world is caving in
    The world has lost her way again
    But you are here with me
    But you are here with me
    Makes it ok
    --David J. Matthews

  6. Link to “Once Upon a Time” by Nadine Gordimer:

    Warning: This "bedtime" story will not help you sleep.

  7. GARRISON KEILLOR, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST Updated 10:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 7, 2008 We are a stalwart and stouthearted people, and never more so than in hard times. People weep in the dark and arise in the morning and go to work. The waves crash on your nest egg and a chunk is swept away and you put your salami sandwich in the brown bag and get on the bus. In Philly, a woman earns $10.30/hour to care for a man brought down by cystic fibrosis. She bathes and dresses him in the morning, brings him meals, puts him to bed at night. It's hard work lifting him and she has suffered a painful hernia that, because she can't afford health insurance, she can't get fixed, but she still goes to work because he'd be helpless without her. There are a lot of people like her. I know because I'm related to some of them.

  8. I love the rhythm in these lines from Silly Sally. Even as an adult, they get stuck in my head from time to time and always require me to reread it with kids because they are so fun to read!

    "Now how did Sally get to town walking backwards upside down? Along came Neddy Buttercup, walking forwards, right side up."


  9. F
    T I F L E S
    O I C E
    Yet, I have colleagues who embrace formula. No T H
    I N K
    I NG involved, for “Thinkers are forever perceiving connections between things” (Spandel 115). Yet, I have colleagues who embrace formula. And, consequently, I have students with accompanying parents who embrace formula. “When’s the paper due and how much is it worth” is a frequent refrain I hear. I admit, I get caught up in this way of thinking as well. Should I have them produce more final products? Should I assign more writing? I see how much my colleagues have their students produce? And, yet, in my heart, while I know I need to refine my practice, I am content in knowing that I encourage my students to think. Reflection, annotation, self- and peer-feedback are all integral to my writing instruction. So, I love that Spandel states that “Thinking is hard - hard to achieve and, consequently, hard to assess. Formula lets us off the hook” (121).
    What I do try, however, is to scaffold and support students’ thinking, rather than provide a formula. I hate F O
    R M
    U L
    I find I need to provide this scaffolding primarily because my students are trapped in the world of CD-CM-CM blah blah blah (no disrespect to Jane Shaffer). Chapter 8 in Spandel’s The 9 Rights of Every Writer: A Guide for Teachers (2005) offers corroboration, vindication, and justification. See? I told you so! I can just as easily quote from Spandel as kick sand on their narrow minds! HA! HA! The following will become my arsenal:
    “A formula is a crutch, after all, and providing people with crutches makes them fearful of new situations. Writing is all about new situations” (124). Formulaic writing fails to address these new situations.
    “Students who follow a formula or prescribed outline may not take time to assess the value or authenticity of the information they will use to fill in the blanks. Does it make sense? Does it really expand or authenticate or validate the point it is intended to support? Is it relevant or critical to the reader’s understanding? What does it matter, so long as the all the blanks are filled” (125). This is the very metacognition we want our students to embrace, to utilize. And while it happens in some of the advanced classes, it is a rarity - it seems to me - in general English classes.
    Did I mention that I hate F O
    L A
    I C
    W R I T
    Armed with the knowledge I have gained through Spandel, look out! I plan to rock some boats!

  10. Andrew,
    I feel it too! Can't wait to share at Si

  11. "I felt it all, the magic that Emiliano had urged me to feel and worship, to surrender to. The wild wind tossed itself on top of grass ends and nibbled seeds, danced with dust, took hold of the devil and swung him around a cactus, through sagebrush, to the music of a hundred insect wings vibrating and snakes hissing. It scurried on, laughing a chill down the spines of vaqueros on horseback, making their ponies lay their ears back, attentive to the spirits. It howled and thrashed in arroyos and launched itself in swoops, veering off sides of boulders and loose tin, creeping into the pueblo, scattering its ancient sandy prayers. The wind reclined in flame and swung itself to sleep, played with tumbleweeds, untwined itself like a slow-opening music box, and gave to the naked woman sleeping with her lover a threadbare love song, to the man meditating on life under a tree its lyrical wounds. The wind, the wind, the wind: ruffles curtains with its remorse, flings the child's weeping complaint over post fences, muffles grief in the graying hair of middle-aged women, thuds at back doors and windows, slaps broken lumber against hinges, makes dogs cower behind houses, destroys tender gardens, effaces names on cemetery headstones, and makes my heart ache as blowing sand buries a wedding ring in the field. I felt all my people, felt them deep in the hard work they did, in faint and delicate red-weed prairie flowers, in the arguments over right and wrong, in my people's irascible desire to live, which was mine as well. I felt their will was growing inside me and would ultimately let me be free as the wind."

    From A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca, p. 152-153

    I start nearly all my developmental writing classes with this book. It is a beautiful, haunting narrative, a young man's journey, from abandonment to prison to redemption (by means of poetry). Students love it; the story is powerful as are the words.

    In this passage Baca is in solitary confinement. To survive, he loses himself in dreams and memories; he begins to find his voice.

