Archive for September, 2010

Writers on writing

I’m just choosing some quotes about the writing process to put into an English course book chapter on identity and storytelling.  Some corkers out there!  Here are a few that struck a chord with me, but which I suspect are a bit too terrifying to introduce to 7th graders 😉

  • Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money. (J. P. Donleavy)
  • As for me, this is my story: I worked and was tortured. You know what it means to compose? No, thank God, you do not! I believe you have never written to order, by the yard, and have never experienced that hellish torture. (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. (Douglas Adams)
  • Remarks are not literature. (Gertrude Stein)
  • The misuse of language induces evil in the soul. (Socrates)
  • There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write. (Terry Pratchett)
  • Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare, or a witches sabbath or a portrait of the devil; but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true. That’s because only a real artist knows the anatomy of the terrible, or the physiology of fear. (H. P. Lovecraft)
  • You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart.  You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names.  You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world.  Come to it any way but lightly.  Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. (Stephen King)
  • Poetry is not a career, but a mug’s game.  No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written, he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing. (T.S. Eliot)

So: ‘torture’, ‘evil’, ‘hack’, ‘nervousness’…’a mug’s game’.  Yep, that seems about right!



Best teacher movies of all time

I have always wanted to design a pre-service teaching unit based around a reflection on a range of ‘teacher movies’.

We all know the kind: teacher finds themselves out of their depth, but then struggles against the establishment and/or personal odds to overcome adversity and transform the futures of a group of wonderful young people we come to know and love.  Oh, and there’s usually some kind of tragedy, you know, to make a point.

Here in no particular order are my top five teacher movies of all time:

  • Dangerous Minds (starring Mchelle Pfeiffer)
  • Dead Poet’s Society (starring Robin Williams)
  • The Breakfast Club (the John Hughes classic)
  • Mr Holland’s Opus (starring Richard Dreyfuss)
  • Coach Carter (starring Samuel L Jackson)

It would be a great unit: 10 weeks, 5 movies, 1 week watch the film and set readings, next week do a critical analysis.  It would draw in sociology, philosophy, productive pedagogy, and some psychology too, especially around theories of motivation.

Hands up who wants to do my course!

Are there other movies you would suggest?

PS: I spy with my little eye…students from QUT checking out my blog!

Hello, and welcome 😀  Please feel free to add comments on any post.  There is also a ‘blogroll’ on the right of the screen where you can find links to other blogs that I have liked to read.

Blogging is a great way to share your ideas with others, but also to process your own experience and support your reflective practice.


Australian Children’s Literature

I have recently joined a team of people at QUT who are starting to develop some English teaching resources for the digital Australian Children’s Literature resource on the Austlit website.

AustLit is currently available at “almost all universities and research libraries around Australia, many municipal libraries and at some universities and research libraries internationally.”

As I started to look into the area today, I became more and more interested in the idea of exploring Australian children’s literature.  I wonder how many old books are lying around out there, in Op shops or Trash and Treasure stalls, waiting to be found…and collected.

I found an interesting site with a bibliography of Australian childrens’ literature authors.  When you click on the names of the listed authors and illustrators, images of their work are often displayed, and these are fascinating.  They make me want to read some books like this one by Pixie O’Harris:

Next time I am at my Nan’s I’m going to raid her bookshelf – hopefully she hasn’t thrown away the picture books she used to read to me as a kid.  They will make an excellent start to my collection!



Using Appraisal Resources

In my new role at QUT I am teaching preservice teachers how to use Appraisal resources in the teaching of English.  This is a new theoretical framework for me…is there anyone out there, in Queensland, Australia or otherwise, using the tools of Appraisal as a way into unpacking how texts work?

Here are a few excerpts from the teaching materials I am using:

Resources of Appraisal

  • Attitude (including affect, judgement and appreciation)
    • Affect (registering positive or negative feelings)
    • Judgement (implicit or explicit judgements of the behaviour of people rating it positively or negatively0
    • Appreciation (expressing positive or negative appreciations of the beauty or worth of people, relationships, artefacts, nature etc.)
  • Graduation (gradability; using language to scale the force of meaning up and down)
  • Engagement (using rhetorical devices to adopt a stance toward or commitment to the subject matter)

Questions to probe Appraisal

  • What kinds of feelings or emotions are evident in the text?
  • What judgements are made about human behaviour?
  • What appreciations are made about appearances, relationships, places and things?
  • How is language used to alter meaning; intensify or diminish (force), sharpen or soften (focus)?
  • How are rhetorical techniques being used to position an audience?

(from McGuire, Ray ‘Language matters: Language, Literature and Literacy’ ETAQ Presentation)

It looks like a very exciting framework for drawing together the operational, cultural and critical elements of literacy around the unifying goal of ‘appraising’ the emotional response that a text provokes in an audience.  I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.


Interesting sites: Film and screen culture

Recently I stumbled across two sites that I found really interesting, both associated with people working with AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School).  I thought I would share them here.

The first is Screen Culture:

Welcome to, a site for anyone interested in ideas and how they impact on our screen stories, screen production and screen industry.

Here you will find regular posts from Dr Karen Pearlman, Dr Matthew Campora and Mike Jones, the Screen Studies Department of AFTRS, Australia’s national screen school. You will also be able to access information about some of the research projects going on at AFTRS in our Graduate Certificate in Screen Culture, our Masters by Research, and from 2011, our new Graduate Certificate in Webisodes. The students in these courses blog, too, and we are collecting a blog roll of other interesting sites – let us know if you would like to link. There are four key objectives of this site:

  • expanding and influencing discussion of screen culture
  • representing the thinking going on in and around the AFTRS Screen Studies department
  • making provocations to catalyse action
  • distributing new knowledge to industry

and we welcome you to engage with all of them!

The blog post I read on was by Mike Jones, about Genre and Computer Games.

The second site is Cracking Yarns:

Cracking Yarns is dedicated to making moving pictures – films that make us laugh and make us cry. We strive to create – and help others create – films with broad appeal that don’t insult the intelligence. Films like Dead Poets SocietyLittle Miss Sunshineand Groundhog Day. That’s why the focus here, as the name suggests, is on story. The key to taking a movie audience on an emotionally satisfying journey is structure – yet it’s where 99% of screenplays falter. We’re passionate about story and we’re committed to sharing our knowledge so you get to fulfil your film-making ambitions – and the world gets to see more cracking good yarns.

The article I found interesting here, Why screenwriters should take the oral before the written, was about the importance of oral storytelling, and sharing stories e.g. screenplays aloud before writing them down.

Finally, in writing up this post and going back to Mike Jones’ blog, I have found a third site to point you to (his) and I recommend this article on Video Game Taxonomies.

Happy surfing!


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Finished: A (mini) Photo Essay

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