Let’s Get Tech-y: Adding Page Numbers to Your Manuscript

Do them once, and they will appear on every page. The magic of Microsoft Word makes it fairly simple to add page numbers — but there’s always something that could be confusing.

Last week you created a template. Open that template and give it a title. Push “Save As” and then decide where on your computer you want to save it and the name of the piece you’re writing. OR simply open your work in progress (WIP) that doesn’t have page numbers on it.

Now, let’s insert page numbers.

(1) Navigate to the Insert tab. Look across to the Header & Footer box.

(2) Click the dropdown arrow beside “Page Number.”

(3) At the first dropdown box, you can choose the placement of the page number. You can click where you want the page number to be—top or bottom of the page. For our purposes, choose Top of Page. That then will open up another menu that will allow you to choose where at the top of the page you want the number to appear — top left, top center, top right. Again, for our purposes, click on the top right choice. (There are dozens of other options you’re welcome to play with; for now, I’m sticking with the basics.)

(4) Voila! Once you click it, a header will appear on every page with a page number.

Perhaps you want to include more information in the header besides just the page number.

(1) Click into the header area with your cursor beside the page number. Now you can simply type in other information such as your name or the title, which will then appear on every subsequent page. When you are working with numbers that are flush right, as here, put your cursor beside the number and type. The letters will work their way to the left.

Note: Follow submission guidelines for where you submit. Various publishers ask for various renderings of page numbers and what information they want in headers or footers. They usually have submission guidelines on their websites. If you’re not sure, at least include your last name and page numbers in the headers or footers on your manuscript.

Now to answer some reader questions:

I tried to format page numbers with my name/book title/page number at the top right. Each time the page number got bumped to the line below my name/book title. And then the title page ended up with a 0 on it, not what I wanted at all.

How to fix page numbers moving down to a separate line

Let’s deal with the first question about why the page number got bumped. I think it has to do with a tab setting. Click into your header. If you see a tab setting right there in the center, grab it and slide it off to your left (or right depending on where you’re putting your page numbers). You should then have the space across the entire header. My guess is that your name/book title/page number is quite long. It was going past that tab, and thus bumping the page number to the next line. If that doesn’t answer your question about that, let me know.

How to remove a page number from the title page

Now let’s deal with the title page having a 0 on it. If your document has a title page, you don’t want a number on it at all, and page number 1 should actually be your second page. So we want to do something different with the first page. This gets a little complex, so bear with me.

(1) First, you’re going to need to make a section break (not just a page break) between the title page and the first page of your manuscript. If you already have a page break there, remove it so that your copy runs right below your title.

See below that I have run chapter 1 into my title page. Now I need to separate the title page from my chapter 1 with a different kind of break. With my cursor set right before the word “Chapter,” I then click on the Layout tab, then Breaks. Under Section Breaks, click Next Page.

My title page is now on its own page with Chapter 1 starting on a new page. But the header is still appearing on my title page along with the page number 1, so here’s what to do:

(2) Now make sure you click with your cursor into the header section on the title page (or footer if that’s where your page numbers are). Then click on the Design tab and put a click in the box labeled Different First Page. (Note that Show Document Text is already clicked; leave it as is.)

The header on your first page will disappear, but page 2 still says page 2. Let’s fix that so it will be page 1.

(3) Click with your cursor into the header area on page 2. Then go to the Insert tab, back over to Page Numbers, then click Format Page Numbers. It will give you another dialog box.

In the Page Number Format dialog box, you’ll see a section called Page numbering, and then a bullet that says Start at. Click that bullet and put a number 1 in the box, then say okay.

The header on page 2 should now read page 1, and there should be no longer a header on your title page.

Your document may have a lot more complexity, and this is simply a way to set page numbers and separate out a title page.

As always, let me know if you have questions and I’ll research the answers. More to come!

Let’s Get Tech-y: Formatting Your Manuscript

I write on this blog often about the joys and pains of writing–of just getting those words on the pages. I also write often about editing those words (in fact, I wrote a book about it). I also teach it in the Professional Writing major at Taylor University.

But there comes a time when all writers have to understand that those carefully wrought words need to show up in a well-formatted manuscript, set to industry standards. And this is where things can become very frustrating.

So I’m here to show you how, along with a little help from other editor friends. I’m going to begin a series of posts to help you deal with some of those technical parts of prepping your manuscript–one step at a time.

