TEACHERS OF WRITING LIES SITE
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LIES PEOPLE TELL
Teachers Of Composition and Creative Writing Need To Ask Their Students To Lie!
|It's possible that most of your students don't want to
be there. They might rather be smoking pot, riding skateboards or having sex.
Fill in the blank. I know. I teach in both the University and High School
settings. But one thing that I have found that increases a student's enthusiasm for
writing is a real world situation where their writing will be published and appreciated
almost immediately. Lies People Tell provides a perfect
example of such a situation.
We publish writing of all styles and skill levels here. Teachers of Composition can use the pages of Lies People Tell as departure points for classroom discussions on writing quality, audience and structure. You can ask students:
What makes this writing good? What makes it bad? Who is this writing intended for?
Teachers of Creative Writing can use our pages to help students plumb the depths of their souls, looking for the pain filled nuggets of gold that will lead to powerful poems and short stories. Ask students to read the lies here, keeping in mind lies that they themselves have told or been told. You can ask students:
Have you ever been lied to? When do you lie the most? When do you lie the least? How do you feel about lying? Why do you think this or that person on Lies People Tell decided to tell this or that lie?
If you want to make writing real to your students you have to be bold and courageous. Pulling out Orwell or any other great essayist that you may have found in your anthology might work, but it will not fire your students' passion for their own work so much as your own work will. Be brave enough to share your own writing with your students. When you fill a page with your own genuine sentiments, you are modeling for students a behavior that will help them find that they are excellent writers themselves.
Lies People Tell will give you the opportunity to place your writing side by side your students' writing. Create classroom assignments around each of our six main categories:
And let your students know that their writing will be published on Lies People Tell after they have worked in groups and with you, their teacher, through the revision process.
A Lies People Tell Writing Success Story
As I mentioned above, we receive writing of all skill levels here. I have found that just by asking a few questions that I can help writers turn an incomprehensible piece of writing into a very worthy essay.
One day I received this submission to Lies People Tell:
a friend or someone I thought was a friend pretended to be her sister and came to our channel and said that she was very sick and even dying this person even called me on the phone to tell me of her "death" I even sent flowers to her home the truth came out slowly as it was passed around that she had died .
That's it. The whole enchilada. That is exactly the way it appeared: no punctuation, no sentences, no sense.
And yet the kernel of a very good lie was in there and so I decided to help this person, who ever he or she was, come to a clearer sense of what she may be trying to communicate. I replied with the following:
This story sounds very interesting but I hope you will just take a moment to
fill in a few more details for me. I think the readers of the site will be very
interested in this but remember, many may not know what you mean by "channel" --
you mean IRC, right?
That's exactly what I sent and I was pleased that she replied with a piece of writing that contained much more information:
yes this was on irc "angel" came in the channel and said
Ask just a few questions to the writer of a brief and seemingly incomprehensible paragraph and the skeleton of a very nice page length essay will appear. But let me stress the word skeleton. The above still contains almost no sentences, no structure and only just enough sense that her topic is becoming visible. It is clear that this writer believes that she can slap keys for regular writing in the same way that people slap keys during an on-line chat. Not so. As teachers we must remind our students that conventions that you can toss out during a rapid fire on-line chat can not be thrown out when you are writing a letter, essay or story.
But the question here is: How do you take the next step? What questions do you ask to help the student structure the skeleton into a presentable page length essay?
Here is the final draft of Tink's essay as it appears on Lies People Tell. If you are not already a believer in the revision process now, you will as soon as you read the following:
This lie is from a friend of mine who told me she was dead. It was an online friendship. We used to get on the Internet Relay Chat and five or six of us would just talk. It was really fun. And "fiery_angel" and I became really good friends. Or at least I thought we did.
One night a new girl came into the IRC channel that "fiery_angel" and all the rest of us chat in. She called herself "angel" and she told us that she was "fiery_angel's" sister. Then she proceeded to tell us that "fiery_angel" was in the hospital in critical condition. There was a terrible infection, a botched lab test. "fiery_angel' wasn't expected to make it through the night.
All of her friends on the net became panicked! E-mails were flying frantically as we tried to learn more of what was happening with "fiery_angel." We wanted to know what hospital she was in. How we could help her family.
Later that evening I received a phone call from "angel." She said, "I just want to let you know that "fiery_angel" died this afternoon." More e-mail raced across the net as all of her friends suffered this loss.
I just broke down. "fiery_angel" and I had been friends for two years. I was grief stricken. I was going crazy. I couldn't cope. I left online and called another friend of "fiery_angel's." This friend told me that she had been trying to find out where the memorial services were going to be but she couldn't. She couldn't even find out what hospital "fiery_angel" had died in. She and fiery lived in the same area and had met in person. It was very strange that she couldn't find anything more about what had happened.
The next day I sent flowers and a sympathy card to fiery's family. That night her "sister" came on-line again and thanked me for them. But she wouldn't tell us any more about the memorial services.
Two days of making phone calls and searching through newspapers proved fruitless. We couldn't find out anymore about our friend who had died. Finally one of our friends figured it out: it was a hoax. A lie!
No one could get through on the phone to fiery's home. For days all we got was her answering machine. When one of us finally got though she just lied more to cover it up. Something about "our house sitter did it." Just more lies.
A couple of weeks ago I ran across a web page made by "fiery_angel" A
really good page that proclaimed to be owned by "snow_angel" But I know fiery
and I knew it was her page. I signed the guest book : "I am so glad to see you alive
I told another friend and she too went and signed the guest book, adding, "Hope you enjoyed the flowers Tink sent."
The web page disappeared a day or two after that. We haven't heard from her since.
Sentences. Paragraphs. Structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. This is one example of the writing process winning over bad habits. Of thoughtfulness winning over expediency.
I hope that you will bring Lies People Tell into your writing curriculum. While I was willing to help Tink tinker with her writing, I hope that you will lead your writing students through their revision process before I see their bright and shiny new lies. They don't have to be as good as Tink's. I'll put them up in whatever condition the student wishes other people to read them in.
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