Category Archives: Writing

Sneed B. Collard on The Beauty of Pairing Down

Teaching Nonfiction Revision book coverAdapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision by Sneed B. Collard III & Vicki Spandel

I have a confession: I love to cut. Almost nothing pleases me more than to read through a manuscript and find a sentence, a paragraph, a page – entire chapters – that can be placed under the guillotine and dispatched into history once and for all. My general rule of thumb? If I can’t cut at least a quarter of my first draft then I’m not doing my job. 

Fortunately, the majority of early drafts contain more fat than Iowa-raised bacon. Let’s talk about Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style cuts – you know, hacking off large sections of your manuscript to make it better. How do you know where to begin? 

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Does Your Writing Assessment Help Writers or Pac-Mans?

Reimagining Writing Assessment Maja Wilson book cover

The following is adapted from Reimaging Writing Assessment: From Scales to Stories by Maja Wilson.

I was mostly disinterested in the Atari that my brother got for Christmas in the late 1970s; the excruciatingly slow back-and-forth of Pong bored me. But when Pac-Man was released in 1982, I was intrigued; fleeing a ghost made sense to me. Still, I was confused by Pac-Man’s motivation when it came all to those wafers. One after another, screen after screen, he just kept gobbling them up.

“Why is Pac-Man always so hungry?” I asked my brother while awaiting my turn at the joystick.

His explanation was offered with an exasperated eye roll, “He isn’t hungry. You get a point for each one.”

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Incorporating Field Research into Writing Instruction

Writing Instruction

Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision by Sneed B. Collard III,  and Vicki Spandel

Inexperienced writers often consider research a waste of time. Rather than reading books, watching a documentary, or talking to an expert, they prefer to dive into writing like a penguin chasing a sardine. The problem with this approach is that a writer may dash off a rousing first paragraph only to find she doesn't know enough about her topic to add even one more good line. Thoroughly investigating a topic can solve this problem — and do much, much more. 

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It’s Not You, It’s the Tool

Reimagining Writing Assessment Maja Wilson book cover

The following is adapted from Reimagining Writing Assessment by Maja Wilson

Good news: if you feel like you’re bashing your head into a brick wall as you try to make assessment work for you, generate data for the common district assessment, prep students for the SAT, and satisfy your institution’s accreditation mandates, take heart. It’s not you. Mainstream writing assessment tools are incapable of doing what we want them to do. That’s because the system that shaped these tools works at cross-purposes with our best intentions as knowledgeable teachers, invested writers, and compassionate human beings who teach for a more inclusive democracy. I desperately wish it were possible to simultaneously honor these intentions and appease the powers that be. The knowledge that you can’t serve two feuding masters, however, can be a relief.

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Everything You’ll Need to Know to Find Heinemann At NCTE 2017!

Find Heinemann at NCTE 17

From November 16 to 19, Heinemann will be at the National Council of Teachers of English’s 2017 conference in St. Louis! Here now is everything you need to know about our presence at #NCTE17: The First Chapter. Details on our online discount are below.

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Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

The following is adapted from Poems are Teachers: How Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater


Many texts grow from idea-and-belief-soil. Writers write about what they believe is important, what they believe is wrong, what they long to preserve. Editorial writers, reviewers, and cartoonists lay their beliefs bare on newsprint, greeting sleepy morning readers with coffee and opinion: Where is the hottest new restaurant in town? For whom should I vote? What’s up with concussions in youth sports?

National Public Radio featured a show titled This I Believe for many years, and at the website thisibelieve.org, you will find hundreds of belief essays by people of all ages and walks of life, essays about everything from attending funerals to being kind to the pizza dude.

In her book Writing to Change the World (2007), Mary Pipher asserts, “Writers can inspire a kinder, fairer, more beautiful world, or incite selfishness, stereotyping, and violence. Writers can unite people or divide them”

When we write, we nudge change, and it is our responsibility to think about what kind of writing change agents we wish to be. Which beliefs do we hold dear enough to share?

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