Longtime author and editor Andy Scheer (andyscheer.com) one day posted on Facebook how thrilled he was to receive a correctly formatted manuscript. I dropped him a note to ask, from his perspective, what constituted a manuscript that is “formatted correctly.” Here’s the list he sent me. The manuscript should be:

  • Manuscript is .doc or .docx
  • 12-pt Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced copy
  • No extra space between paragraphs
  • 1-inch margins
  • Paragraphs indented—but NOT with tabs or spacing
  • No double spaces between sentences
  • Page headers with page numbers
  • Page break between chapters
  • Front matter completed (title page, copyright page, table of contents if needed)
  • Copyright page includes copyright info for all Bible versions quoted, especially the default Bible translation

In coming weeks, I’m going to walk through each of these bullet points individually. I’ll help out with the basics and offer some technical tips, screen shots, and more. BUT FIRST, we can deal with several of those issues by creating a template that you use as your base for every piece of writing you plan to submit. So let’s start there. (Note that the following uses a PC; if you have a Mac, stay tuned. I’ll work to get the information you need as we go.)

How to Build Your Template

Having a template that has all of the settings you need already embedded will be a huge help to you. (Just FYI that this is technically simply a blank Word document, but it will have embedded in it all of the settings you need to create a perfectly formatted document and save you trying to redo it every time.)

The following the instructions will walk you through the steps in Microsoft Word. Doing that, you will create a template that will give you the first 6 bullets above: the .doc or .docx extension, 12-pt Times New Roman, double-spaced copy with no extra space between paragraphs, no extra space between paragraphs, 1-inch margins, and indents not with tabs or all those spaces.

(1) Open a new blank Word document.
(2) It mostly likely defaults to one-inch margins, but to check, click on the “Layout” button to give you that ribbon. On the far left is a button called “Margins.” Click it. You should see a “Normal” setting that defaults to all one-inch margins. If that is not clicked, click it.

(3) Now go back to the Home tab to give you that ribbon. Above the “Styles,” box, you’ll see a series of styles that are common to this document. You’ll probably see Normal and some various heading styles. Most everything you type will default to the style called “Normal,” so let’s make sure that “Normal” is the normal that we want for our template. Click on the little down arrow at the bottom right of the Styles box that will drop down a menu of styles (your menu may look different from mine, but you should be able to find Normal).

Locate Normal, click on the down arrow to its right, then click Modify.

This will open a dialog box with lots of options.
(4) About halfway down on the left, you’ll see “Formatting.” Make sure that the first box says Times New Roman and the second box says 12. If they don’t, click on the dropdown arrow and choose those options.

(5) Next, below that, you’ll see buttons with lines in them. The first set on the left is giving you the options to have your copy flush left and ragged right, centered, flush right, or justified (straight on both sides). You want to choose the first button for flush left and ragged right.
(6) The next three buttons show lines really close (single spacing), sort of close (1.5 spacing), and far apart (double spacing). You want to click on the third button for double spacing.

Wait, you’re not done yet! Let’s deal with the other issues:

(7) In that same box, bottom left is a button that says “Format.” Push it, and then click on “Paragraph.” Yet another dialog box pops up!

(8) In this box, halfway down on the right side, you’ll see the word “Special.” In the box should be the words “First line.” If not (it probably says “None”), click on the dropdown arrow and choose “First line.” In the box beside that, you can set how far the indent should be. It’s probably best to put .5 there. This will automatically indent your new paragraphs so you don’t have to add a tab each time.
(9) Keep going, there are a few more boxes on the left below that under “Spacing” with “Before” and “After” choices. Make sure that those read 0. (The default often has 10 in the After slot, which is creating extra space between the paragraphs. You want it to say 0—so change it. And don’t use “Auto.”)
(10) Since you already set this to double spacing on the previous menu, you should see the word “Double” under “Line Spacing.”
(11) Now click OK. This will take you back to that previous dialog box. Do one more thing here to seal the deal and help you not have to do this again:

(12) At the very bottom, right above that format button, are a couple of choices. Put a dot in the circle that says “New documents based on this template.” Now click OK.
(13) This will take you back to your blank document. Now do a “Save As” and save this document as your own personal template for doing all of your writing. Calling it “Mytemplate” should work. Store it on your desktop and you’ll always have a template ready to go when inspiration strikes. So now you have:

  • Manuscript is .doc or .docx
  • 12-pt Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced copy
  • No extra space between paragraphs
  • 1-inch margins
  • Paragraphs indented—but NOT with tabs or spacing

Every time you start a new book or a new story, open this template, do another “Save As” to save that piece of writing with whatever title you want to give it. That way you’ll always preserve the settings you created in your template and won’t have to redo them every time for every piece of writing.

