The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Be a Jerk! Or Do the Jerk---Whichever Hits the Spot

(Note: Not to be confused with the song "Cool Jerk" although feel free to break into dance, if the spirit moves you...)
                                                          Cool Jerk

            Yesterday the group Saturday Writers met in St. Peters, Missouri as they always do. Our guest  speaker was Joe Holleman from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

            Some of the information he shared was a great reminder. Start with an engaging lead (which is spelled "lede" when speaking in newspaper-talk). Make the story "human" by putting a human voice in your story. Avoid the passive voice and weak quotes. Those were all things I know, but sometimes forget, so to be reminded of them was definitely worthwhile.

            His advice to "read your work out loud" when revising and editing made me nod my head knowingly. As a teacher, when I read my students' work (a constructed response answer, or a story, for example) I read it aloud. I even tell my kids, if they're standing next to me as I do it, "You may think I'm crazy, but I'm reading it out loud because if I read it silently, if words or parts are left out, my brain will fill them in and I won't even know it."

           I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with other teachers or writers, and have caught mistakes they overlooked, not because I'm some crackerjack editor, but because I read with my lips moving. Our brains are incredible things; they will sneak in and fill in the missing puzzle pieces and not even inform us.  We need to be cognizant of any voids or awkward spots...

        However, what really stuck in my mind from his talk is five simple words:

               Be a jerk to yourself.
               What he meant was it's crucial we do the required cutting and slashing and editing before anyone else sees it, especially an editor.  (Holleman started frothing at the mouth when he spoke of editors; he said that if he writes cleanly, and gets the reputation as a clean writer, the chances that an editor will have to "mess up" his writing decreases dramatically.)

                We cannot be so enamored with our own writing that we declare it perfect/brilliant/moving without working hard (and hard-heartedly) to make it tighter...clearer...more powerful.

photo by g d townshende

               This connected with a post I read earlier this week. C. Hope Clark can connect anything (and I do mean anything) with writing. I think she could be blowing her nose, have the tissue tear a bit, and it would prompt her to write a detailed and informative post about the writing process and how it's like that torn tissue...I might be overstating her powers, but I don't think so.  Read her post on Friday, March 25 where she connects the art of raising chickens and roosters to the art of writing. You be the  judge.

              And finally today, welcome to my newest follower, Tony Benson.  He writes what I wish I could:  science fiction and fantasy. He has three blogs. One of them is Fireside Park.  Check this one out, along with his other two. (How can he maintain two? I can barely write for one!) Thank you, Tony for following me.


  1. Well, fine. DO some seminar. Don't give a thought to yesterday's deeply offended and ignored spirit, to say nothing of this morning's. whatever! See if i care.

    Now then...

    I can mashed potato

    I can do the twist

    Now tell me, baby

    Do ya like it like this?

    Oops, it was supposed to be the jerk. I'm working on it! And you're right so right about reading out loud.


    "By the shores of Gitchegumee,

    In England's green and pleasant land,

    Do you love me, baby,

    Now that I can dance?"

    God, I'm good.

  2. Cool Jerk! Oh yeah! I'm a singin' and a dancin' right here in my chair! :D
    I loved everything you said here, as usual. I'm thrilled to hear people say they really enjoyed Joe's presentation. What a neat guy!

  3. Hey Sioux,
    Great headline and lede (lead).
    Joe's advice to "Be a jerk to yourself" stuck with me, but even more the lyrics to the song "Swinging" that he talked about playing while he was a DJ in Chester.
    What a great speaker. You and Becky and all the board of Saturday Writers do an awsome job each month.

  4. Great post, Sioux! "Be a jerk to yourself" is good advice. I need to do more of that so my comments and posts won't be so darn long all the time!

  5. Love it. Sorry I missed the meeting! Sounds like it was a good one!

    And thanks for the Nutella offer on my blog! If I can ever catch my daughter aka the World Wide Traveler in between her comings and goings, I'll ask her if she had that!


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