The Invitation to Help Dr. Andy Whitewash His Fence
Dr. Andy brashly explores crowdsourcing!
I remember the names of my strongest students. Years after Matthias Gafni enrolled in my Introduction to Literature class, he earned a Pulitzer Prize for his journalism. Years after Melissa Skorka graduated from UC Davis, having taken two of my writing classes, she earned her third degree from Oxford University. One of the last times I heard from her, Dr. Skorka sent me pictures of her submitting her dissertation. These students represent UC Davis well. As Chancellor Gary May would say, “This is who we are.” After all the help I’ve offered to students who have asked for it, I sometimes feel a slice of a parent’s pride when they graduate, but the accomplishments reflect only the hard work and the perspicacity of our impressive alumni.
Sometimes I recognize the potential for greatness (or at least a serious work ethic) before a student has graduated, and thus can offer them paid internships helping me with different projects. These have included supporting my radio show, my poetry reading series, or my attempts to place new poems in journals. All of these community-supporting endeavors feed my soul (and cost me money every month).
Right now I am working on a number of book projects. For example, I’ve written explanations of the meanings of the hundreds of acronyms that stand in for marginal comments that I write in the margins of student essays. At some point, I will turn that 100-page document into a PDF book that I can gift to students when they enroll in my writing classes (right now they have to scroll through the Google Doc). At some point, I will collect the best of these newsletters into a little tome of incidental essays, some of which have been adapted for publication elsewhere, such as The Sacramento Bee. I haven’t decided what I might title such a book. Maybe Monday Morning Four-Minute Reads? I will keep working on titles.
A favorite former journalism student, Jackie is a contributing editor of my book The Determined Writer, a compendium of quotable writing advice from notable authors. Although this book will highlight only a few hundred quotations to be sorted into chapters with titles such as “Courage,” “Discipline,” and “Productivity,” this book will be only the first of a series of eight or more books. So far I have collected 4,216 quotations, each of which needs to be “tagged” with one or more of exactly 100 categories.
Now we come to the title of this week’s newsletter. Perhaps you would like to help Jackie and me with this project? The task before us is daunting. If it were to take about a minute to read, mull, and add two tags to each quotation, that would result in about two 40-hour weeks’ worth of reading, mulling, and tagging. Jackie tells me that she loves making new discoveries about the writing process, learning, for example, that "Where we all think alike, there is little danger of innovation" (Edward Abbey), or that “One forges one's style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines” (Émile Zola). Here is a new favorite that I discovered today, courtesy of Meredith Ireland: “Even if you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC still recommends getting off Twitter and writing your book.” I don’t know if that one will make it into the book.
We are learning so much from this project, but Jackie and I shouldn’t get to have all the fun. Like Tom Sawyer white-washing Aunt Polly’s fence, I believe you’d be interested in helping us with this task, though I wouldn’t charge you “a knob off a brass door-knocker” or your favorite frog or piece of string to participate. "Writing is a constant exercise in longing," Isabel Allende says, and I worry that if you don’t get to see a selection of quotations (25? 100? All 358 quotations written by authors with last names that start with “B”?), you may feel haunted by a deep and unquenchable sense of longing.
So, you should join us! People who participate in this crowdsourcing experiment will enjoy the following benefits:
o The appreciation and gratitude of your friend, Dr. Andy;
o Acknowledgement in The Determined Writer and in subsequent books in the series;
o An e-copy of the book The Determined Writer when it is published later this year.
People who offer extraordinary help will receive a paperback copy of The Determined Writer and some Pub Quiz goodies.
Here’s how it would work:
o You tell us how many quotations you would like to tag (or what letter of the alphabet you would like to claim as your own, if it is not already taken);
o We will “check out” your requested allotment and send it to you in the form of an editable Google sheets spreadsheet;
o We will send you clear directions, some already-tagged entries from the book, and a list of the 100 tags we are using;
o You return your assigned selection of quotations in a week (100 quotations or fewer) or two weeks (more than 100 quotations).
Even if you don’t take Meredith Ireland’s advice to write your own book over the Covid lockdown, perhaps you will feel some of the same satisfaction by working on someone else’s book. Drop me a note if you would like to participate. I would welcome the opportunity to acknowledge you as a contributor!
I’m hosting a Pub Quiz tonight. Would you like me to send you a copy? Tonight’s Pub Quiz will take on topics raised above, as well as the following: cities that are more populous than Davis, Johnny Cash, strawberry trees, popular people named Michael, Elizabethan small margins, early oil, hockey, consorts, domestic lobsters, wooden poles, GDP drags, faraway counties, democratic republics, stone age culture, coats of arms, overrated movies, India, The Oxford English Dictionary, Generation X, gender barriers, cave lights, nominations, San Francisco, people named Benedict Cumberbatch, spicy studio albums, symbolic bears, Robin Williams, European capitals, modernist novels, lamps, current events, and Shakespeare. I hope you can join us.
Thanks are always due in these newsletters, primarily to those of you who sustain the endeavor with generous sponsorships on Patreon. I so appreciate the teams Quizimodo, The Original Vincibles, The Outside Agitators, and Bono’s Pro Bono Oboe Bonobos for their special support of the Pub Quiz. One bonus treat for members this week: I recently uploaded a BONUS Pub Quiz to Patreon, one that I used Friday night with friends at the San Francisco Writers Conference. If you are a member, make sure to check it out. New members will appreciate all the questions there about books! If you enjoy these newsletters, please join us on Patreon.
P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:
Film. What kind of creature is featured on the poster of the film Happy Feet?
Work Preferences. According to a survey released today by global human resource consulting firm Robert Half, would more workers surveyed prefer to work remotely, prefer a hybrid of remote and office work, or prefer to return fully to the office?
California Counties. The gateway to Kings Canyon National Park, Porterville is found in what California county that starts with the letter T?
P.P.S. Today is the birthday of the Fresno-born poet Gary Soto. He once said, “You can always spot bright people. They are reading a book.”
P.P.P.S. I walked seven miles this morning, while my wife Kate posted a blog entry about our son's "first" day of high school. How was your Monday?