Rereading and Highlighting

I finished Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook by Aimee Buckner yesterday.  Some useful ideas from a teacher/writer who is clearly very thoughtful.  Sadly, I did not get the magic shortcut for the one universally perfect way to help students organize their writer’s notebooks.  But I did get some promising ideas for ways to use their notebooks in their writing lives. 

I have been using the strategy of asking students to find the “golden” line from an otherwise bland piece for a while now.  Buckner has me excited to try a larger commitment of rereading and highlighting throughout the notebook.  I tried it out for about ten minutes with my notebook from a couple years ago, and here are a some bits I highlighted:

  • (long-distance snow-peeing was my favorite contest and I am still the reigning champion)
  • I always wanted to learn to fish.  If I hated it, at least I’d know.  Time was the only measurable commodity left to me.
  • She was far too young to suffer and die in this way.
  • Your grinning grin split your pride-struck face
  • She wore her outcast status for the world to see, a pair of baggy gym shorts.
  • I don’t wonder how she could do such a thing, but how we miss seeing the train ourselves, coming after the lost people all around us.
  • So if you lose, that’s not always the end of the game.
  • Sometimes it is the little shames, like the shame of one word, that best express the great crimes in human history.
  • His cry-babyness meant he spent years of his life laying on the ground in tears, then finally grew up enough to get up off the ground and stand around crying.

Who knows when I would have looked back at the writing in this notebook if not for this strategy.  I was prompted to remember and reflect on my writing in a way I simply would have avoided.  I also like seeing some of the parts I highlighted here on this page–pulling out words that catch me or delight me–my words–makes me feel extra-talented.  Left in the context of my notebook…well, not so much, since plenty of the notebook writing is useful, but not particularly meaningful or full of the pithy wit and whatnot. 

My goal is to let this list sit for a while, then come back and write from it, away from the original contexts.  And I think my plan would work for some of my students as well.  Fun.  Writing.  Strategy.

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