Monday, September 12, 2011

Blissful Ignorance

Back on July 11, 2011, I posted “Writing a Cleverly Crafted Sentence.” It advocated using mentor sentences as practice to improve one’s writing. It may not sound like fun, but let’s throw something else into the mix – passion, emotion, uncertainty.
Here we are exactly two months later on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2011. Let’s revisit this concept with that in mind. . . .  
Several years ago, while I was still in the classroom, I used the following sentence with my juniors in an American Literature class.  We had just finished reading a funny, short story by Rick Reilly, entitled “Funny You Should Ask.”  I found the first sentence so curiously constructed that I decided to use it as an impromptu grammar and syntax lesson.  “Real” sentences are immensely better learning opportunities than something out of the old “Practical English Grammar” books I had as a child.
Here is the sentence in a vertical column on the left broken into its word chunks (phrases, clauses, single words).  Next to it is my attempt at emulating the same structure, except I used September 11, 2001 as my lead. 
I hope you try it as a writing practice and as a way to record that terrible moment in our lives.
April 12, 1999 -                                      September 11, 2001 –
So we were lying                                    So we were working
on our backs                                            in our groups
on the grass                                             at our desks
in the park                                               in our journals,
next to our hamburger wrappers,           happy in our blissful ignorance,
my fourteen-year-old son and I,             my twenty-six juniors and I,
watching the clouds loiter overhead,   helping each other create nonsense,
when he asked me,                            when a fellow teacher startled us,
“Dad,                                                      “Raquel,
why are we here?”                                  Have you seen the news?”

I would love to see what you create.  Post on here or on my Facebook.  God bless America.

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