If necessity is the mother of invention, then the need for relativity may very well be the mother of inspiration. At least, that’s how president and publisher of The African American Pulpit Rev. Martha Simmons discovered her inspiration to create the first African American Lectionary.
A lectionary is a listing of fitting scriptures and sacred readings that can be used on special occasions in the church. Simmons was using a traditional lectionary when she realized the need for an African-American lectionary.
“It didn’t excite me. It was a lot of text, and I didn’t understand how I could related it to the black community,“ Simmons said.
Simmons first polled nearly 10,000 black clergymen to decide if the need was valid. Simmons then pitched the idea to the Lilly Endowment and received a grant for almost $2 million.
The lectionary launched in December 2007 with the support of Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Kelly Miller Smith Institute. It has developed into a free, online resource containing content such as videos, poems, scriptures, readings and hymns traditionally used in the black church. The content is particularly slanted toward special days and occasions such as Young Adults Day and Youth Sunday. The site was designed to be visually stimulating and user-friendly.
“The feedback has been great. We’ve gotten hundreds of emails on how stunned [users are] at how much information is there. The most common response is ‘I can’t believe this is all free.’ And it is all is relevant,” Simmons said.
The Lectionary Team, a small group of black Christianity experts, hand-selected the content and contributors for the site. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagan, the founder of singing group Sweet Honey and the Rock, serves as the Cultural Resources Team Leader. Nolan Williams, the music editor of the African-American Heritage Hymnal, serves as head of the Worship Division.
Despite the academic nature of the contributors, the site has a very personal feel and message. Simmons said her personal goal for the site is it will inspire others to— well, inspire others.
“I hope young people, girls especially, will be inspired to take this and make it their own. We’ve got videos; they should add videos. We’ve got poems; they should add their own,” said Simmons.
Simmons emphasized the key is relevance, being able to apply the pre-researched information and ideas to real-life situations that may affect your community and church.
“Let’s say a you’re a youth worker. If a young black girl comes to you and says there’s a lot of violence in my neighborhood. A you may say, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ That’s good, but you may ask is there anything else I can do?” Simmons said.
Simmons shared stories of churches using the lectionary to start programs and host services on topics that particularly affect today’s times such as incarceration, cancer, and absent fathers.
‘I’d like to see a lot more people use [the lectionary] who are teaching people about religion and faith. I’d like to see people use it who are teaching people how to live out their faith in today’s hard times,” she said.
With the hardships that exist in 2010, there are plenty of opportunities to practice faith. The African-American lectionary exists to inspire people to continue to share that faith in creative ways, despite such hardships. That spirit of creativity, endurance, and faith is what lies at the center of the black Christian experience.
To use The African-American Lectionary visit www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org.
By Kaitlin Meilert
Ah, senior year of college…After two more semesters, you will finally be free of all those tests you crammed for, papers you pulled all-nighters to write, boring jobs you had to juggle with packed school schedules, and the constant stress you swore would never be relieved. But you keep your head in the game because it’s not over yet.
Freedom begins to tug at you by the end of fall semester…as does adulthood and the pressure of real life waiting just around the corner. But you put it out of your mind because senioritis is kicking in.
Then, your last semester spins by, and it hits you: You have an English degree…what now?
What are you going to do with your life? Where are you going to work? Should you go to grad school like all of the other English majors seem to do after graduating, even if it purely means buying more time before entering the real world? Are you ready to jump straight from one exhaustive life to the next? Why did you ever major in English Writing and Rhetoric?
The worst part is feeling like everyone around you knows exactly what they want to do. But here’s the reality check: You’re not alone. And you want to know what else? It’s ok to feel lost. It’s ok to want to take a short break after graduating to not only figure out what you want to do but to recharge your drained batteries. I was recently reassured of this by someone whose advice I don’t take lightly: my dad.
His advice? Take the time to figure out what you really want to do before jumping into something you’re not sure about or feel too drained to successfully take on…or spending thousands of dollars on getting an MFA in an area you’re not positive you want to pursue. He told me that it’s ok to take a break, relax, and pull myself together.
