Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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Here’s How Long It Took To Write Your Favorite Book

Here’s How Long It Took To Write Your Favorite Book | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Who's the speediest novelist of them all?
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
2 October 2016

The title says it all. Interesting graphic. Several titles are popular in classroom curricula. Any surprises?

By the way, titles are listed by not only "time to write" but also number of pages.

Try this, find the book with the longest writing time AND the least number of pages and calculate the time per page rate.

And of course the reverse math with the title with the shortest writing time AND the most number of pages.

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The nit-picking glory of The New Yorker's Comma Queen

The nit-picking glory of The New Yorker's Comma Queen | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
"Copy editing for The New Yorker is like playing shortstop for a Major League Baseball team -- every little movement gets picked over by the critics," says Mary Norris, who has played the position for more than thirty years. In that time, she's gotten a reputation for sternness and for being a "comma maniac," but this is unfounded, she says. Above all, her work is aimed at one thing: making authors look good. Explore The New Yorker's distinctive style with the person who knows it best in this charming talk.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
16 April 2016

I found this Ted Talk by a copy editor for the New Yorker fascinating on a number of accounts. 

1. She does not take herself too seriously (whew!)
2. She takes her job incredibly seriously (love that too!)
3. She makes it clear that even the best writers may not be experts at grammar and/or usage.
4. There is room for differences of opinions regarding best grammar and/or usage

And, all of this from a copy editor for the New Yorker; certainly a publication with impressive "creds!"

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'Voice' Isn't the Point of Writing

'Voice' Isn't the Point of Writing | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Whether crafting fiction or how-to manuals, self-expression is a negotiation.
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30 November 2014


The gauntlet has been thrown down in this article.  Will you accept the challenge? (rhetorically speaking that is.

; -)


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Txtng is killing language. JK!!!

Txtng is killing language. JK!!! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Does texting mean the death of good writing skills? John McWhorter posits that there’s much more to texting -- linguistically, culturally -- than it seems, and it’s all good news.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

2 November 2014


I'm so wanting to dump my own take on this article upon those reading these comments. And, knowing me, I probably will, at least to some extent before I hit the publish button.


Yet, at the same time, I'd love to resist that temptation in favor of making the following suggestion. 



1. Gather the members of your staff in the same room to watch this video.


2. Let them know up front that it is only 13 minutes and 48 seconds long. You may know why this is important information to give up front.


3. Have everyone fold a sheet of paper in half "hot dog" not "hamburger." (can't help but wonder how many do and how many don't understand this step)


4. Ask that people watch without comment until the end of the video in order not to influence each other's initial reaction.


5. While watching suggest that people merely put a check mark on the left side of the paper crease whenever the speaker's comment is in alignment with their own thoughts and a check mark on the right side whenever the speaker's comment is not in alignment with their own thoughts. (It's not important to note the actual point the speaker made, but rather to quickly note a countable number of moments of alignment and non-alignment.)


6. At the end of the video have everyone tally the checks in each column. 


7. (This is a challenge) Say nothing and wait for a conversation to begin.



1. Read the directions for Version 1.


2. Watch the video at your convenience.


3. Imagine what the conversation might have been like had you pulled off the Version 1 process.



I'll be darned! I did it! I think I managed to get to the end without dumping my own take on you.



Thanks to one of my dear former students, Rebecca Fortelka, who taught me a whole lot about powerful communication skills, for suggesting this video. 


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Sean Hutchinson's curator insight, November 6, 2014 4:31 AM

It's amazing how difficult putting pen to paper has become. Sometimes I think I need to go back to Kindergarden with my Niece to learn basic grammar and how to spell:). Scary and an eye opener for sure.

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A Linguistic Analysis Of Donald Trump Shows Why People Like Him So Much

A Linguistic Analysis Of Donald Trump Shows Why People Like Him So Much | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Sometimes when he speaks he seems erratic and unfocused, but this careful dissection of the Donald’s speech patterns shows the unusual way he talks is actually very deliberate.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
1 October 2016

This is NOT an attempt to influence my readers' political views. It really isn't even about the validity or lack of validity of Donald Trump's or any other candidate's political views. It's about the importance of a common core focus relating to Informational Reading; or as is the case in this particular video, about the importance of helping our students polish their skills in informational LISTENING. That is our Information Intake skills.

Oh! and it's not about Common Core either!

It's about what we often do not hear when we have only limited listening skills.

I would not be surprised if many who are tasked with promoting skills in informational reading/listening fear even using today's level of public discourse as examples in class, as in doing so, they might then be subject to a sort of negative Pavlovian response by those in a community jumping to the conclusion that this or that candidate is being promoted over that or this candidate.

I suppose if I were to have the nerve to bring this video into class as a "linguistic analysis" exercise, I would start with a couple of rules:
1. We will not be discussing the merits of one candidate over the other. 
2. We want to focus strictly upon the linguistic analysis of how speakers can use words so that their audience "hears" what the speaker wants them to hear. 
3. That is, after watching the video, Mr. Trump's opinions will be considered a DIGRESSION in this discussion. 

