Category Archives: Creativity
I’ve been reading a lot about reading lately.
Reading is something I take completely for granted. To be able to function – to understand road signs, prices at the store, medication labels, the crawl on TV news – not to mention texts and social media – we have to be able to read. Here in the U.S., we automatically teach of our children to read. We worry about how soon they start reading, fuss over whether they’re reading enough, and compare standardized reading scores in our schools and across the world.
But when did everybody start reading all the time? A thousand years ago, reading in Western culture was pretty much limited to priests and monks. When did it stop being a privilege and begin to be a necessity?
And how has technology across the centuries transformed how much we read, what we read, and how we read it? Gutenberg’s moveable type led to an explosion of reading, and today’s devices are also making an impact on what, when, and how we read. I’ve laughed at postings of an 1800s screed about the dangers of women reading novels and neglecting their families, but how does that differ from today’s social media addiction?
Another compelling strand in this knot is the notion that having books around is beneficial, even if you know you can never read them all – maybe especially then. They are aspirational on the one hand, and on the other, they remind you that you can’t know it all, and therefore keep you humble.
My reading about reading has made me want to read much more about reading. And then do some writing. I’ve planned a writing retreat for next month to work on this, so stay tuned!
It’s a tough choice: which cookie to eat?
Really, it shouldn’t be so difficult. I can just grab any of the batch of homemade cookies and take a bite. They’re not getting any fresher.
Yet still I hesitate. At Christmas, when I’ve baked decorated gingerbread or sugar cookies that I might share with friends, maybe it makes a little bit of sense to eat the uglier cookies first. Sure, take that tree that’s slightly dark and crisp on the edge. Eat that mitten where the icing ran off and the sprinkles didn’t stick very well. But that trumpet with the silver dragees? That sparkling snowflake? I almost can’t bear to see them go.
This kind of indecision does not make sense when I’m facing a batch of peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies. And yet my hand hovers over the tin. My brain whispers, “No, that one’s too perfect. Take that smaller, more misshapen cookie with not as many chips.”
Why am I saving the beautiful cookie? Sure, my husband or son would enjoy it, but not more than its less-perfect sibling.
Is it pride? Do I try to save my pretty cookies so I can show off my (not very amazing) food styling skills?
Or is it part of Giving Mom syndrome? When I was a kid, my mom always took the broken piece of pie, the slice of cake without the rose, the less attractive potatoes, and she always served herself last. During an angry teenager phase, I thought this reflected her submission to my father. But as a parent myself and a cook who loves to sit down with my husband at the end of the day to enjoy a meal I’ve prepared, I have a different perspective. Cooking is a gift to those you love, including yourself. We feed because we care and want our loved ones to be happy. We take the ugly slice of quiche because we want them to enjoy the beautiful one and we know the appearance doesn’t affect the taste. (And, if I’m being honest, we want to forestall any whining about the food by picky children.)
Maybe I just want more time with the beautiful fruits of my labors. In that case, maybe I should switch to a craft that produces something lasting. Ah, but then I wouldn’t have cookies, and that was the whole point of the exercise.
I especially enjoyed the research for this feature on youth apprenticeship programs in the U.S., including an interview with the Swiss ambassador, Martin Dahinden. The article was published in ASCA School Counselor‘s November/December 2016 issue.
Download the complete article
For the last thousand years, many young people seeking professional skills became apprentices. But if that word still evokes a plumbers’ union or a medieval guild hall, it’s time for a fresh look. Youth apprenticeship is an educational approach that is thriving in Europe and on the rise in the United States. To find the skilled workers they need, companies of all types are offering opportunities for high school students to learn in-demand skills while earning their diplomas. Participating in youth apprenticeship can help students clarify their objectives, burnish their college applications and gain an edge in the job market.
