Thursday, March 10, 2016

Reminders for myself and for my students

Not sure any of my students read this blog, but anyway...

I am catching up on reading the reflective journals that my 1102 (First-Year Writing for Multilingual Students) students wrote after they finished the "English and Me" assignment. I asked them to think about the process of writing the essay--the challenges they faced, how they dealt with those challenges, and any other points that came up. Many of them mentioned the peer work as being helpful to their writing; they felt that getting responses from their classmates helped them think about how others were reading and interpreting (or misinterpreting) what they wrote. Nothing really earth-shattering here, but those comments and the comments about the value of drafting and revising are always something that I like to see. 

I mention this because I think this process worked well as I was working on the introduction to the new edition of A Pail of Oysters. I sent a rough draft to John Ross and got his feedback on it. Since I had never written an introduction to someone else's book before (and particularly the kinds of introductions you see to older novels), I wasn't sure how to write it. I got good feedback from John on how to revise it, and we went back and forth on it, also bringing in Mark Swofford (another of the co-founders of Camphor Press) later on in the process. In all, I have about 15 different drafts of the introduction from between last September and the end of January 2016. (I should probably tell my students about that!) Not all of the drafts are drastically different from previous ones, but they all reflect reworkings of ideas, sentences, etc. based on the feedback from the readers.

This process (as well as my students' reflections) has reminded me of the need to draft and revise and to get others' eyes on my writing as I'm working on it, rather than thinking that I need to give someone a "perfect" "final" product. It reminds me that while I might take pride in my work, I don't have to be so proud (or perhaps insecure!) that I won't show unfinished work to others.

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