Posts Tagged ‘instruction’

The Teacher’s Kid

February 20, 2012 4 comments


Growing up in the Midwest during the 50’s and 60’s took less effort than it does today, or that’s how it seems from my perspective.

I wouldn’t be a teen today for any amount of money. My friends and I had greater freedoms then; greater responsibilities as well, I suppose, especially those of us who lived in the country. I can only speak from that perspective since I didn’t have the “townie” frame of reference.

We country kids grew up with a different sense of the world. Take hunting and fishing, for example. Most of our dads did both. Sometimes Moms helped out in that hunter-gatherer pursuit. I know mine did.

When I was in elementary school, it seemed that Dad went fishing every weekend. There are family photos that show some of his catches; catfish, bass, crappie, and others. Much of the time his preference was catfish. He and a few of his friends would spend the weekends at the river or large creeks in the county and they’d fish. We had a freezer full of fish at all times.

Perhaps this explains why the smell of catfish makes me wretch; over-exposure at an early age.

Hunting worked much the same way. Dad took me squirrel hunting when I was about six. He gave up that idea because I couldn’t see well enough to avoid pit-falls, small twigs in my path, and other noise-makers. I also could never see the prey in the trees. My participation, therefore, was pointless. I would never be Diana on the hunt.

Bless his heart; he just couldn’t give up hope for me. When I was about eight, he stood me outside, facing the door to the shed, on which was tacked a homemade target. In his hands was a .22 caliber short-stock rifle. Thus began my instruction in the use of firearms. I practiced until he was satisfied that I could consistently hit the target and then the bulls-eye. As soon as I accomplished that, I didn’t have to do it anymore.

Of course, he wasn’t serious about me using a rifle to go hunting. I don’t have a memory of his taking me rabbit hunting, for instance. I would succeed with that only when the prey stood still, giving me a clear field for a heart shot. I doubt that would have ever happened.

At age thirteen, I received my introduction to archery. By my own reckoning, I did well enough. I don’t remember losing too many arrows. My brother took his training with me. He’d completed and passed his other trials with flying colors and went on to hunt very successfully with his own bow and arrows. I never hunted that kind of prey.

During those early years Dad taught me all sorts of skills, most of which I can’t remember now unless conditions are absolutely perfect. He delivered regular dissertations on local flora identification with explanations of purpose, leaves, bark (if any), resident fauna, and other lessons.

Along the way, brother and I learned how the climate affected our small part of the world, why certain species grew on one hillside but not in the hollows, as well as other natural science topics. Every day held its lessons, though we seldom thought of them that way. We knew that he wanted us to understand the world we lived in, from the ground up.

His guided lessons in the hunter-gatherer framework prepared us to take up our responsibility for our planet, our immediate portion of the planet, and to accept those responsibilities as both guardians and reapers.

I wish millions more people could have studied with Dad and his friends. Perhaps less destruction would have taken over the world, if they’d been made guardians, too.

This one aspect of my father never diminished. He’s kept his knowledge and passes much of it on to his great-grandchildren. It doesn’t look like he’s going to close that classroom for a while yet.



Reading With Purpose

February 21, 2011 1 comment

If you haven’t already read the February 2011 issue of The Writer Magazine, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of it and absorbing it from front to back. Not only does the reader learn about the latest contest winner and get to read a super-interesting new story, but there are also several lessons in writing that will hold their footing anywhere.

A profile that will grab your attention and hold it for as long as you have memory is one written by Bob Blaisdell. He writes about a little recognized writer by the name of Jorge Luis Borges.

This man who had almost no vision is described as “a thoroughly literary being” and from the examples given of his talent, I’d have to agree. He did things with words and concepts that I’ve never seen before. And now that I’ve seen those examples, I’ll never look at my writing the same way again. His one piece of advice for writers was “Let your imagination out to play.”

Though he’s gone now his writings and his examples will live on to inspire and instruct those who’ve come after. Be sure to study Borges’s technique as revealed in Blaisdell’s profile of this little-known author.

Mark Wagstaff’s prize-winning story is showcased along with a great little biography of the writer. The magazine also chose to annotate with the contest judge’s evaluation and reasons for choosing this story as the winner. This read shows much of what a current editor might be looking for in submissions in the way of style, tautness of structure, etc. There’s a lot packed into less than 2000 words here.

Literary fiction author, Charles Baxter does an interview with Luke Reynolds. Baxter talks about how writers need to remain true to their stories and the characters who live within them. Reynolds calls Baxter one of the contemporary masters of literary fiction. That’s a title hard to come by today. If you want to see how a modern literary author, with stories made into movies, thinks and works, this should be a can’t-miss interview for you.

Stephen Delaney takes the reader into the mind of the character by showing how to use the character’s thoughts to help tell important parts of the story as well as unveil character backstory, personality traits, physicality, etc. without having to use narrative in the usual way. His point is to show how to create the drama of a piece by using those thoughts. This was a great instruction piece and well worth holding on to, regardless of the genre involved in one’s writing.

There are more interviews, more instruction pieces, and oodles of extras that The Writer is so good at laying at the feet of writers. And if you can’t get your hands on the physical magazine, drop onto the website at:

Peruse the website and enjoy all the goodies available there. Sign up to get updates, if you wish. They come in handy.

And in case anyone wonders if this is advertising for the mag, I can tell you that they don’t need me to spread the word about their offerings. I just wanted to clue in those who don’t already subscribe or visit the site as to what they’re missing. This month’s issue is an especially good one. At least, for me it was.

Next time I’ll deal with another subject. Have a magnificent week, all. Until you drop in again, a bientot.