"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

'The Great Sentence Search' rewarded in North Dakota

"Water trucks in the parking lot wore petticoats of mud."
 Teaching writing is in many ways, teaching reading. Students have to be exposed to quality to learn how to write well, and that means slowing down, looking closely at well chosen words and sentences --something that is increasingly a challenge in these attention-deficit times of digital media and text messaging.
That's why for several years I've conducted what I call "The Great Sentence Search," using the New York Times, which our students get every day and I require in my classes.
You can tell when a writer really had fun writing a specific sentence. because you have fun reading it. It;s when everything came together, and once written, the writer either smiled, or savored the taste of the sentence, or gave himself/herself a raised clinched fist with the silent or verbal, "Yeah!"
The assignment is simple. You can find these sentences throughout the Times, business section, styles, art, sports, news. Find one, bring it to class, and we'll read them and talk about why they're great.
Today I found the above sentence in the middle of a paragraph of a terrific story "North Dakota Went Boom" about the oil boom in North Dakota in the New York Times Magazine, written by Chip Brown with excellent black and white photos by Alec Soth.
What imagery, what story telling, in just ten words. Here's the link. Enjoy:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/magazine/north-dakota-went-boom.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Here's another:
"...like many North Dakotans, he includes government regulation in the same category of pleasant experiences as droughts, floods, grasshoppers and prairie fires."
Fun reading, because the writer had fun putting the words together.

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