  12. I use this one as a mentor text:)

    Margaret Atwood on Medea:

    "Medea is no two-dimensional allegory. Like a tunnel full of mirrors, it both reflects and echoes. The question it asks the reader, through many voices and in many different ways, is: What would you be willing to believe, to accept, to conceal, to do, to save your own skin, or simply to stay close to power? Who would you be willing to sacrifice? Hard questions, but the posing of them is the troubling yet essential task of this tough, ingenious, brilliant and necessary book."

  13. Here's a great sentence from the novel Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell:

    They nearly always went about shoulder to shoulder, running side by side and turning this way or veering that way at the same sudden instant, without a word, moving about in a spooky, instinctive tandem, like scampering quotation marks.

    This book is filled with language that creates vivid images--this is one of my favorites.

  14. We ought not to write anything we would not want to read. Usually the best things I have read from my friends are not their term papers for College classes, but the notes they write me and send in the mail. There is no formula, just words, thoughts, ideas, concepts that haven’t been fully explored….they are figuring it out as they go. No formula.

    But, formula is seductive. It’s easy and safe to write with a formula. But Spandel brings out that formulaic writing is based on the belief that writing is based on only a few components, which isn’t entirely true. Writing is complex and personal. Using a formula encourages us not to think or be creative… it just enables us to fill in the blanks.

    Here is the best writing's from my mom.

    "Didn't know these cards came complete with sappy sentiments...thought they were blank."

  15. "My dear," answered Penelope, "I have no wish to set myself up, nor to depreciate you; but I am not struck by your appearance, for I very well remember what kind of a man you were when you set sail from Ithaca. Nevertheless, Euryclea, take his bed outside the bed chamber that he himself built. Bring the bed outside this room, and put bedding upon it with fleeces, good coverlets, and blankets."

    She said this to try him, but Ulysses was very angry and said, "Wife, I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless some god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living, however strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for it is a marvelous curiosity which I made with my very own hands. There was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house, in full vigor, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my room round this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them, and I made the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top boughs of the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed roughly from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter's tools well and skillfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the wood, and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the middle, and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked till I had finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I stretched a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the other. So you see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether it is still there, or whether any one has been removing it by cutting down the olive tree at its roots."

    When she heard the sure proofs Ulysses now gave her, she fairly broke down. She flew weeping to his side, flung her arms about his neck, and kissed him. "Do not be angry with me Ulysses," she cried, "you, who are the wisest of mankind. We have suffered, both of us. Heaven has denied us the happiness of spending our youth, and of growing old, together; do not then be aggrieved or take it amiss that I did not embrace you thus as soon as I saw you. I have been shuddering all the time through fear that someone might come here and deceive me with a lying story; for there are many very wicked people going about.

  16. As I finish reading all of your interesting writings and takes on Chapter 8, I think about the chapter, trying to “pull” a variety of thoughts out from it…. But, I keep going back to my own class this year. Their true excitement about writing and reading. The ability for them to create, even if they are just beginners, stories that made them smile and feel proud about themselves. As writers go through the process and through the grades how do we balance the formulas and keep the passion and the real writing flowing?

  17. As I finish reading all of your interesting writings and takes on Chapter 8, I think about the chapter, trying to “pull” a variety of thoughts out from it…. But, I keep going back to my own class this year. Their true excitement about writing and reading. The ability for them to create, even if they are just beginners, stories that made them smile and feel proud about themselves. As writers go through the process and through the grades how do we balance the formulas and keep the passion and the real writing flowing?

  18. Having just lost my dog of 8 years suddenly last week...this one hits home:

    "A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbol means nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column to Marley, I realized it was all right there in front of us, if only we opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see."
    — John Grogan

    Enough said...

  19. One of my first chapter books I remember reading had this...

    "Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  20. Ginsberg - "Notes Written on Finally Recording Howl" - From "The Outlaw Bible of American Essays"

    "By 1955 I WROTE POETRY adapted from prose seeds, journals, scratchings, arranged by phrasings or breath groups into little short-line patterns according to ideas of measure of American speech I'd picked up from William Carlos Williams' imagist preoccupations. I suddenly turned aside in San Francisco, unemployment compensation leisure, to follow my romantic inspiration - Hebraic-Melvillean bardic breath. I thought I wouldn't write a poem, but just write what I wanted without fear, let my imagination go, open secrecy, and scribble magic lines from my real mind - sum up my life - something I wouldn't be able to show anybody, writ for my own soul's ear and a few other golden ears. So the girst line of Howl, "I saw the best minds etc.," the whole first section typed out madly in one afternoon, a tragic custard-pie comedy of wild phrasing, meaningless images for the beauty of abstract poetry of mind running along making awkward combinations like Charlie Chaplin's walk, long saxophone-like chorus lines I knew Kerouac would hear sound of - taking off from his own inspired prose line, really a new poetry."

    Ginsberg mentions writing without fear. If anything this is one idea that I have gravitated toward while reading Spandel's book. Formulaic writing has stifled my students year in and year out - as I am coming into my own as a teacher - I want to teach like a writer. I look forward to our collaboration this summer and appreciate all the good words you have shared in these responses. Cheers!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. "He tried to sing, singing
    not to remember
    his true life of lies
    and to remember
    his lying life of truths."

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