"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The great sentence searches

"A SOAKING June rain is blowing sideways through the meatpacking district of Manhattan, pummeling umbrellas and already grim retail sales. Above the cobblestone streets, in her Balinese-inspired living room-cum-office, Diane von Furstenberg is stretched like a cat on the couch, coolly gazing beyond the Buddha statues and glass terrace doors at the rain"--New York Times, by Stephanie Rosenbloom

One of the techniques I use in teaching writing is the "great sentence search." I make my students find a sentence or two that just jumps off the page, one where you can tell the author had fun writing it, one that when they were through made them say, "Yeah, that's it!" with the satisfaction of creation and triumph. Most of my students don't know good writing from poor writing, because they don't read much, and they have to be exposed to good writing if they're going to improve. As I think back over my years teaching, all of my students who are good writers were copious readers.

Such are the two sentences from today's NY Times business section.

You can tell the writer had fun writing a sentence (even if they sweated blood over it before it was done), when you have fun reading it, and say to yourself, in the worlds of my last mentor and friend, Harry Heath, "I wish I had written that."

That's brewing in my coffee pot.


  1. I ain't never read a book in my life.

    What's that say about my writing?


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