Wisconsin Snapshot: Co-op Program in Sheboygan
When the school counselors at Sheboygan South High School evaluated their national clearinghouse data, they learned that many of their graduates were not going on to college but were staying in the community. From local labor statistics, the school counseling department identified four primary employment sectors and laid the groundwork to build four pathways in the school’s curriculum. The new pathways would address a need in the community. “We can then, as a school, say with confidence to our community, ‘We’re helping to answer this labor issue,’” Schneider said. From this initiative, the new manufacturing co-op program was born. “Once we aligned our philosophies of our building with the community needs, then all we had to do was say to the community ‘We want to help you; let’s start talking,’” he said.
In June 2016, I had the privilege of working with John A. Booth and Sarah Schwind of METAVERO as they were preparing their booth and materials for the Kscope Conference. METAVERO provides Oracle implementation and support services. John is the company’s founder and managing director (he wrote a chapter of “Developing Essbase Applications: Hybrid Techniques and Practices,” which I edited) and Sarah is their operations director.
For METAVERO’s presence at Kscope, we developed a tri-fold brochure, banners for their exhibit booth and client event, website content, a PowerPoint template, and two informational postcards focusing on key components of their business. I edited or wrote text for these pieces, but the bulk of the credit goes to the outstanding artists who created the visuals: web designer Ella Hutchings and print designer Stewart Moon. It’s rare these days that I get to work on a project with so much visual emphasis—this was great fun. (Shown above are Larry Geraghty, John, and Sarah in the METAVERO booth; shown below is the horizontal booth banner.)
Cards: METAVERO Process and Fishing for Solutions
Review of “The Elements of Eloquence”
Sure, you know what a rhetorical question is and perhaps using alliteration is a particular personal preference. But did you know those are two of the figures of rhetoric? I didn’t, and I certainly never learned the names and definitions of the other 37 figures. I even attended Catholic high school (supposedly known for old-school methods, rote memorization, and emphasis on English) but neither Sister Mary Donald nor Sister Marie Immaculata ever brought up rhetoric. Until I read “The Elements of Eloquence” by Mark Forsyth, rhetoric was Greek to me. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The figures of rhetoric have delicious Greek names, many of which are essentially unpronounceable to your average American. Epizeuxis or aposiopesis, anyone?)
I won’t spoil your enjoyment of reading Forsyth’s delightful and funny examples to illustrate each of the figures—he draws on classical and modern literature, the Bible, recent movies, and lyrics from pop songs. But here are a couple of my favorites to whet your appetite.
An old friend used to say that when you want to make something sound important, you should say it twice. Say it twice. Various forms of repetition loom large in “Eloquence.”
We encounter anadiplosis, well illustrated by Yoda: “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to suffering.” In this figure, you begin each phrase with the last word of the previous phrase. “There’s simply a satisfaction, half logical and half beautiful, in seeing the same word ending one phrase and coming back to life at the start of the next,” Forsyth says. St. Paul did it, Jesse Jackson did it, and Shakespeare did it.
And like my repeated use of “did it” just now, which brings up our next figure, epistrophe, Forsyth cleverly ends each chapter with an example that links to the next figure. Another player on Team Repetition, epistrophe happens when you end each of several sentences, clauses, or paragraphs with the same word.
When you begin and end with the same word, that’s epanalepsis. John Lennon used this in his song that starts “Yesterday…” and then ends, “…yesterday.” Forsyth says this figure’s act of taking us back to where we began “gives the impression of going nowhere, and it gives the impression of time moving inexorably on.” For circularity and continuation, use epanalepsis.
Forsyth works his way through all 39 figures of rhetoric, with a brief nod to scholars who dispute precisely how each figure is defined. “Eloquence” is not a textbook and won’t leave you with ready-to-use figures to whip out at your keyboard. The jacket promises to reveal stylistic secrets and show you how to write like Shakespeare or deliver the perfect one-liner. I wouldn’t go that far. Rather, this book is a linguistic dessert, an exploration of these ancient techniques that can enhance modern writing. We use many of these without realizing it—at least, when we’re writing well—and it’s fun to spot them in your own work.
For me, a special side bonus was the source of this book. That my not-quite-21-year-old son thought to pick out an entertaining language book for his editor mom warms my heart. The fact that he found the book amusing himself gives me hope for future generations of language lovers.