What Do Mint Juleps Have To Do With Teaching Writing?

March 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Often when I teach first-year writing (FYW), I attempt to relate the issues and problems with writing found in class to those outside the university. Last semester, I was in a seminar with Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch where we discussed, among other things, the definitional issues facing technical communicators. Despite the focus in Breuch’s course on scientific and technical communication, I think the definition of a writer in general is even more elusive to first-year students.

When I try to explain to my students that writers serve in many roles and go by many names, I try to bring in examples to illustrate how writing is not just the romantic ideal of the long author banging away at his typewriter. One form of discourse I’ve used has been recipes. One of my favorite recipes to use is a mint julep recipe. Now, I love mint juleps, and they are one of my favorite alcoholic drinks.

I use the recipe in class to show that someone has to write the recipe, they had to format the text, and decide what to include and what not. I think this examples shows students that not every writer is a novelist. Writing takes place in many different venues and many different forms. My students seem to respond well to this example because it is something that exists outside of the classroom, and it’s genre they run into everyday.

So, I think mint juleps have a lot to do with teaching writing. I find pedagogical tools for my FYW course in many place and not necessarily in the textbook. I think the most vibrant and exciting tools come from places we least expect them and allow teachers to better connect with students.

For those interested, here is an excellent mint julep recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com: http://goo.gl/RKwvX. I would give you my own recipe, but my recipe is a Kays family secret.

Of Tulips and Bourbon

August 30th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

As many of my friends and colleagues know, my move to Minnesota was quite difficult. I had to deal with issues, many of which I did not want to, before I was able to leave Arkansas. In addition, some of those issues resurfaced when I arrived in MN and have continued to confound me. Nevertheless, I have made tremendous friends here already. I could never replace my AR friends and would never try. The friends I have made here in MN are unique, colorful, and, above all else, make me smile and laugh.

Recently, I had two gentlemen, who are fast becoming my best friends in Minneapolis, over for dinner. I made a nice meal and we ate, relaxed in my living room, and talked for most of the evening. To be honest, I’ve never considered myself good at making friends, though, one of my close friends from AR disagrees with me. He suggests that I am a natural networking and that people are drawn to me. I don’t know how much of that suggestion is true, but I trust him implicitly so I usually just nod and say, “Okay.”

Anyway, back to my two new friends. These gentlemen, named Timothy and Jason, were very gracious and welcomed me in a way I’ve never experienced. They made me feel as if I already belonged and had always been their friend. Moreover, they brought me the most delightful apartment-warming gift.

They gave me a small vase with tulips in it. Actually, I find this quite remarkable. It is not remarkable because they brought me a gift, it is remarkable because they brought me tulips which are my favorite flowers. They did not know tulips were my favorite flowers so I took this as a small sign that we were meant to be friends.

The other gift they brought me completely confirmed that Timothy, Jason, and I are meant to be friends. They brought me a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon. Now, anyone who knows me understands that I enjoy bourbon. It is my drink of choice and one of my many relaxation tools. They did not know I enjoyed bourbon and they did not know Maker’s Mark was my favorite distiller.

So, thanks to many friends, both old and new, my transition to Minneapolis and my new life have not been as difficult as I once thought. They have helped prop me up when needed and supported me in every way imaginable. I am thankful for this and am thankful for my new friends, Timothy and Jason.

There is another wonderful new friend, named Dawn, who I will post about later. For now, let me just say she is a sweet lady.

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