However, I did reassure my dad that I would use my time off wisely, which brings me to my advice to you. From one soon to be graduating English major to another: Don’t worry if you’re feeling lost. Take that time off to find your way. But in the meantime, make that time useful:
Get an internship.
No, you probably won’t get paid. But it’s a start and an opportunity; a chance to get some experience in the field of writing (not to mention it’s a great way to network and make connections.) Find an internship with a publishing company, a magazine, or a newspaper. Be their slave if you have to (filing, making phone calls, fact checking…you get the idea) and work your way up. If you do well, your boss just might offer you a part or full time position when the internship is up. I know, I know. You’re still thinking about that “unpaid” part…
Get a job.
Hello! You’ve graduated! Imagine how much easier it will be to take on an internship AND a paying job without having to juggle them with school. Trust me, you can do both. Just think about how much time school alone takes up (exhausting just thinking about it, isn’t it?) Work in retail, waitress, bar tend, house sit…I know it doesn’t sound too glamorous, but just think of it this way: it’s only temporary; it pays the bills; it gets you out of the house and interacting with other people. And, at their worst, crappy jobs just might give you some material for that novel you’re working on.
Perhaps your time off isn’t intentional. It may be that you’re having trouble landing a writing-related job or internship. Just keep sending out those resumes and writing samples, and in the meantime, volunteer in your community. Find volunteer work that offers you experience in the writing, editing, publishing world. Or at least find work that lets you put all that grammar and editing knowledge to use, such as volunteering to tutor high school students in English. And if not for any of those reasons, simply volunteer to get out of the house and give back to the community, whether through your writing skills or not. Helping out others also might snap you out of that self-pity you may be feeling.
Learn something new.
Take a peek around your community. You’re bound to find a few writing classes and workshops (yes, professional writers offer workshops for a small fee…take advantage of their knowledge!) Or maybe you want to enhance your computer skills. As you’ll find out, or probably already know, a variety of jobs (even writing-related gigs) prefer, or require, that applicants have certain computer skills. So find a workshop around town that will help you brush up on those skills or teach you how to use advanced software and applications, such as Dreamweaver or Photoshop (both are useful for publishing, by the way…) Other ideas? Cooking, photography, salsa dancing, kickboxing…ok, maybe you can’t put some of those on your writing resume, but at least you’ll be learning and doing something with your time (and yes, gathering more material for all the writing you’re going to have published some day.)
The point here is to do something. Don’t sleep in until noon and laze around all day in your PJs, watching The Tyra Show, moping about how crappy your life is. I’m sorry, you can’t produce any writing out of that (if you could, you’d probably have a bestseller out, and you wouldn’t be reading this.) Listen up! A career isn’t just going to fall into your lap. You have to work toward it. Send out your resume to any and every possibility you can find. And in the meantime do something worthwhile, like writing, English major. Better yet, at least submit your work to editors as a freelance writer.
So, my fellow graduating English majors who are at a loss about what to do after graduation, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Take a year off and figure out what you really want to do with your English degree. But keep learning and embarking on new experiences. And stay positive: all the answers (and the career) will come. And last, but never least, keep writing!
Oh, and one more thing…Congratulations! You’ve just spent four years working hard (and losing sleep) to earn your degree. You deserve a short break. And my graduation gift to you? Reassurance. Ignore all of the people who said, “Oh, you’re an English major? What are you going to do with that?” The writing, the jobs, and the bestsellers will come. But for now, take a break (I know you need it.)
Whether you plan to hit the beach or chill at home for your upcoming vacation, here are three light, fun and feminine reads you might want to pick up. Smart chick lit at its best, these books offer strong leads grappling with very real situations.
Emily Giffin’s “Something Borrowed”
“Something Borrowed” is the tale of do-gooder Rachel, who is always pushing her own desires aside and letting best friend Darcy take the reins. Rachel is a hardworking, single lawyer who hates that she’s stuck day after day doing paperwork but can’t consider quitting. On the other hand, Darcy lucked out with a fabulous Manhattan PR job, airbrushed body and handsome fiancé Dex to boot. Rachel is the perfect friend, but when she and Dex sleep together on the eve of her 30th birthday, Rachel finds herself weighing her interests against Darcy’s and desperately trying to be a good friend while following her heart.