We’ll continue our tech-y talks in coming weeks to help make sure you’re submitting your documents the way the publishers want them.

If you have some other tech-y questions, write them below and I’ll see what I can help you with in future posts.

In Love with God’s Word: Because It’s a Love Letter

I’m guessing that the Bible is probably one of the world’s most misunderstood books. It’s also one of the most owned but unread books. How many people sitting in the pews of our churches, or claiming the Christian faith, or attending Christian universities have read through the entire Bible, let alone taken time to truly study it? How many read it daily as the source of guidance and inspiration it is? How many truly see it as God’s words spoken to us?

Too many in our “enlightened” world look upon this ancient book as nothing more than that — an ancient book for a time and a place long before we all came along and now know better how to live our lives (*sarcasm*).

This book — this singular book — holds the key to a life well lived and a secure eternity (as I noted in this post). Yet so many sit idly on bookshelves gathering dust as we spend our hours scrolling through the latest Facebook argument or watching movies on our phones. Yet life’s answers are nowhere else. Indeed, media and social media most often leave us empty and confused, even angry. Maybe a warm-hearted video of baby elephants will lighten the mood momentarily, but it will not bring answers to the dilemmas of life.

The Bible can and will. But it must be read, read carefully, studied and understood with guidance from Christian scholars who also believe in its truth (and not merely the latest blogger with the biggest fan base), and then respected as sacred Scripture — God’s Word speaking to the individual through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s love letter to the human race.

Yes, perhaps that all sounds a little mystical, and in actuality, it is. It’s spiritual power, beyond our comprehension, something we can’t rein in and explain. It’s faith. 

The Bible is losing ground in many places (see Barna research from 2013), being seen as nothing more than a book written by men and having no bearing on life today.

quote scripture

Other bloggers tell me that to see God’s Word as speaking to me is nothing more than “Western narcissism.”

It’s not narcissistic for me to daily go to God’s Word in prayer and seek what He’s saying to me. It’s what He wants me to do. The Word of God, written by people and compiled by people was not a people-driven enterprise. If I truly believe in the all-powerful God, then I also believe that Scripture came together exactly as He planned and that it is still “living and active” in our world and in my world. (And wow, is this becoming an increasingly unpopular opinion!)

It is a complex book with a simple message: God’s great love for us all. When we can grasp that unfathomable kind of love, when we have faith that is “the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen,” when we get out of our own way, when we come with faith as children, we discover Truth with a capital T that helps us begin to make sense of a complex world.

God speaks, and He speaks through His Word given to us. We would do well to blow any dust off that sacred book and dig in.

I did that several months ago. I had managed to let my own Bible gather dust or go missing from Sunday to Sunday (there’s something very convicting about not being able to locate your Bible before church on a Sunday morning). Now, I’m back in. Reading a little a day. Whether I’m in a glorious psalm or the depths of Leviticus, I’m sitting with God and His sacred love story to me.

It helps me refocus, regain my perspective, and rest in Him. No matter what happens in my world, I am called to bring His love and peace and joy to every situation. I am called to be His hands and feet. I am called on this particular pilgrim’s path, called to do what I’m specifically made for.

And so are you, fellow pilgrim.

That journey of simple steps, of daily service to Him, adds up to a life that will glorify Him and only Him.

I simply want to one day hear Him say, “Well done.”

6 Masks I’ve Worn This Week: Pros & Cons

It’s a brand new school year and a brand new way of thinking and teaching. If I thought that going completely online with my classes last March was a challenge, I’m now trying to teach in masks. Below are pics of me trying these various masks and the pros and cons of each. 

I’m only a few days in and already trying to determine what’s going to work for me. I started with the standard mask that I’ve been wearing into stores since March.

Pros: Lightweight and easy to wear, easy to speak through. Cons: Soooo boring.

I purchased some nicer, heavier-duty masks that I thought would be healthier by maybe screening out those germy germs better …

Pros: Heavier duty (keep germs out better?). Cons: These pull on my ears and begin to give me a headache during an hour of teaching.

