What made you a better writer?

Nov 24, 2011 by

By Jay Mathews –

My favorite Christmas vacation was in 1962, during my senior year of high school, when my family went to my grandmother’s house in Long Beach, Calif., and I worked on a paper about Russian novels. I was in love with Fyodor Dostoevsky, particularly the Grand Inquisitor’s encounter with Jesus in “The Brothers Karamazov.”

With Thanksgiving here and Christmas coming soon, I have been thinking about what I wrote by hand on the dining room table between long runs on the beach. It fits with last week’s column suggesting that schools junk the standard approaches to writing instruction.

My Dostoevsky paper was the best thing I wrote in high school. My English teacher that year, the tall, bespectacled Michael Callahan, didn’t drill us on the five-paragraph essay, as many schools do today. Instead he exposed us to great writers as though they were secrets he was sharing only with us and let their rhythms and vocabulary affect what we wrote.

Many of us have had such experiences. I want to write about that. Tell me what worked best for you. Send it to mathewsj@washpost.com, or post it as a comment at the end of the online version of this column.

via What made you a better writer? – Class Struggle – The Washington Post.

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