Giffin’s writing is superb, and Rachel may be the most relatable protagonist to emerge in a sea of the wannabe-models and Prada-wearing assistants that give chick lit a bad name.
Meg Cabot’s “Every Boy’s Got One”
Even if you haven’t read Meg Cabot before (The Princess Diaries, Avalon High), “Every Boy’s Got One” will show you why she’s cornered the teen girls market: she understands the way both women and men think. “Every Boy’s Got One” is laugh out loud funny and at times frustrating. Jane Harris heads to Italy to witness her best friend’s elopement only to get caught in some love-hate sparring with the best man. The relationships between Jane, Cal and soon-to-be-wedded Holly and Mark are revealed through diary entries, emails, tickets and more. Throw in a few mothers, an Italian housekeeper and the non-responsive boy Jane asked to watch her cat and it’s a rollicking trip from airport to Italian villa.
An easy read, “Every Boy’s Got One” is Cabot at her simplistic best. The magic lies not in the writing but in the arrangement; here, a receipt from the airport store releases giggles.
Hester Browne’s “The Little Lady Agency”
Melissa Romney-Jones is at her wit’s end. She loses her secretarial job, her father constantly holds the money he lent her over her head, and she unknowingly becomes an escort for her old etiquette teacher’s business. Once she discovers her error, Melissa decides to create what she thought she was signing up for in the first place: an etiquette-teaching, man-shaping business catering solely to the social needs of London’s not-quite-so eligible men. To do so, she dons a blonde wig and ups her self-confidence. But soon she realizes keeping bombshell “Honey” separate from Melissa isn’t as easy as shimmying into one of Honey’s cocktail dresses.
Browne’s breakout novel is a breakthrough success. Melissa is a creative entrepreneur ready to show her family and her ex-employers that her organization, wits and charm will get her where she wants to go.
If you’re hungry for more of the same characters, Giffin has written “Something Blue” as a follow-up with a twist and Browne has written two more books featuring Melissa.
by Kelly Grenfell
I think one ambition we should all have that can’t be stressed enough is to live every day as if it were your last. In a fast world, it’s easy to think things will always keep moving, when in reality life can stop at any moment. Not just slow. Stop.
I wrote this “piece” for my brother recently, but I wanted to share it because I think it rings true for anyone who’s been through the process of pain. It’s one part of life that should never be rushed.
I know you lost a friend this weekend.
And some would say it’s selfish to ask why.
But don’t listen to them.
And cry until you have no more tears to release from your eyes.
Unwanted and unplanned, your heart faces an upward climb.
That will only pass in time.
Time that won’t rewind, or move forward fast enough.
It hurts. I know.
Day after day. Pain has made its home in your heart.
Smiles and hugs might ease your chest’s constriction for a while, but it doesn’t give you answers.
Answers you need to know, want to know, have to know…
But stop. Breathe. Think for a minute.
Would any answer to your tears really seem good enough?
No. Probably not.
It hurts. I know.
A few more days. The smiles and hugs have stopped.
There is laughter but it’s because people aren’t talking about “it” any more.
They’ve appeared to move on.
They seem “fine” in rare moments.
But it still hurts. I know.
One day. You join in the laughter.
It feels weird.
Old and unfamiliar but nice.
It hurts a little, but it’s okay.
And then one day. Pain releases it’s grip.
You won’t notice it. And that’s okay.
It’s better that way.
It will be replaced by peace.
Another unsettling feeling that will grab your heart in a different way.
It won’t answer your “why” but undoubtedly wishes it could.
It won’t be what you’ve been searching for.
You’ll never find that on this side of eternity.
But you WILL find it.
The same day, we’ll forever be okay.
And when the Creator finally chooses to remove pain’s intrusion on your heart,
Don’t be surprised if you feel another final chest contraction.
But this time, take heart,
It means you’ve reached the top of your emotional Everest.