Received this cute one with cats on it from my sister. (Does anyone else find it odd that these masks are now fashion statements?)

mask-2
Pros: So cute! And so appropriate.
Cons: Kept slipping down as I talked and needed to constantly readjust. Best for wearing when I’m not going to be doing a lot of talking.

Received this one from our department chair who felt it would be especially appropriate for me.

mask-1
Pros: Yay for a grammar mask! Cons: Kept getting caught in my mouth as I talked. Best for silently correctly people’s grammar.

Got hold of this one because … well … school spirit.

mask-3
Pros: School colors, school logo. Comfy. Cons: As with most of the other masks, a bit of a fogging issue on my glasses.

But still, the issue became that I really like to smile at my students. It’s bad enough that I’m looking at masks and eyes and receiving very little feedback visually. It seems worse that they can’t get any kind of visual feedback from me. So I have now opted for this:

mask
Pros: I can smile at my students and they can see it. Cons: I look like a welder. It messes up my hair. When I speak, it goes straight into my own ears so I feel like I’m in an echo chamber. Beware of a sneeze or spit. Can’t wave my hands a lot. Can’t scratch my nose or eyes. Oh, and I can’t take a drink with it on, unless I have a loooong straw.

So, why choose the one mask with the most cons? Well, I feel like the ability to offer some kind of visual feedback to my students is very important — hair, spit, echoes, itchy nose, and all.

Around campus, I’ve seen masks of various materials, colors, and styles. We are indeed making these into statements to try to reflect a bit about ourselves, even … ahem … behind the mask.

What about you? How are you dealing with the masking situation and what are you doing to make your masks reflect you?

Good Old Summertime: Or Why I Got Nothing Done and I’m Okay with It

I truly tried. I had a list. I had a schedule. I had good intentions. I was going to GET STUFF DONE.

Write some articles. Work with writing prompts. Submit. Start a more vigorous exercise program. Learn InDesign and Google Analytics. Write some letters.

Instead, you know what I did? Not that.

I rested. I slept. I read books. I spent more time in God’s Word. My husband and I spent many hours deciding on paint colors for our three rebuilt rooms. I cheered him on as he painted all those rooms (I offered to help, but he knows my shoulder problems would only be made worse). We brought some furniture to replace what was destroyed in the fire. We bought a dining room set at a garage sale. We planted and maintained our gardens.

Painting, painting, painting.
Butterfly garden in its third year. Mostly perennials, a few annuals.

I freelanced on a manuscript style tagging job. I ran our Taylor University Professional Writers’ Conference again — only virtually this time, with great help from my Taylor University IT friend and fellow writer and editor T.R. Knight, who managed our Zoom conference with great skill and patience.

But, honestly, I feel like I accomplished nothing.

I frustrate myself so often. What is it that makes me create lists and check off the little tasks (buy coffee) but let the bigger ideas, the longer-term items (finish that creative nonfiction article) go from week to week in my schedule book, carried over as if I can do so indefinitely?

What makes those writing tasks so hard for me?

Some if it is rejection. Some of it is imposter-syndrome. Some of it is being just plain tired. I could blame the pandemic and all of the stress of online teaching this past spring. I could blame the pandemic for lack of personal contact with many of the people I love most. I could blame the worries over the many issues bombarding our world today and how my brain is tired trying to navigate them. I could blame our house rebuild that has dragged on because of scheduling issues with various contractors. I could blame my age.

OR I could just let it go and say it’s okay. I did what I did and it was all good. Time with books and in God’s Word and resting were probably what I most needed considering everything else going on in my life and in our world.

Yeah, I think I’ll go with that.

I’m a Type A personality who always feels the need to “be accomplishing something.” Everything I do needs to be something I can check off a list or post on Goodreads or have something to show for it. My writing so often doesn’t. It sits on my computer because no one else should ever see it. Or I took the chance to send it out and get rejected.

Maybe I need to add “take a nap” and “get a rejection letter” and “write X number of terrible pages” to my daily to-do list.

That’s actually not a bad idea. I could at least trick my brain into thinking I’m accomplishing something. I already know that rejections and terrible pages are the stuff of good writing (well, probably naps as well).

And I’m okay with that.

