Tuesday, June 24, 2014



Each day of the CAWP Summer Institute I am privileged to hear the powerful,  always honest, sometimes mournful, perhaps jubilant or angry, and occasionally raw pieces that our teachers are writing and sharing with each other.

Each day I have the opportunity to savor the writing--writing that spans the personal, taking us inside marriages--our own and those we have observed over the years, writing that takes us to meet our parents, siblings, and friends, writing that wrestles with our social consciences, as we examine and analyze our own behavior, writing that looks back, writing that look forward.

Deeper writing...

Each day I have the chance to listen to writing that invites me into classrooms and schools to meet students and co-workers, to trouble the troubling-- or the universally accepted, to ask the hard questions, to imagine the impossible,  to remember and celebrate what we know, and to plan for the unknown.

Deeper writing...

Not only do I have the opportunity to hear powerful and provocative writing,  but also to witness responses to this writing.

What I have noticed in many cases is the respectful, almost contemplative moment of silence that follows such pieces.  One former institute participant referred to the "wonder and wildness in that pause."

We have seen this pause, this space of silence, this sacred waiting and weltering in what we just heard often this summer. The writing has taken us to astronomical heights and stretched our writing chops in titanic ways.

Deeper writing......aaaaah!

Each day of the CAWP Summer Insitute, we are listening to deeper writing.

In a recent article in AdLit In Perspective, an online journal of the Ohio Resource Center, I described deeper writing in the following way:

By deeper writing I mean writing that challenges writers to engage in a thorough search of memory, critical analysis of relationships and situations, and powerful exploration and discovery of themselves and the world.  Deeper writing is writing that digs beneath the surface, underneath
the obvious observations and topics, to reveal that which is in the background, unnoticed and unexamined. It is reflecting with the pen—thinking and writing critically, pushing metaphors to the limit, searching for relationship and relevance where they are not easily detected.  Deeper writing touches both the reader and writer with emotions we have buried or ignored, and it surprises us with fresh perspectives on the familiar. I have found this to be true no matter what the mode of writing—expository or information, argument or academic, narrative or poetry.  In my book Deeper Writing: Quick Writes and Mentor Texts to Illuminate New Possibilities (Holland, 2012), the essence of deeper writing is expressed as follows: Deeper writing and thinking forces us to ask again and again: "What more? What else? Why? And so what?". (p. 2)

How do we respond to such writing?

How do we bring ourselves back from whatever place and space the writing we have just heard has taken us, pushed us, driven us?

What do we say to pain that has been laid bare on the table-- dissected, bleeding, raw?
Band-aids won't work.
Words are initially inadequate-----Silence.

How do we enter in gently to urge the writer in a different direction or an even deeper exploration of an already excavated image?

First the silence.

The silence that meets deeper writing.

How do we enter into that silence to acknowledge the power of the words washing over us?

How do we with words appreciate the work so the author will understand how much their words touched our souls?

How do we make suggestions- big or small -- without tearing apart the fragile threads holding the piece of writing--and its writer's heart --together?

We will....
We will appreciate the work, consider the context and the content, suggest substitutions, additions, revisions.
We will problematize and analyze.
We will reframe and evaluate.

Where are the pauses?  Whose story is it?  How else can it be told?  Who else can tell it?

Would it work better as a poem?  or an essay?

We will do all of that....and more.

We will laugh until our stomachs hurt along with the writer.
We will pass the tissues and cry in concert.

We will learn and question and....all of that... and more
But... first the silence.

First the silence.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Select a piece of writing to share with a colleague.  You may ask for both general feedback or specify a desired focus.

Notice how your writing partner(s) responds. Is that moment of sacred, listening and waiting silence offered first? How are they phrasing and contextualizing their responses?  Does the response push your writing forward?

As you receive feedback both general and specific feedback to your  writing, notice your own responses to the responses.  What are you thinking and feeling?    Is the response helpful?   Do you feel offended or hurt by the response? Do you agree with the responses?

What can you learn from this sharing experience that will inform your sharing and responding to writing in the future?

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