Book Talks, Blogs, & Student Journalists

BOOK TALKS UPDATE

I’ve had three book talks in libraries and speaking venues in recent weeks and all went really well.

One was in my current hometown area and one was back in the hometown where I grew up and the other was in northern Illinois at my brother’s storytelling venue with another author of 13 (!) books. Right at about 40 people showed up between the three and it was good to have a chance to talk with people about it all.

Thanks so much to those who made it a point to come and those special experiences with me.

BLOG TO LEARN PERSPECTIVE

Ever need creative writing breaks? I do. This blog was my effort to give myself a place to practice writing and share some thoughts with clarity.

In the journalism classes I teach, one of my assignments is for my students to create and fortify a blog during the semester. Why would I have them do this in a journalism class?

I noticed over the years that it’s not always easy to distinguish personal perspective from objective reporting for students who are learning journalism skills. Some could argue objectivity is always subjective – and I love those debates. However, I’ll derail my point here if I go down that path.

By asking students to start a blog on a topic of their choosing – hopefully something they have some energy for so it’s a more interesting weekly assignment for them – my goal is they become more aware of what is their own personal opinion versus what is not drenched in bias.

This seems simple, but for many people it’s not at all.

One of the most common mistakes I run across several times a semester is made of well-meaning intent – but dripping with opinion in what is supposed to be an unbiased story assignment.

Sometimes a college student doesn’t know how to end a story. They’re learning technique at this stage and it can be quite clunky still. When a story ending seems abrupt, here’s how an inexperienced student writer might end it in an effort to make it seem to go somewhere.

They say some variation of this idea…

We’ll just have to wait and see if the council decides to do anything about these excess dog droppings left by irresponsible pet owners in community parks or if they’ll keep letting dogs do – what they gotta do.

Ok – I realize it’s a safe bet no one is looking for excess dog droppings in community parks… and a student would feel proud they thought of the loose ‘do-do’ reference…. cute effort. But, the opinion so clearly in these words derails credibility of the story. It’s surprising how common this ‘commentary wrap up’ sentence style is for kids still learning.

Hence, student blogs as an exercise in how we write for different purposes. My blog started as an effort to join them by taking part, too. I kept it going. Here’s the little secret. I love love love writing. I love pondering ideas, trying on new thoughts, and wondering about the world around me, but I get tired of myself in my writing and need to take breaks. Here’s what’s wonderful about those breaks. When I leave space to grow creatively – ideas come because it’s possible. Every space isn’t filled up.

My break has offered me that mental space I needed to consider more topics to write about in coming weeks. I’ll be back soon on this personal journalism student-inspired blog. Toodles.