6 Things I Learned Being an Online Prof

It’s been since March, the 18th to be exact, when our classrooms went dark, when tearful goodbyes were said (especially by seniors), when all of the faculty at Taylor University looked around at first with a sense of odd horror. Spring break had begun three days early, and that gave us about 12 days to pivot and move all our classes to an online format.

Since I live a half hour from campus and have good internet, I decided to teach from home. So I vacated as well, packing up files and books and planners. We still live in half a house, so I spent a day of spring break clearing out boxes that were stored on our upstairs landing and creating a desk space for myself. Getting physically organized helped me get emotionally and mentally organized.

desk

I have to say, by the time I posted final grades on May 26, I was exhausted. And I know I’m not alone. I know my fellow faculty and students were exhausted as well.

To all of you out there — students, parents, teachers — I salute you. This was weird, but we did it the best we could. I know it wasn’t easy; it was downright difficult.

Here are 6 things I learned about myself during this time:

1. I really do enjoy the classroom and interaction with my students — and this is a God-thing.

Ask me 15 years ago about where I’d be today, I never never never would have put myself at the front of a classroom talking for a career. I’m an introvert. I don’t talk in groups. I don’t like having attention on me. Yet here I am. God can work in mysterious ways.

2. Despite my insecurity, I can do tough things with lots of support and lots of prayer.

Even though I’ve taught online classes before, this was obviously a new challenge. Syllabi had already been carefully prepared, group projects planned, assignments set. The challenge was repurposing the rest of the semester to make sense to my students while still allowing for the learning outcomes I hoped to achieve. I started with the hoped-for outcomes and worked backward — determining how to revise assignments, changing group projects to individual ones, making the needed teaching videos, and creating benchmarks of smaller pieces to keep everyone on track in the larger assignments. Taylor worked hard to support us in every possible way, and this was an encouragement. Oh, and I prayed … a lot.

3. Sometimes difficulty forces improvement.

A few times my class adjustments showed me improvements that I want to carry into my regular classes. That’s a good thing.

4. I’m not very tech savvy, so I opted for K.I.S.S. and that was okay.

“Keep it simple, stupid” was my mantra. So many of my fellow faculty had great ideas and apps and programs they shared in our private Facebook group. After feeling overwhelmed and techno-phobic, I realized I just needed to do what I felt comfortable doing. I did have our Blackboard specialist help me learn how to record videos and share my screen so I could do some lectures. Zoom worked great, but I used it mostly for one-on-one advising appointments. The simpler, the better, which gave me a lot less stress. But at the same time …

5. I need to invest time in training to use the tools at my disposal.

Our university uses Blackboard and it’s a pretty powerful program, but I realized this spring that I’ve only scratched the surface. I struggled with grading columns and discussion boards. I’m sure I can make use of other features if I know about them. I intend to get some training this fall.

6. Nothing beats clear organization and expectations.

My students appreciated my daily checklists of assignments. Laying out each day’s work and clearly listing due dates in red helped them keep up (and, seriously, it helped me just as much). Adjusting expectations helped as well — some students had difficulty with internet reliability or broadband strength (especially if siblings were also doing school and/or parents were working); others struggled with a variety of home situations. As crazy as college life can be, there’s a schedule to everything that helps keep life on track. Judging by the fact that my students were turning in work on time (mostly) and seemed to understand what I wanted from them means I maybe did something right!

nano30a

Yes, it’s over, but who’s to say when something unexpected will hit us again? I hope I learned a few things to make the next transition easier.

Whatever you’ve been doing these last couple months, what have you learned about yourself?

6 Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids Survive as Virtual College Students

Last week’s post about surviving as a virtual college student offered some basic info for many students heading home to finish their semester. I (and all my colleagues at Taylor University and teachers pretty much everywhere) have been trying to comfort students and rework courses so we can deliver the desired learning outcomes in an online format.

Then I came across a post on Facebook by Lori Heinrichs Cahill. I don’t yet know the source of this material (indeed it may be her), but it’s so helpful that I want to repost much of it. If this is coming from another source, as soon as I know if there is an origin beyond Ms. Cahill, I will happily add that source here.

And, also happily, there are … wait for it … 6 tips! The advice here is really only going to be workable if (1) your student does what I’ve suggested in the previous blog about creating a schedule and being in the school mindset, and if (2) parents and their student(s) figure this out together. Start the communication now and figure this out together now. Trust me. There will be a whole lot less stress later if you lay the groundwork now and then adjust along the way over the coming weeks.

yes

So here you go with credit to the original author (and additional comments from me in purple):

A message from a faculty member to parents of students now doing college from home:

Many of us are navigating new terrain beginning this week, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts as we move forward.

