Be a Pundit–or Just Play One for a Couple of Weeks

The Washington Post is holding op-ed tryouts: enter by Oct. 21, and try on the role of talking head (outside of class).


Stories Make the Case

In a study that pitted “pure logic” in a legal brief against logic embellished with context and details, law professor Kenneth Chestik found that the well-reasoned story won over judges, lawyers, law professors, and just about every other reader (except law clerks, who split down the middle).

Should we be teaching storytelling alongside argumentation?

APA Rubric

As I compile a list of links to writing rubrics, I found this guide from Framingham State College concentrating on APA style (6th edition).  Looks useful.

Bibliophiles March on Washington

The National Book Festival encamps on the Mall this Saturday, 10 am – 5:30 pm, with authors ranging from historian Douglas Brinkley to Wimpy Kid sensation Jeff Kinney.  It’s a great deal–free!

Feel like Surfing?

Yeah, it’s Friday so I’m thinking about the beach. Not really. But it is a good time to surf around on the web and call it work. One great place to land? ProfHacker, featuring “Tips and Tutorials for Higher Ed” I’ll post the link in our links section, but here it is now if you’re looking for some new ideas on a wide variety of topics:  On today’s front page there are posts on teacher-centered vs. learner centered learning, and teaching political science with technology.

Another great resource?  Tomorrow’s Professor, sponsored by the Stanford Teaching and Learning Center.  This is actually a listserv that you can have delivered to your email inbox, or you can browse past topics at the site. They often have short summaries of longer books or articles that are quick and useful. What’s your favorite?

And You Thought Your Writing Ritual Was Odd…

This one of the eclectic daily doses of nonfiction from

“Dame Edith Sitwell used to lie in an open coffin for a while before she began her day’s writing. When I mentioned this macabre bit of gossip to a poet friend, he said acidly, ‘If only someone had thought to shut it.’ …

“Sitwell’s coffin trick may sound like a prank, unless you look at how other writers have gone about courting their muses. … For example, the poet Schiller used to keep rotten apples under the lid of his desk and inhale their pungent bouquet when he needed to find the right word. Then he would close the drawer, but the fragrance remained in his head. …

“Amy Lowell, like George Sand, liked to smoke cigars while writing, and went so far in 1915 as to buy 10,000 of her favorite Manila stogies to make sure she could keep her creative fires kindled. … Balzac drank more than 50 cups of coffee a day, and actually died from caffeine poisoning, although colossal amounts of caffeine don’t seem to have bothered W. H. Auden or Dr. Johnson, who was reported to have drunk 25 cups of tea at one sitting. Victor Hugo, Benjamin Franklin and many others felt that they did their best work if they wrote while they were nude. …

“Colette used to begin her day’s writing by first picking fleas from her cat, and it’s not hard to imagine how the methodical stroking and probing into fur might have focused such a voluptuary’s mind. After all, this was a woman who could never travel light, but insisted on taking a hamper of such essentials as chocolate, cheese, meats, flowers and a baguette whenever she made even brief sorties. …

“Alfred de Musset, George Sand’s lover, confided that it piqued him when she went directly from lovemaking to her writing desk, as she often did. But surely that was not so direct as Voltaire’s actually using his lover’s naked back as a writing desk. Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain and Truman Capote all used to lie down when they wrote, with Capote going so far as to declare himself ‘a completely horizontal writer.’ …

“Benjamin Franklin, Edmond Rostand and others wrote while soaking in a bathtub. In fact, Franklin brought the first bathtub to the United States in the 1780’s, and he loved a good, long, thoughtful submersion. In water and ideas, I mean. …

“The Romantics, of course, were fond of opium, and Coleridge freely admitted to indulging in two grains of it before working. The list of writers triggered to inspirational highs by alcohol would occupy a small, damp book. T. S. Eliot’s tonic was viral – he preferred writing when he had a head cold. The rustling of his head, as if full of petticoats, shattered the usual logical links between things and allowed his mind to roam.”

Diane Ackerman, “O Muse! You Do Make Things Difficult!” The New York Times, Sunday, November 12, 1989, Section 7, Page 1.

Writing Opportunity for Full-Time Upperclassmen

Please tell your  juniors and seniors about the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest, which has a deadline of January 8, 2010.  It comes with honor and glory and a $5K first prize–and seems a particular good fit for MU.

Even better, can you help students identify some writing they have done for class that might form the basis for this essay?

(This is an annual prize, topics announced in September, so might it also inspire an assignment?)

I would be happy to serve as a reader/writing consultant for any student working on a contest essay.

Suggested Essay Topics:

÷ What does your own experience tell you about the relationship between politics and ethics and, in particular, what could be done to make politics more ethical?

÷ Articulate with clarity an ethical issue that you have encountered and analyze what it has taught you about ethics and yourself.

÷ From a personal viewpoint, how does globalization impact your view of the Other in society and in the world?

÷ Clearly analyze the relationship between religion and ethics in today’s world.

÷  Examine the ethical implications of a decision, dilemma, or situation related to the current economic crisis.

All this information can be found at the Elie Wiesel Foundation Website, ethics prize section:

What the Readers Look For:

÷ Clear articulation and genuine grappling with an ethical dilemma

÷ Adherence to guidelines and carefully proofread essays

÷ Observation of rules for Standard English usage (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing and revising your work

÷ Thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays

÷ Originality and imagination

÷ Eloquence of writing style

÷ Intensity and unity in the essay

Essay Format:

÷ In 3,000 to 4,000 words, students are encouraged to raise questions, single out issues and identify dilemmas.

÷ Essays may be written in the formal or informal voice, but most importantly, an individual voice should be evident in the essay.

÷ The essay should be developed from the student’s point of view and may take the form of an analysis that is biographical, historical, literary, philosophical, psychological, sociological or theological.

÷ Essay must be the original, unpublished work of one student.  Only one essay per student per year may be submitted.

÷ All essays must have a title.

÷ Essay should be titled, typed in 12-point font in English, double-spaced with 1″ margins and numbered pages.

÷ Submissions will be judged anonymously.  Hence, no name or identifying references (i.e. your name, school, or professor) should appear on the title page or in the manuscript.  Our office will put a code on your essay.

Faculty Sponsor:

÷ Any interested professor at the student’s school may act as a Faculty Sponsor.

÷ Students entering the contest are required to have a Faculty Sponsor review their essay and sign the Entry Form.

÷ Faculty members should only endorse thought-provoking, well-written essays that fall within the contest guidelines.

Submission of Materials:

÷ Please submit three (3) copies of your essay (one (1) copy paper-clipped and two (2) stapled).

÷ In addition, be sure to enclose a completed Entry Form (signed by both you and your faculty sponsor).

÷ Include a letter on school stationery from the Registrar’s Office, verifying your eligibility (see above).

÷ Entries must be postmarked on or before January 8, 2010.  No faxed or e-mailed entries will be accepted.

÷ Please note that due to the volume of entries, no materials will be critiqued or returned.