Last week, in my final, I’m sad to say, memoir class, we discussed finishing up the pieces. We’d already done some revision and they were ready to say ‘done’, but I wanted one more conversation about narrowing down to exactly the words they wished to say to their audiences.
Valentine’s Day is today and to me that means flowers and spring are on the way. Despite the fact that there is much snow on the ground at my house, and icicles are hanging from the eaves, I am receiving a few seed catalogs online (I’ve gone paperless!) and beginning to imagine my flower beds.
How does this connect to the above revision lesson? Well, I thought of the flower beds and weeds, and how flowers look so much better without weeds crowding them. I must tell you that this is not an original idea. I wish I could give credit to where I have read about it in my reading, but I’ve used it with success several times in the past years, so know it’s been a while since I first saw the idea.
I talked to my students about words that crowd the important messages they wished to communicate in a memoir. As we cut out the weeds to make room for the flowers, we remove the words that are unnecessary. However, sometimes we like the weeds that grow, and although they fill in spaces that seem bare, weeds choke the flowers eventually. Just as we sometimes fill in spaces with wordy sentences, as writers we need to find the unnecessary and delete them. We made a short list of words that might be considered “weeds”. They are words like “very” and “most”, that only weaken the word (just as weeds weaken flowers), and we also determined that the writer personally must choose longer phrases that don’t fit.
I hope the lesson was helpful to the students. I have them just for a short time since I am teaching the group as a part of three different writing experiences their teacher wanted them to have. They will return to their homeroom classroom and write other things, hopefully remembering the weeds in their gardens.
Finally, last week, for Poetry Friday I shared several antique Valentines I have from my mother-in-law, who was one of those teachers who, after leaving high school, taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the 1920’s. She rose well before sunup, saddled a horse, and left for the country building where her first duty was to start the fire. I love these special Valentines, quite different from the ones we see today, and wanted to share one with all of you too as my Valentine wish.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!