The price that great writers pay for cursing convention and soiling the milquetoast ranks, it seems, is braving an inflamed collective that refuses to acknowledge the filth at its feet. At best, such artistic confrontation is met with a wince. At worst, literary banishment. And so writers who present an unvarnished societal mirror, history reveals, risk hostile dismissal by our loudest puritans and patriarchs.
About Constance Hale
During a recent move, I found a box of my dusty, old notebooks from my middle school years. Peppered in with the typical angst of a teenage girl (does he like me? do I like him?) are stunning sentences from Austen, Emerson, Morrison, Dostoevsky, Woolf, Baldwin, Pasternak and more. From way back, I’ve been an […]
A colleague who teaches journalism wrote to me recently, saying that she’s seeing too many sentences like this: What I take from this interaction is that it’s important to be empathetic … What strikes me most about the reporting team’s process is… “I’m having trouble explaining succinctly why this is bad writing,” she adds. “It’s clearly unnecessary […]
A reader in Portland sent me a lovely email complimenting an article I recently wrote, which had just posted online. The headline made me gasp: “A Local Shares Things to Do in Oahu.” It’s true, I’m a local to O‘ahu (which I spell the Hawaiian way) and it’s true that in the article I shared […]
I’ve recently turned a longtime dream into a reality: I’ve published a book of lesson plans for teachers who use Sin and Syntax in the classroom. This is something I have been working on since 2008. I kept adding to the lesson plans, teaching more workshops, expanding my dream, and imagining the day when I would stop tinkering, seriously edit them, find a copy editor, and put the materials into some more credible form than a Word document. This material is now an e-book.
Today I’m excited to announce that I’ve just turned a longtime dream into a reality: I’ve published a book of lesson plans for teachers who use Sin and Syntax in the classroom. Its 372 pages come with ideas for discussions, in-class exercises, homework assignments, handouts, answer keys, and even a big grammar test. There are readings galore, of my heterodox favorite passages (from Charlotte Brontë to Muhammad Ali!).
A colleague of mine recently shared this story: “This afternoon I was sitting in a doctor’s office reading a random article about Utah hot springs in whatever magazine was on the table, and belly laughing. I read the lede: ‘I was floating on my back, looking at the Wellsville Mountains in the distance and dissolving problems in water the precise temperature of inner peace,’ and I thought: Chris Colin.”
We who know Chris and his writing agreed: he has a distinctive (and funny) voice.
I recommend Sin and Syntax to my seniors and freshman honors English classes. And we used it in class to demonstrate the contrast between flat, dull writing and writing that makes use of a full range of techniques.
I have used the exercises in “Constance Hale’s Lesson Plans for Teachers” as daily warm-ups. There’s one additional exercise I’ve developed that I’d like to share: I teach my students to identify Greek and Latin morphemes in English words throughout the year.
A friend and colleague recently shared an experience on social media that I, and many other professional writers, could relate to. When an aspiring writer approaches you for feedback or advice beyond what you have the capacity to give freely, how do you graciously decline?
On November 13, 2017, my friend and colleague Matthew Zapruder started a thread on Facebook seeking ideas for teaching poetry to kids. Matthew is not just a writer of most-memorable lines, but also the author of Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017) and a veteran teacher of verse—but not to elementary school students. His friends delivered in spades, brainstorming, sharing tips, and showing their own offbeat creativity. It all made for a bracing palaver about poetry.