Warm-Writer-Welcome to Heather Webb-Petersen!!!

Well, this post has been a long time coming! My new writer-gal-pal, Heather, has been completely awesome to me, *see me curtsy* and her post is so overdue! Heather helped me out big time when I was in crunching need of betas for a ms I wanted to get out to e- publishers. In the process, we got to be besties, and you know how I like to share my favorite besties, right? So, while I’m bragging up on how much I thoroughly enjoy her, I want to add that she’s a smoking hot beta on top of a blogger, writer, reader extraordinaire.  I shall now make haste and give the floor to the most fabulous of gals: Heather!!!! (Also loving the title of her post and cracking up!)

My Writing is the Shiznit

Self-esteem makes for sucky grammar.  As I type that, spell check is underlining away. That’s right folks, there are BUILT-IN tools for checking spelling and grammar. They’re certainly not infallible, but helpful and correct at least seventy-five percent of the time.  High school students seem completely unaware of these tools. How is that possible in an era of information overload?!  Why are kids confusing subject pronouns with verbs and why, for the love of God, are they handing in assignments riddled with the worst conglomeration of sentences you’ve ever read? …And then they EXPECT an “A”.  The expectation chip on their shoulders is inconceivable. The sense of entitlement they’re kicking around is infuriating.

Creative writing has taken on a whole new look in the form of JOURNAL writing with a capital “J”. Brittney, the Valley Girl, spews her profound inner feelings, complete with Johnny’s slutty prom date, OMGs, and smiley faces; a real work of art.  But it’s uber important for her development that we encourage her to share her feelings for a grade, right?!  I’m not the only teacher who found themselves saying, “Great job, Brittney! You put a period at the end of your sentence. You’re a good person and will go far in life.”  That doesn’t mean it didn’t make me want to vomit.

The heart of my ranting comes from a decade of reading and grading high school students’ creative writing.  It’s not that they aren’t capable of putting together fluid sentences with correct parts of speech.  And make no mistake- this is not necessarily the fault of the teachers involved in the learning process.  Language teachers have hovered over assignments with a dark red pen, groaning while reteaching the basics that should have been taught all along.  They have gagged while “leading kids to discover” grammar structures through “mod” techniques and in their reading, which, ironically, kids aren’t doing. Not unless they’re threatened by grounding, anyway.  So if it’s not the fault of the teachers, and the kids are capable of well-styled writing, then who’s to blame?

I chalk it up to the gray funk of the “self-esteem” movement that has beaten the life out of structure; structure which happens to lead to UNDERSTANDING and beautifully crafted PARAGRAPHS (another concept beyond their reach).  Unfortunately, this nasty little social movement invaded parenting on a wide scale as well.  Lecturing kids without consequences only goes so far, buying a new toy when someone takes theirs doesn’t teach children to stand up for themselves, and allowing unlimited “screen time” doesn’t model how to develop real relationships with people.  The self-esteem movement was designed to encourage us to learn creatively so that we may be individuals.  What it has actually accomplished is letting O.J., ahem…I mean, little Brittney, get away with murder.  Not to mention it’s wreaking havoc on language learning and writing skills across the universe.

On an optimistic note, I’m hopeful that we’ll fight back by rewriting curriculum to include syntax and grammar, we’ll inflict curfews even if they’re “so totally unfair”,  and we’ll work at teaching others to be responsible for their actions! So dear, self-esteem movement, make like Michael Jackson and BEAT IT.

Author Bio:

As a former high school French and Spanish teacher, I’m plenty educated, but find myself jumping into a writing career for which I’ve had little training, save the writing I’ve done since I was a kid.  When I’m not chasing my darling little gremlins, you’ll find me ogling kitchen gadgets, sampling wine, growing the stack of books threatening to take over my house, or on an airplane to my next destination. Like most writers, I read everything I can get my hands on.  My New Year’s resolution is to crank out the last few chapters of my WIP in historical fiction so I may begin seeking representation!  Check out my blog for writing tips, recipes, and pop culture-related rants at http://www.heatherwebb.net/blog or follow me on Twitter @msheatherwebb

Personal note from Julie at the Slush – Follow her. She rocks.

8 comments to Warm-Writer-Welcome to Heather Webb-Petersen!!!

  • Amen! And I say it again, A-men! My civilian identity is that of a college English teacher, and I am sick of having to teach the most basic grammar to my students. I also tire of their sense of entitlement that they should be able to pass just because they made a bare minimum effort. Then there are the pages long paragraphs!

    Okay, I better stop or I’ll turn this into my own rant. Needless to say I fully agree with all of this. Here’s to hoping that our own writings can help keep us sane while dealing with students.

  • Do you mean that writers are forsaking studying structure to let the creativity flow? I wish the schools focused on writing more. Real writing. Great writing. My daughter is a good writer but only because she reads so much!

  • I think Laura hit the nail on the head when she said her daughter is a great writer because she reads so much. As a former teacher, I understand the frustration of getting teenagers to absorb even the bare minimum of knowledge – and certainly the whole age of instant gratification does not help. If I can’t understand it instantly then I’m not going to bother! Unfortunately, the richness and complexity of the English language doesn’t come overnight and the best way to learn how to use it is to read, and read a lot. That’s when things like grammar, structure, flow etc. etc. become second nature, and not just something learned on the surface. I think it’s so important for parents to encourage reading in their children, to read to them, to converse with them and to give them the opportunity to share their ideas in a coherent fashion.

  • Valerie Haight

    You’ve got me checking my subject prounouns/verbs and I’m NOwhere near high school age!! You are so funny and so correct. Kids don’t know discipline (what’s that?) and isn’t that what our entire lives should be based on? I look forward to your posts on Twitter and I’m glad to “meet” you HERE!

  • [...] of betas for a ms I wanted to get out to e- publishers. In the process, . . . → Read More: Warm-Writer-Welcome to Heather Webb-Petersen!!! Musings from the Slush Pile» Julie Anne Lindsey [...]

  • Thank you for your comments! It seems we all feel the same way about literacy & writing, as well as modeling good behavior. And Julie, you’re fabulous. Thanks for the recommendations. ;~D

  • There was much more emphasis on literature when I was at school (100 years ago!).

    We didn’t have all the toys kids have now, so we read.

    Nice post!

  • My students are always shocked when I expect capitals AND periods… even on the letter I. Imagine that! :)

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