By Courtney Miller
So opens The Secret of the Old Clock, the first classic book in the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. Today, the bright yellow hardcover stories line the shelves of every major bookstore. Women, from young girls to grown adults, are familiar with the eager, titian-haired amateur detective.
But wait…in the original first novel, published in April 1930, things were a little bit different. Nancy was an attractive girl of sixteen driving her new, blue roadster. And she was blonde. Could something as simple as a change in hair color or type of car be the key to Nancy’s lingering fame?
Yes, it could. Nancy Drew has seen new cars, dress style, cover artists, locations and even a new age in the 70 plus years since her first publication. She has altered as decades alter; an idea born during the golden age of Hollywood first faced war in the 1940s and then saw youth culture change and take shape.
The Birth of an Independent
The character of Nancy Drew was born not out of a woman’s mind but from a man fast cornering the children’s book market in the late 1920s. Edward Stratemeyer pitched the idea of a female detective series to Grosset & Dunlap, the publisher of Stratemeyer’s popular Hardy Boys mystery series. Targeting the young girls who also read the Hardy Boys, Stratemeyer would give them a strong, female role model. For him, it was just a business model. Nancy would keep girls reading and keep them buying.
A slew of writers hosted the pen name Carolyn Keene to write Nancy Drew adventures, beginning with Mildred Writ Benson. Benson created the fiercely independent sleuth who would solve over 350 mysteries. And so we were given the blonde sixteen year-old daughter of a small town lawyer.
Off on an Adventure
Nancy Drew solves many of her cases in or around her hometown of River Heights, a fictional mid-western town with enough friendly neighbors and unfriendly strangers for Nancy to keep her amateur detective nose busy. Today, readers aren’t used to reading about towns like River Heights. Living with such social warmth and relative fearlessness is a relic of the past for many people. As caution and paranoia left the clipped suburban bushes exposed, River Heights wouldn’t have been able to meet the realistic day-to-day standards. So Nancy traveled more, to California, New York, France and even an adventure behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s.
Inside of a 1960 publication of the third book, The Bungalow Mystery, it reads, “This new story for today’s readers is based on the original of the same title.” It is important to recognize that Nancy hasn’t simply changed through the course of the series; she’s been rewritten for the new demands. That’s why, depending on your age, you remember a blonde, dress-suited Nancy. Or a strawberry-blond Nancy with a casual blouse. Or even one wearing jeans and driving a dark blue convertible.
There are three underlying reasons why the young sleuth has mesmerized generations–the three reasons the world has needed Nancy to keep up with it.
One: she is independent like no other. She does often solve mysteries with the help of her cousins Bess and George, or her boyfriend Ned. But Nancy is a leader with a natural instinct for catching the bad guy. She goes out and does the dirty work. It doesn’t matter if it is trailing cars to gypsy camps or making a last minute informative call from her cell phone. Or pulling a bait and switch, tricking countless villains.
Two: she can escape any kidnapping situation. No matter how many times she is bound with rope and tossed in the back of a car or down a secret passage, Nancy will find a way to free herself and still solve the mystery at the same time. Smart and resourceful.
Three: she doesn’t have to do it. Amateur detective, no pay. Nancy always wants to help people. Even if she’s just met them, she insists on discovering the secret stash of treasure an ancestor hid and deliver the current family from monetary troubles. A lost inheritance. A lost parent. A ghost haunting.
Certain role models fade as they grow up and embody different, new ideas. Nancy’s base character is consistent—her passion and her goodness always there. A role model for any girl.
Simon & Schuster is still publishing the original series, though many are revised editions from the 1950s or later. They also publish the Nancy Drew: Girl Detective series where Nancy has become a completely modern young woman. And Nancy has discovered the computer…or, rather, the computer has discovered her.
Her Interactive Inc. has been developing and publishing Nancy Drew adventure mystery games for the PC since 1998. With titles like Treasure in the Royal Tower and Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, Nancy is often traveling to solve a friend’s problem. In these games, the player takes on the role of Nancy. She does the legwork, talking to suspects and investigating clues. She escapes life or death situations. She solves the mystery.
