To Do Is To Be

If I have any advice, it’s to never write an intro like this at New Years.

First, intros are predisposed to summarize.

Second, New Years is downright freighted with reflections and expectations and resolutions and dejections and yearnings and lessons and dreams and hopes and failures and sins and second chances and the need to somehow box up all this, label it “last year,” and forge madly ahead.

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Taking Risks

I want to be unabashedly forthright: Jon Pearson’s “Saving Santa” is not only my favorite piece in this edition of SHARK REEF, it is my favorite piece I’ve read in a long time.

That includes taking my eighth-grade students on a six-week romp through poetry, reading essays by E.B. White, Scott Russell Sanders, Annie

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Rules of Writing

I’m teaching again. Since I last taught five years ago, they’ve taken to calling my subject “language arts” instead of English, which is likely more accurate. English in a U.S. school is not the study of the language, nor is it grammar, literature, writing or linguistics. It’s somehow more and less than any one of these.

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Saying What You Mean

So much writing doesn’t say what it came to say. So much tries to say more than it was meant to, and sags and splits and spills adjectives and adverbs and unholy descriptive phrases. Or pieces try to cheat, saying less than they need to, and they fail, too.

The fine, hard writing might begin as something dark and rank, but in this bog the bones grow.

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Into the Land of Wild things

I’m supposed to begin this deftly. Ease into it, the theory goes, because if readers know immediately that my piece is about death or birth or terminal illness, they will disregard it as yet another this-is-my-life-splayed memoir. So I hook them with something else, invite them in with a fascinating and benign anecdote that, later, once they are invested and I have sprung on them the death or birth or terminal illness, will become a clever metaphor for the entire piece.

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Welcome to the Summer 2011 edition of SHARK REEF, where you’ll visit a wedding party in the Andes; join a group of elderly women in a communal bath in Japan; or watch as a nurse midwife deftly knits Mexico to Seattle and drops more than a few stitches in the process. Consider Hiking Naked. What happens will surprise you.

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