Our goal is to see what we can learn about HOW to listen.

As a follow up class discussion I might first remind students that we are not going to argue the political position of any candidate. Then discuss one of the following:

1 How might what we can learn from this video be helpful in getting others to hear our ideas as honest attempts to communicate. For example, short sentences are easier to listen to than more complex sentences.

2 What examples might you point to in your own experience with people trying to convince you (or others) to change your mind? 

3. How might this video help you distinguish between an argument using these skills to help inform and an argument using these same skills to disinform?

I don't know. But, I do know that regardless of one's political views, the depth of our skill sets for informed analysis via reading as well as listening to opposing views has become critical for every aspect of being a 21st century citizen.

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Steinbeck Young Authors :: National Steinbeck Center

Steinbeck Young Authors :: National Steinbeck Center | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California - Our mission is to tell the
story of John Steinbeck’s rich legacy and to present, create and explore stories of the human
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

10 February 2015


It's a two National Steinbeck Center Scoop-it Day!


In my previous blog I mentioned that I try to get down to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California a couple of times a year. One of the events I've become a bit of a regular volunteer as a writing coach for is the annual Steinbeck Young Authors Day of Writing. 


They are always looking for writing coaches for this event. Thought I'd pass along this information for anyone who might be interested in working with young writers from schools in the area. It's only a couple of hours, and a wonderful opportunity to work with kids, meet the wonderful staff at the Steinbeck Center, and chat with other volunteer coaches all of whom have their own intriguing stories to share.


I'll be there. Hope to see some of you as well.


And, by the way... If you read my previous blog entry, you'll notice that the Day of Writing is on the Monday following the FREE event celebrating Steinbeck's 130th birthday on Saturday.


Now that's a great excuse for a mini-getaway for any Steinbeck fan. 


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How Self-Expression Damaged My Students

How Self-Expression Damaged My Students | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A former South Bronx teacher recalls how his own idealism kept his class from learning how to write.
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30 November 2014

So... I have no idea whether you decided to read the article before reading my commentary or whether you read my comments and then the article. But, I know one thing for sure.


There is something to hate about the article for everyone.


And, there is a challenge for every teacher of writing to be open-minded in spite of his or her first impression.


Though there are other examples earlier in the article, here's a simple test. What is your initial reaction to the following quote?


"... Earlier this year, David Coleman, the principal architect of the widely adopted Common Core Standards, infamously told a group of educators, "As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don't give a shit about what you feel or what you think..."


Your reaction? Are you cheering or expressing chagrin because the Common Core's "principal architect" gave opponents a sound bite to use when criticizing the common core? 


Did you notice the ellipsis at the end of the quote above? Here are the following two sentences.


His bluntness made me wince, but his impulse is correct. We have overvalued personal expression..."



Personally, I struggled with the author's challenge, but met its demand and have much to think about as a result.


It seemed clear to me that I had some very clear differences of opinion with the author. I found serious criticisms of many of the practices that I did (and still do) consider best practices.  


YET... there was "something" that kept whispering to me that caused me just a bit of discomfort as the article's author, Robert Pondiscio, built his case. 


I had not previously heard the term "Cargo Cult." The authors explanation of the term provided an "ah Ha!" moment that at least to me was worth its weight in gold. 


I"m intentionally not commenting on my opinion of the the term so as to not bias your reaction.


I will say that in a sense, I've contemplated variations of the implications of the "Cargo Cult" concept as I've made a conscientious attempt to continually refine my personal understandings of best practice over the decades. Those contemplations I believe served me and my students well. 


My most recent personal metaphor for the concept has to do with lessons I learned while studying the science (as opposed to the art) of creating better black and white photographs. 


I have not read 50 Shades of Gray, but I did study Ansel Adams' Zone system whereby he broke black and white photography into 10 shades of gray. Simply put Black and white photographs are much more  an artistically arranged collection of  controllable shades of gray than they are images that are only black or white.


It's an obvious truth about photography in the literal sense. However, as a personal metaphor it's those shades of gray that make the difference between a snapshot and an exquisite final print. Once one accepts the obvious that there are shades of gray; and more than 10 at that, one can adapt that "truth" to one's opinions about "best practice" in the classroom. This is especially if one's opinions have begun to to huddle nearly exclusively towards either the nearly bright whites or nearly complete blacks of an opinion long held without adequate attention being given to revisiting the grayer areas between the black end or the white end of the grayscale. 


You may choose to speculate upon what I might be saying between the lines if you wish. But, I do hope that this article stimulates valuable contemplations about your current beliefs about best practice, as it did for me. 


 ~ ~

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These 11 Apps Will Help You Finally Finish Your Novel

These 11 Apps Will Help You Finally Finish Your Novel | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Jonathan Franzen, everyone's favorite literary grump, once said, "It's doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction." We understand what he's getting at: If you're embarking on the daunting and t...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

26 February 2014

Okay, so it was pretty crappy poetry. But, when you're a15 year old boy who wore glasses back then, when the hormones were whipping me around like King Kong, poetry, seemed like it might be an effective "chick magnet." I didn't even know what that term meant, I'd just heard it from the older guy who lived down the street. 


