Category Archives: Writing workshop Prompt

English Teachers

Dear readers,

This is a guest post by my talented student, Dina Corcoran. She’s a memoirist, poet and essayist. This is her personal essay on English teachers. Okay, so there’s a bit of shameless self promotion going on! Please enjoy Dina Corcoran’s,

ENGLISH TEACHERS

Since I first looked my mother in the eye and said “Ma-ma,” many different sorts of English teachers have helped me learn to express myself.

First, of course, I had to learn to read. I remember the excitement of cracking the code during our first grade work with See Spot Run, but even so, its message seemed a little boring. Nevertheless, the whole idea of thoughts being on paper opened a world of possibilities.

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So many words. . . and each had to be spelled. “Beautiful,” for instance, was very tricky, because of all the vowels that had to be in the right order. I remember seeing it on the blackboard all week with the other five words we needed to learn. I noticed the teacher used little lines to break the words into small bits. Each time I walked by, I broke “beautiful” down my own way, into be-a-u ti-ful, making a little chant out of it. And “piece” I thought of as a piece of pie. If I could remember how to spell pie, I could do “piece.”

Soon I became aware of longer, more colorful words like “indisposed.” Mother used that one when she wrote notes to the school explaining my absences:

“Please excuse Dina’s absence yesterday. She was indisposed.”

I had to ask her what that meant. Then, handing the note to the teacher, I felt important being described with such a big word.

A wealthy family acquaintance treated my brother and me, when we were quite young, to a live play in the First Theater in Monterey, an official historic site, since it was the first theater in California. The building was old with a rickety wooden floor, and I marveled at the thought of people, a hundred years before me, filling the place just to watch actors walk and talk on a stage lit with whale-oil lamps. But I could see that this was a new way to use words: making a story that could be acted out for others.

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Somewhere along the way in grade school — maybe Mrs. Jordan’s seventh- grade class—I learned the wonderful logic of sentence diagramming. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, all had their positions in a sentence. I loved that. All good sentences could be mapped out. Now things were beginning to fall into place.

And then:

           “Let me not to the marriage of true minds

              Admit impediments. Love is not love

             Which alters when it alteration finds,

              Or bends with the remover to remove:

              O no, it is an ever-fixed mark. . . .”

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William Shakespeare. Oh my goodness. Everybody in my Sophomore English Class must memorize and recite this verse. I guess Miss Jackson values the idea of keeping someone else’s ruminations in your brain forever. What is he talking about? I feel inexperienced in these matters. With each recitation, she gets a far-away look in her eye; obviously this means something to her, but not to me. (For the rest of my life I cringe whenever this sonnet comes to mind, because I recall the difficulty of memorizing this unfamiliar arrangement of words and the boredom of hearing it over and over again.) Why does she think this is so important? Maybe she was disappointed in love. As I study her wrinkled face and older-woman mannerisms, I try to imagine her having a love life.

Later in high school, Mr. Zapelli teaches us to seek perfection in our writing. Every day he wears a striped suit and matching tie, and I’m sure he imagines himself to be a handsome guy with his hair greased straight back, Mafia style. He sits bent over at his desk, his meaty hands holding my paper as if it is a very important document, and earnestly pores over my work.

His method of helping us is unique among English teachers. Most days we write essays in class. He guides our progress by having us bring our work up to his desk where he examines every detail. (No more than three of us at a time may wait in line.) Starting with a red pen, he marks the places that need work, and we talk about the why and how of the needed correction. Then we take it back to our seat and work on it until we are ready to face him again. We hope for only blue or green marks this time. Blue ones indicate improvement, but the goal is to get the final green marks that show we’ve got it the way he wants it. This may take several visits to his desk, but once our paper has green marks at every problem spot, we can take it home for the re-write. (Mr.Zapelli was always on me for my run-on sentences; I enjoyed rambling thoughts. But today, his cautionary attitude still guides me as I write.) Each and every student is busy. Time flies; the bell sounds too soon. And when we turn in our final version, we feel pride in our work.

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By the time I am in college, my days with Mr. Zapelli bear fruit, enabling me to do well. But this teacher, young, enthusiastic, and sporting a crew cut, has new things to show me. The world of ibid and sic is before me, and somehow I master it while discovering the excitement of research in the library’s “stacks” where all sorts of old writings are kept. Usually I write about the plight of the American Indian, because I have been passionate about that ever since my childhood friendship with Red Eagle. Unearthing government documents, I learn how evil the Bureau of Indian Affairs has actually been. My passion helps me write well. At the end of the course, Mr. Carson announces with some ceremony that only one student in the whole class will receive an “A.” My face turns red in embarrassment and pride when he says I am the one.

Speaking aloud in front of people proved to be a different story. To qualify for a teaching credential it was necessary to take public speaking. I flunked it twice, because I avoided my obligation too many times. Fear got in my way. My stepfather, Jack, helped me out of that one. He suggested bringing my six-speed racing bicycle into class and “teaching” my classmates about it. He said their eyes would be on the bike, not on me, so I could relax. It worked. Not too many people knew about racing bikes at that time, and they were interested to hear how the gear shift and hand brakes operated, and why my saddle was not soft and cushy. Having lived through that speech, I was able to go on to finish the class and pass it—on the third try!

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Years later, my principal asked me to take on an English class in addition to the science classes I was teaching in the middle school. But English did not offer the excitement of Bunsen burners and chemical reactions. And besides, I liked working with Alan Rogers, the head of the Science Department. The students suspected, but never knew for sure, that Mr. Rogers and Mrs. Corcoran were an item.

