Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Gathering Knowledge One Sentence at a Time

November 10, 2011 7 comments

Before I came down with pneumonia a few weeks ago, I decided to broaden my knowledge base again. I have a habit, as most writers do, of taking a course at a time to sharpen skills and create a better base for writing.

This time I’m working on one of the courses from The Great Courses group. It’s called “Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft,” lectures by Professor Brooks Landon of The University of Iowa. As most writers know, The U of I is one of the top schools for learning the writing craft. I figured what did I have to lose but some time each day for a DVD lecture and a couple of exercises.

The one thing I expected isn’t what I’ve found in this course. I expected to hear about grammar and all those SPAG (Spelling and Grammar) errors that plague writers no end. Instead, I found lectures on how to decipher the meanings of sentences, the language that’s used to express the writer’s intent.

That’s something I’ve never seen in any writing course or English class I’ve ever taken. For the first time I’m being taught how to use semantics and syntax to get my message across. I’m learning about propositions of sentences rather than prepositions. I’m learning how to write more effectively by knowing what, exactly, my words are portraying.

This is the best little 24-lecture course I’ve ever seen and I wish I’d found it a long time ago. Let me give you a wee taste of what I mean. A proposition is defined in this course as a statement in which the subject is affirmed or denied by the predicate.

Professor Landon says, “Propositions carry emotional or effective impact that has nothing to do with the grammatical expression or surface structure that advances that proposition in a sentence. It is only when we consider the emotional effect of the way we order and combine the propositions that underlie the sentences we speak or write that we can consider ourselves in control of our writing.”

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? In a very real way it is scary. When the student (me) began doing one of the first exercises, I was dumbfounded to see the many permutations of meaning carried within one short sentence, and for longer/more complex sentences, the meaning seemed to grow exponentially. At the end of the fourth lecture I’d come to know how intuitive understanding is based on such actual cues as “in” rather than “on”, or “understand” rather than “comprehend” and so on down the line.

I’ve come to the conclusion that through all of my education, training, and experience, I’ve only now advanced to a place where I can appreciate this course and the grit and beauty of building great sentences. If I study hard and apply myself to this course with as much continued enthusiasm as I have now, the benefits afforded me by its teaching will forever dictate how I write and why. And the real beauty of it is that I can use this knowledge for any type of writing, including poetry.

I recommend this learning tool to all who appreciate a well-written sentence. For essayists, novelists, children’s writers, poets, anyone who works with words, this will work for you. For educators it’s a must.

My challenge for you: Locate and define each of the propositions in the following sentence.

”I’ve come to the conclusion that through all of my education, training, and experience, I’ve only now advanced to a place where I can appreciate this course and the grit and beauty of building great sentences.”

Until we meet again in the classroom,

A bientot,


NOTE: For any who would like to investigate the offerings of The Great Courses, you can go to their site at:


A Day In The Life…

September 3, 2010 1 comment

If you read my last post you know that much of what I do entails thinking of ideas and forging them into some semblance of acceptable reading material. That is what writers do.

The question is: What else do writers do with their time each day?

I can only clue you in as to what I do. Right now I’m beginning The Artist’s Way course. Therefore, the very first thing of the day is my Daily Pages. If I’m working at home on a given day, I deal with correspondence before moving on to website perusal.

I can’t speak about why other people check out websites. I have specific ones I follow. I’m also a member of SeededBuzz , which promotes the viewing of member blogs, etc. (Check out SeededBuzz if you’re curious. I’m a member of several groups of varied interest. I also look for specific information about agents, editors, publishers, etc.–the usual business end information towards writing. That activity takes care of the clock until around noon.

Of course, within that is also social networking. That’s a must for any writer today. We were told that, we listened, and we do it. Simple as that.

And whether anyone else mentions it or not, I try to keep myself in support mode for all of my writer friends. Everyone talks about writing being a solitary and lonely life. I’m here to tell you that it’s only lonely if you don’t create a circle of writing friends with whom to keep in constant communications.

I have so many wonderful friends and acquaintances within the writing community that I never have adequate time to talk to half of them on a regular basis. But, I do keep apprised of their doings and hopefully, they keep an eye on mine as well. My life and theirs are busy and harried sometimes. That’s to be expected. But we rally when one of our own is hurting or in need of an extra pat on the back or shoulder to cry on.

So I always try to use at least one half to one full hour each day to make sure I’ve connected with those who need something extra that day. There will come a time (and has already) when I’ve been the one being buoyed up by these same friends. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever known.

The afternoon gets used for actual writing, whether non-fiction, fiction, journalism pieces, what-have-you. Then, too, it depends on whether submission deadlines loom in the near future and I’m struggling to catch up. Those deadlines take precedence, as every writer knows.

The evenings go through a kaleidoscope of activities. I might be studying research material, reading and studying writing course information/lessons/etc. or working on a piece previously written but not polished. It all depends on if I need a break from the computer and how badly I need rest.

Occasionally, as I did for the past couple of days, I take a major break from active writing. Or, I tag along on a photo shoot with my sister. We’re   making plans for the future which are exciting, intriguing, and scary all rolled into a convenient carrying case called the “Unknown Next Few Months.”

We’re trying to do away with plans other than those immediate ones that call our names and point in interesting directions. I’ve heard that kind of living called “spontaneous,” but I’ve never allowed it take hold before. I’m hoping to do better in future. We’ll have to see how things play out on a couple of fronts before we can commit ourselves to going to the gypsy mindset completely.

So, there you have my day, my life, my example, poor as it may be.

Wishes? Sure, I have them, with more arriving every day. Plans? More like desires than plans. Contingencies come into play always. I can’t do without those.

And my writer’s day. I’m here, aren’t I. I have two blogs, write for Associated Content, have begun doing book reviews, am gearing up to begin again with interviews, and have a few other irons in the fire.

Anyone one of those could control my day according to whatever schedule happens to hold sway that day. Take your pick and remember–You, too, could have a day like mine.

A bientot,