But, a funny thing happened as I was writing that "DA" (dumb-ass) Poetry. I didn't get any "girl friends." By the way, I blamed that on the glasses not the poetry. But, I did notice that I was getting a noticeably different kind of attention from a few of the girls who wondered what I was scribbling so much about lately. 


My previous attention getting strategy had served me well in that it got me attention. But, it was the attention most class clowns get. It was the "You made me laugh, but ..." kind of attention. "But, there's no connection between your being entertaining when class gets boring and my interest in making new friends."


Damn those glasses!


But, those "sweet smiles" from girls who found my attempts to capture "prettiness" in girls "kinda nice." 


It wasn't a deep dive and it took several years of casual on and offf interest, but as that interest developed, still competing with baseball and "guy stuff," I kind of liked writing bits and pieces of ideas most of which just remained valuable to me because I had impressed myself with a turn of phrase.


Truthfully, I don't actually remember the chronology, but I want to remember that my own  earliest interest in "personal writing" coincided  with my interest in the cleverness I'd noticed in bumper stickers and the edgy cleverness I'd discovered in Mad Magazine; particularly their parodies of famous movies.. The bottom line, in any case was that I "noticed" that my interest in reading fed my interest in writing and my interest in writing fed my interest in reading. 


Contrary to the popular mantra regarding the following of one's passions, it wasn't that. I wasn't passionate about reading or writing, it was just something among the many things that I casually added to the "sometimes I kind of like doing this or that list.


So with an interest in exploring fresh ideas about how to encourage our students to embrace reading as "one of the things they sometimes kind of like doing," I found this article of interest in that it does not take the standard, "I'm a teacher and I know what's good for students" position. (Though of course I do believe that teachers do know a heck of a lot about what's good for students)


There's a nice blend of serious (as in studious) and intriguing (as in that's kinda cool" apps here.


For example, recommend a dictionary app is kind of a yawner of a suggestion. Most devices have a sort of built in dictionary that can define any word instantly with a clever click on the word. On Macs, hovering over words in many apps and websites and then using a three finger click can bring the built-in dictionary to the screen with the word defined.  Or, a single "right click" on a word reveals a popup window where either the dictionary or a Google search can be instantly accessed.


But, apps such as the free Poetreat (which i had not previously discovered are "sort of cool." It provides multiple ways of exploring writing possibilities . My guess would be that there is a percentage of students in every class that might find this app an engaging way of motivating themselves to care about their writing.


The Hemingway app intrigued me as it utilizes colored coded editing strategies. (That is it will when it actually is ready) It's apparently going to be a desktop application rather than a mobile device; which attracts me because writing on mobile devices still has a few inconveniences, especially when one is writing lengthy pieces. I'd suggest clicking the link to at least see the promotional information. You will be asked if you might be interested in paying $5.00 for such an app. The choices are only "yes" or "no" which omits the idea that I might be willing to pay $5, but I'd have to "see" what I'm getting for that $5 before making a commitment. But, I found it intriguing enough to say "yes" which generated a popup window saying I'd be notified by email when the app was ready.


Maybe it's just me, but as I began this post, I was really thinking about the last two apps; Write or Die and SelfControl.

Write or Die caught my attention immediately because of the "threat." The first paragraph on the website says...


"Write or Die is an application for Windows, Mac and Linux which aims to eliminate writer's block by providing consequences for procrastination and, new to this version, rewards for accomplishment. Historically Write or Die has specialized in being the stick in the carrot/stick motivation continuum, but it's time to experiment with encouragement.""


And what's cool is the user gets to pick his or her preferred "motivation" including choices for those who prefer "carrots" and those who prefer "sticks" as motivators. There's even a very cool option to disable quitting. But it's the user who builds his or her own environment for engaging in writing.'

The large graphic at the top is interactive though for the most part it only shows options, but does not actually employ them in a working mock up. Be sure to look for the easy-to-overlook gray on black text explaining each option as you click on it.

By the way, it was that gray on black text that I missed for awhile that indicated that the list price is $20 which is sort of a lot given software prices nowadays. And there is also gray text that offers a discount to teachers that brings the price down to $15. A price that I determined I might be willing to pay after I'd later discovered the TRY button. It's actually pretty cool.


SelfControl puts control in the hands of the user; rather than in the hands of a parent, teacher, or overly-protective IT "support" person.


It's a simple concept. I need to temporarily remove distractions that I know very well that I have trouble resisting while working on a computer. I can temporarily block sites such as Twitter or Facebook, when I want to and for as long as I want to. Imagine letting students learn the art and value of self-control rather than letting the develop a resentment for someone else who imposes parent-control restrictions upon them.


My guess is that many of these tools will engage first and then provide a gold mine of motivation to explore and discover interests in both writing and reading that might pay greater dividends than those paid by imposed learning of what we think they should care about (even when, as is usually the case, we're right!)


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