1. Your student is not home for break, and don’t treat it as such.

Your student is still carrying a full course load and class schedule. They may have a class scheduled during your normal family dinnertime. They are not going to be able to supervise younger siblings all day. They may not be available to drop off groceries for Grandma. That’s not to say they shouldn’t help with things around the house. . . . But make sure that you are making requests when they are truly available and respect their schedule.

[Author’s note: While some teachers will be allowing students to do their own work at their own pace (hence, the need for them to create a schedule that forces them to do the credit-hours-worth of work each week), some teachers will be creating a few classes that will require students to log in at the same time for a virtual class. It is going to be vital that your student be able to do this–both in terms of schedule and in terms of capability. Many Internet services are offering help during this time of great need. Check with your provider.]

2. Realize that they are under A LOT of stress.

We are entering the most stressful time of the semester with final projects, papers, and course material that is at its peak difficulty. We are asking them to navigate new online systems that they may not have used before. On top of that they have been displaced from their normal routine, their social interactions, their campus resources, etc. Many of them (especially seniors) are grieving the loss of anticipated spring performances, sporting events, and campus activities that they have been working toward all semester/year. Some of them have lost the opportunity to say goodbye to their senior friends.

3. Make sure they have the resources they need to be successful.

To the best of your ability, make sure they have a place to work where the rest of the family knows to leave them alone. Do they have the computer/Internet connection they need to do their work? Have they retrieved all of the necessary textbooks, notes, etc. from their dorm room? If that’s not feasible, have them check with their professor about online access to the text. Many publishers are providing free Ebook access during the pandemic.

4. Remember, they are not in high school anymore.

They do not need you to remind them when they have assignments due, and you don’t need to tell them when they should start studying for the next exam or writing that paper that is due tonight. They are adults and fully capable of managing their workload.

[Author’s note: But as is mentioned above, they are indeed grieving, feeling confused, and worried. We’ve been through a lot in our lives (our grandparents remember rationing during WWII, our parents remember the draft during the Vietnam War, we remember 9/11). Our kids don’t have a way to process this since they’ve never experienced anything like this. They might need a little bit of encouragement. You know your young person. Help out as needed and be available, but don’t be a helicopter parent.]

5. Just a warning, college students have really weird working and sleep schedules.

It is not uncommon for them to schedule a meeting with team members at 9 or 10 pm, and prime study time for most is after dark. Just let them do what works for them and remind them to shut the lights off when they finally do go to sleep.

[Author’s note: They may still be working on group projects that will require them to work together on some form of group communication platform (if your broadband can handle it). This may mean some late nights. Let them do what they need to do when they need to do it.]

6. Discourage them from getting together with local college and old high school friends.

. . . Reassure them that in a few weeks, when the coronavirus cases start to decline, they will be able to go out and do things with friends. For now, stay home as much as possible. And (I never thought I’d say this) encourage social interaction through the phone that’s always attached to their hands for the immediate future.

Most of all, enjoy having your kids back under your roof for a while.

Stay healthy!

P.S. Remind them to be kind to their professors. Most of us have had a week or less to completely revise our classes, assignments, and assessments to an online platform. We are using technology that we have never used or never used in this way. Many of us also have children home from college, school, or daycare — or elderly parents that we are concerned about. We will do our absolute best to provide your students with the quality education they deserve, but we will make some mistakes and some things we try are going to fall flat. Be patient, we’ll get through it together.

[Author’s note: Amen and amen.]

challenge

I’d love to hear from you. What are you doing to help make this transition work for your college student?

6 Tips for Surviving as a Virtual College Student

With the current closing and moving to online classes of many schools and universities (including mine), I’ve realized the challenge that many of my students will be facing and want to offer some pieces of advice.

(1) Remember that you’re still “in school”

As you head away from campus — whether you’re going home or elsewhere or staying on campus due to other travel restrictions — your mind will shift into “break” mode. It will take some mental gymnastics to force yourself to realize that isn’t the case. Just because you’re changing your venue doesn’t mean you’re not in school anymore.

It’s a location shift, not a vocation shift.

And since for our school, spring break begins early, and then we’re back to virtual school, then a couple days off for Easter break, and then potentially still online (if things don’t change in the next two weeks), everyone will need to mentally shift at least twice.