She becomes Nancy Drew.
(PHOTOS: COURTNEY MILLER)
By Courtney Miller
There are books that do more than suck you in. The full sensory portrait envelops you. You taste the description and every ounce of your body insists you’ve been transported to another place. Then that place is powerful enough to become its own character. It surges with life, with madness and excitement and mystery. The artist has done her job, found a way to loose the desires from the bound pages.
Marina Fiorato welcomes you to Venice.
Venice is the eternal place of magic and mystery—a city floating on water. Casanova, Carnivale, doges, lace and glass. The latter Fiorato explores in her first novel, The Glassblower of Murano. Like her author, the main character is half-Venetian. Leonora Manin leaves her divorced English life for the Italian islands to search out the secrets of her famous glass-blowing ancestor, Corradino Manin. Murano is the island in the Venetian lagoon where glass is blown; jealousy made it a virtual prison for the maestros and their secrets. Corradino was the most talented maestro of the 15th century, at least according to Fiorato’s history of Venice. Many characters are fictional creations but it’s hard to tell when the real history ends and hers begins.
Corradino escaped commissioned death as a boy and found a salvation, though terrible, on Murano. His skill and his glass secrets kept him alive in the city that had betrayed his family. Later, he began working with the French in secret, daring his life and preparing to sell his methods to save himself and keep an even greater secret he’d been hiding. Leonora soon finds herself carried into his world of glass monkeys and maestros. A glassblower on the island embraces her family name and her talent, causing disdain for this woman in a man’s learned profession. Leonora longs to understand Corradino and she often senses his presence, but she begins to uncover centuries of familial mysteries and betrayals. Shaken even more by the way her life begins to mirror her mother’s own dream-like Italian past and a father who never existed, she clings to Corradino and the glass she blows.
But it is the way Fiorato captures the enchanted city of linked canals that makes The Glassblower of Murano impossibly alluring. Transitioning between Corradino’s Venice and Leonora’s time, Fiorato recreates Venice for the reader to experience. You’ll yearn for the smoky-hot, silver-sweat-filled fireholes where the maestros touch their lips and breath life into the glass. For the insider’s Venice, away from the tourists and the kitschy glass trinkets. The past brings alive a story of loss, glass assassin knives and a haunted man. The interwoven present line is a story of a lost woman, a glass heart and a need for happiness in unfathomable circumstances.
(PHOTO: ST. MARTIN’S GRIFFIN)
I understand the gift of rare friendship. Fortunately, I’ve had the same five best friends for as long as I can remember. We all met at different times, but it was eight years ago that we all came together and established ourselves. Like every other clique in the eight grade, we gave ourselves a name. Taking the first letter of each of our names, we formed the word Dakota and would forever be known as the “Dakotas” or “Daks” for short.
The six of us are so different. One is a diva, one couldn’t hurt a fly, and another is into theatre. One has a very business state of mind, one is a party animal, and another wants to travel the world. We all have very different interests and personalities, but at the end of the day, we all have a little bit of each other. We understand the importance of our friendship and what it means to have held onto it for so long. We know who our bridesmaids will be, and we know who the Aunts to our children will be. We also know how lucky we are to have done very little to find that gift of rare friendship.
Through the years, we’ve compared ourselves to the girls from Now and Then, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and, our personal favorite, the four best friends from Sex and the City. But what we have discovered is that we are completely unique from these groups of friends. We are the Daks. We are rare. And we have something very few women ever encounter in their lives.
When I first saw the cover of the novel, The Girls from Ames, I knew I had to read it. This would be one more group of friends that we could compare ourselves to.
The novel, by Jeffrey Zaslow, follows a group of eleven women who grew up in Ames, Idaho and have been best friends since childhood. Now, they are in their forties and are still best friends. Zaslow introduces us to each woman personally, and offers stories from their pasts that have shaped them into who they are today. Every reader will find at least one that they can relate to and laugh along with their childhood days and read as they grow into older, more mature women.
