Wednesday, December 28, 2011

she floated and floated

I have a list, too.

This is the time of year for lists.

This morning, when I woke up and started my usual stuff, I saw this post from Paul Hankins, a teacher of literacy who reads something like 650 books per year. It was about his favorite books for 2011.

Stick is on that list.

I'll put a link below.

It means a lot to me for several reasons. First, maybe I'm a tough-sell, but I have this nagging suspicion that the majority of people who post "Best Books" lists do not read that many books, and the ones they do read often seem to be the buzz books, or ones from the list-maker's favorite author.

Also, it's cool to be on that list with friends of mine. I know it's a good list, because these really are good books. Really. And being on the list alongside people I actually know and have hung out with is really freaking cool. For a moment, I can almost begin to feel like I've gotten somewhere.


I have two books that, to me, are the best books that have ever been written about writing. One of them is not Stephen King's On Writing, although I do like that book very much. One of them happens to be a novel -- just one chapter from a novel, but the novel is about a writer and this chapter is about writing -- and the other happens to be an old smarty-pants experimental thing about writing and teaching writing that practically nobody has ever heard of. The book was first given to me by a friend of mine, a guy I sometimes mention on this blog (who is a real person) as SMIK -- the Smartest Man I Know.

SMIK knows how I feel about words.

So here are the reasons I was thinking about a list:

Being a writer is kind of like standing on one side of a noisy river and trying to shout across at people on the other side.

Teachers and librarians are really the bridgebuilders for us. (In that category of Teacher, I would also include Parents -- although, sadly, an awful lot of Parents have deferred this responsibility on to technology and other people). Bloggers and booksellers help to reinforce the structure, but the teachers and librarians are the ones who fundamentally connect kids to words, to books, literacy, and to writers.

Let me tell you how important this job is.

It pertains directly to the future of human civilization.


I am not taking potshots here as an outsider. I have been a professional educator for -- ugh -- decades, and I know what I'm talking about.

There is a distressingly large population of teachers being churned out by the standardized credential mills in the country who do not read.

This is true.

Not only do they not read, but they have not read any literature of substance in their entire lives. I spoke to one teacher (who has been in the classroom for something like 15 years) earlier this year who told me that she wished she could get her own teenage children to read books, but she herself did not like to read, and could not remember the last time she'd bought or held a book of her own choosing.

I am honestly not making that up.

There are more Teachers like this than anyone thinks.

This is also true: That particular Teacher is moving up into school administration.

Hooray for the future!!!!


I've said this before: Everything we know, everything we have ever done or discovered, and everything we ever will find out is a word.

Words are everything.

The vast vacuum of nothingness is wordless.

The war against words is being waged with Number 2 pencils.

So I wanted to make a list of some of my Favorite Bridgebuilders of 2011.

I know bridgebuilder is not a word. I have had lengthy discussions with my editors and copy editor Anne about my inclination toward constructing Germanic-style compound structures on my own.

I can do that.

I am a writer.

So I started to make this list of my favorite Bridgebuilders of 2011, and I realized that there are an awful lot of them. I keep thinking up more and more as I sit here, too.

So let me start with 9 of my most appreciated footsoldiers on the right side of this battle to save humanity (with more to follow... lots more):

Cathy Blackler, California

Paul Hankins, Indiana

Kristen Pelfrey, California

Dodie Ownes, Colorado

Jennifer Sternberg, Wisconsin

Andrew Lawrence, Arizona

Alan Geibe, Arkansas

Jen Rogers Bigheart, Texas

Drue Wagner-mees, California

You can read Paul Hankins' Best of 2011 List here.

Oh. By the way, you notice how I not-so-cleverly avoided giving the titles of those two best possible books that have ever been written about writing?


I did that on purpose.

One day, I may actually give a real class at a real conference that is really about writing.