Tell yourself that as soon as the next “in school” date rolls around: I am not on break! Then tell yourself again after the next break when school is again on your own. I am not on break!

break

(2) Make sure you pack everything you need

At my school, the students are packing up to leave on Tuesday; I realize many of you at other schools are already gone from your campus. If you’re still in packing mode, remember that this time, you need to take all class materials. Spend a few moments at your desk thinking about what you normally carry to class each day and the materials you’ve been collecting all semester —

pack

  • textbook(s)
  • notebook
  • folder with handouts
  • study cards
  • syllabus
  • other resources

Do this for each class and pack these up to take with you.

(3) Create a schedule

It’s not going to be easy to maintain a study schedule when you don’t have to arrive at classes at certain times. Depending on how your prof sets up the online learning class, you may be on your own. If you’re required to log in at certain times, set your phone alarm to remind you. In any case, for all your classes, create a schedule and stick to it.

  • For your 3-credit classes, you’re in class for 3 hours a week and you have homework for at least that many hours.
  • Create a weekly schedule — if it helps, plan to work during the same time that you would be in class anyway. For your 9:00 class, set aside Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 9:00 and sit down to work on your class assignments.
  • If that doesn’t work or if you need to work around your family’s schedule to find quiet study time, do so, but find those needed hours somewhere.
  • Remember that you usually sat in class at that time and then did homework, so set aside another couple of hours during your week (at least) to work on those class assignments.
  • Give your family that schedule so they’ll understand your need to not be interrupted (see point #4).

(4) Find a quiet spot to work & limit distractions

Again, this is the concept of not being in “break” mode. Make your family aware that siblings can’t be interrupting nonstop; you’re trying to simulate school because you need to keep up with homework. (You may run into the same problem with interruptions at school, so whatever you do there should work at home.)

Wherever your work spot is (and it may well be the kitchen table!), you’ll need to be especially focused. Younger siblings may be home as well with their own school closings. You’re going to be tempted to do what you normally do on break, so it’s going to take focus and discipline to keep up with your classes (see points #1 and #2).

(5) Work ahead & beyond

Realize how many hours you spend on campus going to and from class, goofing off in the dorms, spending time at meals. All of that time is now yours. Don’t waste it. Now is the time to make headway on that end-of-the-year project, do some extra reading or practicing, or get a handle on that one concept that you’ve been struggling with all semester.

Use the online resources your university library offers. If you’ve not been in the habit of online research (beyond Google), now is the time to experience what your school library has to offer through their online portal.

online

(6) Keep calm

Don’t let this semester get away from you or fall apart because you’re not planning well during this enforced online learning time. This is all part of the adulting you’ll soon be doing. Life often throws curve balls, and you’ll need to adjust and keep moving.

Stay calm. Be organized. Take advantage of the opportunities these coming weeks may offer in terms of revised schedules, time with family, or extra time to do the things you already love.

See you sometime soon! (I hope!)

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An Ode to My Typewriter

Sitting here typing away on my laptop has become second nature. There are moments, however, when I fondly recall my old Smith-Corona typewriter. What a treat it was to carry it to college in its snazzy case — my first electric typewriter. Toggle the on button, listen for the whir, insert bright white paper, roll down to an inch from the top margin. And type.

typewriterThe force needed to push the keys on my old manual typewriter gave way to easier tapping. But alas, errors had to be either carefully erased with a clean eraser or whited out with the ever-present bottle of appropriately named Wite-Out or with Liquid Paper. (Fun fact: Did you know Liquid Paper was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, mother of Mike Nesmith — member of 1960s band The Monkees?) I loved to use “onion-skin” paper because it was so much easier to erase — the surface just didn’t hold the ink as well. Teachers hated it because it also made the papers extremely difficult to read. (As a college prof now always reading printed papers, I publicly apologize to all my own college profs who suffered through such papers from me!)

Ribbons would run out and need to be replaced, causing your paper to appear in two tones. Not paying attention could cause you to type for several words with nothing appearing on the page. Not paying attention might also cause you to type right off the bottom of the sheet of paper, which meant either retyping the page or slathering Wite-Out across the entire bottom of the sheet of paper and blowing on it until it would (eventually) dry. Same thing with making sure you heard the ding at the right margin and reached up to push the carriage back to start the next line.