The head of the English department proved to be a stickler for detail, a fussy fellow. He kept his own, private, classroom set of dictionaries locked in a closet. On the first day of the semester, he took me in there and reluctantly handed over one copy for my use. I really didn’t enjoy those two years of teaching English, but I finished with a sincere respect for the job.

Currently I am happily enrolled in Ana Manwaring’s writing class at the Napa Valley College. She oversees the fine-tuning of our work, and encourages us to use our own “voice.” We students help each other with our critiquing. The two Guys in class have helped me: Guy K., with his constant reminders to eliminate the “is” and “was” words, (real verbs sound more interesting), and Guy “Noir” who urges me to avoid the insipid stuff like my dreadful essay on Pink Geraniums.

My mother is gone now, so I cannot look her in the eye, but I still talk to her. She always loved a well-told story. I feel her curiosity as she reads over my shoulder while I try to write those, with the help of my many English teachers.

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Class Prompt

Since class was canceled for President’s Day, I gave an assignment instead.

The students were to select ten words at random and write a poem, memoir or flash fiction using the words and send them to me to post as Valentine’s messages.

Read the next several posts for the results.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Writing workshop Prompt

Recklessly Tangle Thunder and Blossoms

At that talk I attended with Linda Watanabe McFerrin she mentioned an exercise she uses and  handed out a list of rather sexy sounding words:  tongues, Paris, salamander, lush, indigo, vanish, braille, silkily, Argentina, lips, apricots among many. She said, “don’t think about it. Pick 7 words. Write a sexy scene using these words.” I asked the class to pick their words and write whatever sexy thing they could think of, be it memoir, poetry, fiction. The following are some responses:

Farewell Training bra. So long hope chest.

Michael Layne

 

Her mirror’s reflection, mocking, as she stands bare.

Reflecting back, yikes nothing’s there.

I’ve seen other girl’s grow, big and thrive.

Isn’t it time, for mine to arrive?

I’ll love them fondly if I get a darling pair.

                           Perfectly perky and sweetly fair.                       

            To Victoria’s Secrets, a bra for them to caress.

            So hard to choose, I leave the display a mess.

                   ****           

            Finally they come, I redden and blush

            Return to Victoria’s in a hell of a rush.

            I find the perfect bra and press it to my lips

            I check it in the mirror, my God I’m getting hips.

            I pick the one with a touch of glitter.           

Then a selfie, I post it on Twitter.

            A lush photo, of my two stunning sisters

            Once lovingly in play, the envy of misters.

 

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

Guy  Sandler

TONGUES
PULSE
LOVINGLY 
REMEMBER
DAMP
KISSES
UNDERNEATH.

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

Darkness Be Not Dark

Don Tynan

dtnapa@hotmail.com

   In deft darkness, my fingertips braille your face.

   In silence, they dance across the beckon of your cheeks.

   As a thief, they secretly kiss your lips, and

   In heart’s desire, they silkily caress your hair.

   They hear the whisper of your pulse, and

   The blossom of your breathe.

   They catch the subtle quiver in your skin, and

   Even the glitter of your starry want.

   They be not sinister in darkness, but brilliant hero.

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

Valentine Poem

Dina Corcoran

 

My father bellows thunder, it fills us with despair.

Does reason slumber or will he be fair?

We have adored each other with eyes and hands and lips

But pungent prejudice swirls and forbids.

 

His soul is indigo to me now, the color of midnight.

Yours is white, the color of light.

Why can’t he see your soul and forget your ebony skin?

Must our love vanish into the darkness of ignorance,       

Or might it be allowed to take wing?

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

Short Poem of Repose

(who knows?)

Kent Ward Butzine

kentwrd@gmail

Don’t stress, regress.

Don’t pine, recline.

Be mine, supine.

Say “yes,” me bless.


Acquiesce, caress.

 

Don’t go, let’s flow

into the night

of delight

and the dawning

after-glow.

 

No “no”!

 

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

Bellweather of Climate Change

daphne birkmyer

 

‘Sweet Salamander’

whispers Dragon lovingly from her magenta cloud,

‘Slow your pulse and sleep a while longer

in the mercy of your hibernation underground,

For my time has come,

and as your damp skin is singed by the heat of my caress,

You will no longer breathe

And when you vanish?

Oh slender thief of my heart,

I shall be

so

lonely.’

 

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

My New Love

Ana Manwaring

Paris sweetly singes my tongue

fondly remembered

 as lush apricots

devoured in the heat of summer.

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

   One Red Rose      

Barbra Hana Austin

Tobe and I fell in love thirty years ago in Stockholm. Six months ago he found me on line. it was the week of my seventy-first birthday. That would mean he was sixty-one.

We spoke or emailed daily and soon, ever the romantic  he sent me a round trip ticket to his adopted  Argentina. What could I say?.

On the plane, a complimentary Vodka in hand, I re-created fragments of our long ago lovemaking. If a heart could glitter from the inside out, mine would be seen like the stars in the heavens.

We were single-minded in that a Niagara of water had passed under our separate bridges. Would we be so clear when we met? I was excited, happy and getting more romantic by the sip.

The plane landed at Ezeiza International, and there Tobe stood, tall and straight, by the exiting corridor, as noble as he had been in Stockholm with one red rose in his hand.

We stood, stared and flew into each others arms.  When his lips touched mine, a tiny nucleus of heat began to rise deep within my very belly button.

“Take my pulse” he whispered, “if I’m not dying, I want you now, right now and I don’t care if it makes the front page of La Nación”.

We were married three weeks later at the airport. I carried one red rose.

 

 

     HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

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