Zaslow captures their hardships and their struggles, always following up with how the eleven girls are there for each other. During their college years, one of the girls passed away. Some of the others couldn’t even make it to her funeral. Readers will cry in sympathy for the girls not getting any closure, but will be brought back to smiles when we learn about how they cope. We learn about some of the women’s struggles with breast cancer, and losing children. No matter what the hardship is, each woman is able to overcome it through the power of her friendship with the other girls from Ames.
In their later lives, we are introduced to all their husbands and children, and we learn about their careers and their ventures to live in other states. We see how they keep in touch and hear stories from reunions.
While Zaslow is an outside source of these women’s deep friendship, he is also a journalist. Therefore, the novel is not as personal as it could be if it was written by one of the women themselves. It is more of a brief history of their lives rather than a deep personal memoir. However, being a male, who does not understand the friendships women create, he does a wonderful job of getting their stories across and showing the importance of their unique and rare friendship.
If you have a group of friends like the girls from Ames, this novel will make you want to jump up and hug each of them and inform them of their importance to your life. If you do not have a group of friends like them, it will certainly make you wish you did. And regardless of your personal friendship situation, the novel will definitely highlight the power of friendship and its ability to change lives. It will bring hope that friends truly can last a lifetime, even when everything else in your life is falling apart.
By Ali Coad
Dear John is the newest novel turned movie to come from popular novelist Nicholas Sparks. He is perhaps best known for his novel The Notebook, which was adapted into a major motion picture starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. In this novel, Sparks continues to leave readers impassioned and invested in the simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-mending story of John Tyree and Savannah Curtis. Sparks captures the reader’s attention with a subtly simplistic writing style. He always seems to leave the reader hungry for more. Needless to say, I devoured this book.
When I heard that this book was going to be adapted into a movie, I was very excited. Then I heard that Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried were starring and the already highly anticipated movie was instantly fast-tracked to a “must see.” I only hope that this film doesn’t disappoint and remains true to the story that Sparks wrote.
The tale beings with Savannah, an innocent and naïve young woman, falling irrevocably in love with John, an angry and isolated soldier. They meet on a hot summer day while John is on leave and Savannah is building houses for the homeless in Wilmington, NC. John said it was love at first sight, and upon their first meeting, when they first made eye contact, “[He] felt something click, like a key turning in a lock.” Savannah, as we discover later in the book, felt the exact same way. But John and Savannah are still a very long way from happily ever after.
John is soon forced to return to Germany, where he has been stationed for the war, and Savannah and John are equally heartbroken. They remain faithful in their relationship and continue to talk through weekly letters and sporadic phone calls. Days pass at impossibly slow rates, only making their time apart more unbearable. Finally, the time has come for John to return home. Then September 11 happens. He is forced to choose between the love of his life and the duty to his country.
As expected, Sparks leaves the reader reaching for tissues. The emotional journey ends favorably but not expectedly, and not before he takes the reader on a series of twists and turns. Hopefully, the film adaptation of Dear John, directed by Oscar nominated filmmaker, Lasse Hallstrom, does the novel justice. The book was quite the page-turner, and I’m expecting the movie to be just as good. The theatrical debut is set for February 5, 2010, just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Sitting at my desk, again. Three o’clock in the morning, again. Computer whirring impatiently, deadlines creeping up for the pounce, rushed research and skimmed literature awaiting incorporation into a composition. Again and again and again.
These are some of the tell-tale signs of a bad writer, but not in the sense you might initially suppose. I do not mean that this writer will receive bad grades, or that this writer cannot convey his or her ideas with prowess. Instead, I mean that the habits are simply not conducive to that writer producing his or her best work.
You see, every writer has a potential – maybe you are discouraged because of a recent bad grade, or by the fact that your friend is brilliant at writing and doesn’t have to work hard to get better grades in school. The fact is, while no writer is created equal, every writer can get better compared to themselves. Comparing your writing to other people will only make you unhappy, and in no way does it improve your writing. Bad Writers are simply those who do not work toward their highest potential in their own writing.