Some days, when I’m writing and backspacing with ease on my laptop (no clumsy erasers or Wite-Out bottles in sight), when I’m moving paragraphs around and changing my mind only to move them somewhere else, I think how different my college papers would have been with this amazing machine instead of my clunky Smith-Corona. Would I have done a final revision, knowing I should move a new paragraph to the beginning but also knowing that would mean retyping the entire paper? I’m sure, too often, the pages were just left as they were because it would have been far too much trouble and too time-consuming to retype.

Ernest-Hemingway-1929-Underwood-Standard FAKE
What might have been Hemingway’s typewriter, as seen at The Atlantic, “The Hidden World of Typewriters.”

Which also gives me awe for the likes of Hemingway and, indeed, those classic writers, who worked by hand and on manual typewriters. Hemingway once told The Paris Review that he rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms 39 times. Whether he did this on a notepad or on a trusty typewriter, I honestly am amazed at picturing him yanking the paper out of the typewriter, scrolling in a new piece, taking a drag on a cigarette, and trying again and again and again until he was satisfied.

All of this makes me happy to report that typewriters are apparently making a comeback. Young people have always had screens and easy-to-push keys. I wonder if they are finding some kind of tangible joy in the feel of a typewriter and getting one that “fits” them individually — has the right angles, the right tension, even the right lines and color.

I have a couple of old typewriters that merely decorate my office, although my 11-year-old grandson is fascinated and attempts to type against the ancient ribbon each time he visits.

Now I’m thinking I need to clean it up, try to find a usable ribbon, and work my hand and wrist muscles a bit.

Nah. Writing is hard enough. But I still admire Hemingway.

Those of you readers who typed on typewriters, what do you miss (or not)?

 

Close Reading — It’s Good for You

Back in June of 2015, I wrote a post about how excited I was to teach a class in our Professional Writing major called The Writer’s Craft. As it turns out, I’m teaching the same class again this spring semester, five years later. I have enjoyed recasting this class with some new writing to explore, new pedagogies to try, and five more years of teaching confidence under my belt.

As I noted in the earlier post, this class does not look at the why of a piece of writing. Instead, we focus on the mechanics, the how, the craft. What words does the writer use? How are those words making this piece sing? What about sentence structure? Paragraphing? How is this dialogue telling us the story without telling us the story? We’re still using some tried and true greats (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck), but I’ve added a few titles still classic but not as old (Tim O’Brien, E. B. White, John Updike, Flannery O’ Connor), along with diversity (Joy Harjo, Jame McBride, and a few names I’m still researching), plus some YA and fantasy genre pieces (also still researching).

Seriously, the class is planned, but in the short time frame between closing out J-term capstone class and beginning the spring semester (3 days), I found myself with a few TBDs on the reading schedule that I’ll fill in as we go along.

College teaching is just sometimes like that.

In addition, we’re still using Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writerbut this time I’ve also added Anne Lamott’s delightful Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeIt may be 25 years old, but I know it will speak volumes to my students about being writers.

 

The essence of the class is what Prose calls “close reading.” Usually when we read for pleasure, we skim along, anxious to discover who falls in love, or whodunit, or how to solve that problem the book promises to solve.

With close reading, however, we linger over the words. The students receive printed copies of the pieces they’ll be “close reading” so they can write all over them — commenting, highlighting, underlining, circling. This kind of reading helps us to read, as Prose says,

. . . more analytically, conscious of style, of diction, of how sentences were formed and information was being conveyed, how the writer was structuring a plot, creating characters, employing detail and dialogue. . . . I discovered that writing, like reading, was done one word at a time, one punctuation mark at a time. It required what a friend calls ‘putting very word on trial for its life.’

As writers, our currency is the words we string together. We write our first drafts and then go back and revise, putting every word on trial, forcing it to explain why it should stay, removing or replacing it if the case isn’t made — if the lyricism or characterization or structure or foreshadowing requires something else.

As we read these masterful writers, we stand in awe at how they make look so simple a scene that we know required dozens of small perfect choices.

And even as I continue to journal Scripture, close reading is causing me to slow down on familiar passages and read them more carefully, seeing them anew.

In our busy culture with quick social media posts and constant bombardment of words, it’s almost a relief to be forced to slow down and delight in the world an author so carefully crafted for us.

Try a little close reading. It’ll do you good.

What’s your favorite book that has delighted and astounded you with its writing?