Brave Writer Mom, Kim, writes:
My two daughters didn’t attend a public school until they attended our local community college at age 18. During my years of homeschooling them, figuring out how to teach writing challenged me. I have no recollection of how I first heard of your program but they were in their very early elementary years when I purchased The Writer’s Jungle, and it became the only writing program (maybe lifestyle is a better word?) I ever used.
This note is a thank you for your instruction, encouragement and hand-holding via that program and your blog. Over the years, we covered a lot of ground: poetry tea time, freewrites, copywork, revision on some pieces, nature journals, read-alouds most of the way through high school, etc. They took one online Brave Writer class (the essay class) and really appreciated the format; I continued to provide feedback on their writing in the same way they got used to seeing it in that class. I learned to trust the process without knowing exactly where it all would lead.
It led to a bounty of fruit. During their high school years, they each had an article published in a magazine (one daughter bought a small herd of sheep with her earnings). When the girls attended college and took the required introductory writing courses, they both consistently scored in the top of their class.
My favorite comment came from my youngest daughter when someone asked her how I taught them writing. “Well, Mom gives us feedback on what we write by highlighting in different colors (maybe yellow for spelling issues, maybe green for punctuation, maybe purple where she’s commenting on awkward phrasing or more effective ways to organize the writing). So after doing that a bunch of times, you learn how to write better. Then, you go to college and see that other people need help with their writing, and you do the exact same thing for your fellow students!”
Thank you, Julie! I would do it all again given the opportunity!
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The primary metaphor of Barry Hannah’s autobiographical novel--a boomerang--is appropriate, for Hannah tosses out vignettes about himself and people he has known, and they reverberate and circle back upon the reader, forming small pieces in the larger puzzle of a life.
The book begins when Hannah and his friends were tiny but sincere, engaging in mock battles in the Quisenberrys’ pecan orchard. Hannah then moves on lightly, touching on friends, acquaintances, enemies, wives, and the violence and the beauty of life. Hannah’s friend Yelverston loses his wife to a younger man but she returns when their son is murdered. They track his murderers and bring them to justice. In his sixties, he fathers another child. Even more astonishing, he rehabilitates his son’s murderers. Hannah’s struggles are no less amazing. He drinks, alienates several wives, and is saved by Susan, his fourth wife, who is angry, who loves him, who fights him: “My wife leaned on me, trying not to hate me.”
Hannah’s characters are flawed but nobel. They continue to try: “I didn’t die yet,” Yelverston says. “None of us have died yet.” Hannah’s language sings with memorable contrariness: “The town was still running wild with Baptists and their happy morbid meetings.” Hannah’s landscape is peopled by strange, murderous, and exultingly alive characters. Among the most engaging “persons” are Hannah’s animals. Indeed, Hannah’s efforts for the Humane Society form the base of his efforts with humanity in general. Toward the end of the novel, Hannah tosses a boomerang on the beach. He is stunned at how easy and catchable it is. As he reaches for it, his dog, Ruth, catches it: “She just saw it and leapt up and there the big thing was in her happy mouth.” This is what Hannah seems to be doing as well, tossing and catching small, shining, unforgettable bits of his life and the larger, all-encompassing Life.