Thus, while I am a horribly ‘bad writer’ most of the time, doing my work in such a way that I really could do much better, it has given me some insight into how small things can make a big difference in how good your final product is. Here are some tips:
Start 24 hours earlier: Whenever you think you will start that paper, try starting it one day before you need to. I know you are busy; you don’t have to tell me that you have no time. I say, give it a shot anyway. Eventually, starting things a day ahead will allow you to get into a habit of working ahead rather than falling behind, and while some people feed off the adrenaline of last minute work, most of us come very near a breakdown if we think our paper isn’t going to get done in time. The other thing is that if you wait until the last minute and discover you made a miscalculation (didn’t read the prompt accurately, or discover a spot that needs drastic revision) you have 24 hours that you would not have had before. It’s a good feeling, and it will produce better papers.
Don’t Fear the Intro: If you are a person who benefits from outlines, mind maps, and other forms of pre-writing, by all means use them. However, begin to notice if you are taking lots of notes, making multiple outlines, and doing everything but starting your paper. While you do need to do all your reading and research, at some point, you have to conquer the fear of writing enough to just get started. If you hate writing introductions, then don’t! Just start into the middle of your paper, or the conclusion, or SOMETHING. Frame your paper around whatever is easiest to begin. Writing papers out-of-order is really okay, as long as you just START WRITING. Remember, however, to go back and make sure all your paragraphs end up where you want them when you are done.
Read it out loud: Pretend like your paper is a dramatic monologue, go into your closet or somewhere where you won’t be embarrassed, and act that paper. A few things will happen here: you will notice words that just don’t flow together, for starters, because words that don’t flow when you say them won’t flow when other people read them. You will see when you change the subject too abruptly, or spend a LOT of time on a small subject and too little time on a huge one. Plus, since you are having to read it quickly and well, you will notice smaller errors, like misspellings. Keep a pen with you so that you can pause immediately in your theatricizing and make any corrections you run into.
Use that Assignment Sheet: True, some teachers assign one-sentence topics for compositions, but hopefully you have at least a little more than that. When you are stuck or feeling off-topic, go back and reread whatever your teacher has given you about your paper, and ask questions line by line: “Am I accomplishing this? Is THIS sentence contributing to my overall goal?” The holes in your paper will emerge when you look at the requirements, and that can get you out of a stuck spot.
These are not particularly brilliant, awe-inspiring tips, but neither will they take much time. They will, however, allow you to start pulling yourself out of the rut of being a “bad writer,” because all “bad writers,” regardless of skill, have the potential to be good writers! If you employ good writing habits, you will be able to be proud of your work when you turn it in, regardless of the grade that you end up with, because you will know you tried your best.
by Katherine J. Chen
Moxie is defined as “the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage.” (The Free Dictionary)
The word “moxie” can be used in a variety of contexts:
1. Penelope had the moxie to try escargot for the first time.
2. His writing had a newfound moxie, which was completely unexpected by his critics.
3. Cynthia possesses the moxie to figure out a problem when everyone else has already given up.
The origins of the word “moxie” come from a carbonated beverage which was mass-produced in the United States during the late 19th century. The soft drink remains regionally popular to this day.
A patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food” was introduced in 1876 by Dr. Augustin Thompson. Thompson claimed that the contents of this medicine were extracted from an exotic South African plant discovered by a friend of his, Lieutenant Moxie (who was later found out to be fictitious). This nerve food was generated to relieve insomnia and paralysis of the brain. A few years later, Thompson added soda water to the formula and began calling the medicine “Beverage Moxie Nerve Food.” The carbonated drink began to sell en masse because it was so heavily marketed. The drink was bitter but also sweet, and the taste was new.
Moxie was endorsed by a number of prominent figures including Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and even author E.B. White. When the company cut back on its intense marketing campaign, sales of Moxie soda began to decline in the 1930s. Moxie has a distinct taste due to “Gentian Root Extractives” and is still in demand today, particularly in New England.
The neologism “moxie” has taken on new meaning as a result of the company’s widespread commercials, advertisements, and former popularity. The word now suggests energy, vision, and bravery.