Saturday, September 24, 2005

I Stayed Awake Until 3:47

I’d been writing all day, untangling Kindergarten “word-laces.” It had been like being inside the word boxes within which I’d been writing. Unwriting is a better description. I’d been leveling down text, turning somewhat musical prose into a four-note learning-to-read practice story.

Writing for new readers is labor intensive, filled with worrying over digraphs and dipthongs. Much time is spent checking whether kids have encountered r-controlled vowels or the alternate meaning of loaf. No glamour is waiting between these words. No subtext is between the lines. The pictures carry the story’s main load, but the words are what takes the most time. In fact for all of the thought that goes into the words, it’s sad in the end that they seem more like floor tile than the art that they are.

Like building a house, it’s purposeful work. Kids need books they can read from beginning to end—to feel the success of finding meaning. Even if grown-ups think it’s stilted and stiff, there’s nothing like the “I did it myself” feeling. So I go over, and over, and over each word, making sure it works for a child who’s beginning. The challenge must be Goldilocks “just right,’ not too easy or the book would be boring, not too hard or one more kid turned off to reading. I don’t want any kids not reading.

It was only 8 pages I finished today. At max it was 200 words. But every word was weighed one thousand ways—looked at, and spoken, and heard. I probably walked two miles while I wrote it and listened to four 80-minute CDs. But when I was done, I was sure a new reader could read it. I also knew a parent could hear it repeated endlessly.

I was exhausted and at least 10 years older when I finished that story.
Hungry for a grown-up writing, I went hunting for a sentence challenge. I accomplished that task at 3:21. Though I wanted to stretch my mind outward, my brain made it clear it was done. So I posted my intentions of writing, but I decided to take a nap first.

I stayed awake until 3:47.
I caught the 3:48 to dreamland.
—me strauss Letting me be

15 comments:

mojo shivers said...

I think you are a person of amazing creative caliber and I appreciate you for your insight and comments over at my sight. I think if there is anyone qualified to usher individuals new to reading into that milieu it would be you.

Oh, and I want you to know that I'm officially adding you to my list of favorite things.

ME Strauss said...

Hey Mojo,
Wow what really nice things you say. Makes a girl blush. Thanks for your confidence in my ability to help kids get a start in reading.

I've never been a "favorite thing" before. I don't think. BIG CHESHIRE CAT GRIN thank you.

smiles,
Liz

David said...

hi - just found you through patry's blogs. I LOVE to write but am just learning to share it. i will be back for more! Blessings!

ME Strauss said...

Hi David,
Welcome.
We like writers here.
Glad you could stop by.

zilla said...

The power of suggestion is amazing and amusing. You know I had read your earlier post with the first mention of the magic sentence.

Last night I decided to relax in front of the TV I never watch. I fell alseep in front of CNN and dreamt that if we all unplug the wires from our heads, all of the water will drain out of the deep south, and everything will be okay again. I woke up perplexed, and, with a stiff shoulder, hiked upstairs to brush my teeth. On my way to bed I glanced at the clock:

3:47am.

That was good for a chuckle, to say the least.

ME Strauss said...

Hey Zilla,

Great story. Now you woke up at 3:47 too. Maybe you and I are the same person. Now there's a thought that would scare some people.

smiles,
Liz

garnet said...

I was listening to the BBC at 3:47 AM and as I drifted off (I use it to lull me to sleep) I could swear I heard the announcer say, "and blond blogger Liz Me Strauss has succeede in making 3:47 the most talked about time since noon and midnight were invented" Uncanny!

ME Strauss said...

Ah Garnet!
I love how you make me laugh.
So I'm famous in the UK now. Uncanny indeed.

Tanda said...

Liz, you keep good company. It's very appropriate that the comments are at the bottom of the post because after the post they are the next most entertaining thing to read here!
---
I hope to never be awake at 3:47 am. It would mean something was terribly amiss in my house.
---
You're an inspiration, Liz. I'll be working on my methods and doing research on different types of articles today. :0)

ME Strauss said...

Tanda,
Thanks, you know you're part of that good company I keep. The discussion kind of carries itself along through the whole community. Which is how it should go.

I'm falling in love with the people who stop by here.

smiles,
Liz

easywriter said...

Fortunate new readers to have you to draw them to the written word.

ME Strauss said...

Why thank you, easywriter.
I only wish it paid more. (grin)
But I can't complain it's managing to get my son through college.

smiles,
Liz

zilla said...

If you and I were the same person ... this would be, among other things, good news for my hair.

Because you are a writer and a blogger, I'm curious about your take on the situation over at Gas Guy's blog. If you have a spare moment, tell me what you think of his most recent post and the comments thereafter. If you aren'tfamiliar with him, he's on my links list.

ME Strauss said...

'Zilla,
I read it and I am infuriated. The man is a cynic and twisted. His readers have every right to feel violated. A writer should have respect for the people who read.

Liz.

Anonymous said...

I'm starving!