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  1. 1. Courtney M. Riggin Fall 2011--LL ED 597G Writing for ChildrenDr. Susan Campbell BartolettiPennsylvania State University
  2. 2. This portfolio is dedicated to my husband, Justin Thomas Riggin, who patiently listens to all my tales... and sometimes helps me discover them; and to my newborn son, Thomas Walker Riggin,in honor of the stories he will hear, experience, and create throughout his life; because, as I like to tell them, they are my favorites.
  3. 3. Copyright © 2011 by Courtney M. Riggin All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Table of ContentsPart One Poem: Autumn Fort Reflection: Autumn Fort Poem: How Sunday Best Reflection: Sunday Best Poem: A Letter to Rain Reflection: A Letter to Rain Poem: Messy Room Reflection: Messy Room Short Story: The Feast of the After-Christmas Birds Reflection: The Feast of the After-Christmas BirdsPart Two Critique One Critique One Reflection Critique Two Critique Two Reflection Critique Three Critique Three Reflection Critique Four Critique Four Reflection Writing Philosophy: An EssayPart Three Author’s Note Biography Blurbs
  5. 5. PART ONE Poem: Autumn Fort Reflection: Autumn Fort Poem: Sunday Best Reflection: Sunday Best Poem: A Letter to Rain Reflection: A Letter to Rain Poem: Messy Room Reflection: Messy RoomShort Story: The Feast of the After-Christmas BirdsReflection: The Feast of the After-Christmas Birds
  6. 6. Autumn FortAs the first Autumn winds whipped through the air, I hollered for my brother across the yard, and barely glimpsed his outline as he darted behind a bush.I dashed around the bush to catch up with him, leaning into my turn like a rodeo barrel racer; the bush must have been the size of a funnel cake stand— the kind with windows and wheels that travels around from fair to fair, circus to circus, and show to show.As the swiftly-moving clouds sprinkled sunlight like a disco ball across the lawn, I suddenly stopped, frowned, and turned round and round looking for him, I shuffled my feet through the fallen leaves until I heard the soft, smooth sound of a single harmonica chord.When the harmonica went silent, I moved closer, staring at the bush’s curtain of leaves; suddenly his hand burst through a thick vine, pushing it aside in one sweep, scattering leaves from the branches like confetti tossed toward a parade float.As the leaves were caught by the wind and carried through the playful sprays of sunlight, I realized the branch was only a thin wall of leaves covering a secret space—I crawled into the entrance and saw the open room he had chopped inside the bush with the garden shears meant for pruning mother’s holly bushes.I looked around the room— I liked the walls and ceiling of gnarly, leaf-studded branches And the roots and limbs that stood like ballroom pillars across the room;
  7. 7. I liked the spongy floor of twigs and damp leaves And the way the earth smelled like black pepper and cinnamon sprinkled on the pages of my favorite books.As my brother disappeared through the leaf curtain to build a new secret fort, I decided the room needed a table and two chairs, a vase of flowers, and a welcome rug to make it just right.
  8. 8. “Autumn Fort” Reflection I grew up in a rural community in Alabama. Our house rested on a 600-acre pecan orchardsurrounded by woods. Our yard alone covered 3 acres of Earth. In this yard, there was a bush thesize of a traveling funnel cake stand—maybe even larger—and one afternoon my brother revealedto me that he had cleared the branches and leaves from the middle of the bush to create the effect ofa room big enough for me to stand and twirl around in. I could probably have managed a decentcartwheel, too. In real life, my older brother has always been evasive and romantic in his endeavors,which was how I hoped to portray his character in the poem. In both real life and the poem, herevealed the hideaway to me only after he had decided to move on to something bigger and better. Ido not know what he did with the fort while it was his secret. I took over the fort and made it myown, just like the girl in the poem. It’s a wonder all that chopping did not kill the bush; but as I grewup, it grew back its original density with health and vigor. Although my parents have since moved toa new house nearby, the bush still stands.
  9. 9. Sunday BestThe pictures etched in the stained glass windows show people weeping, pleading, bowing, and watching— never playing, singing, or dancing. They echo the well-known rule, Shhhhhh… Be still!The stiff wooden pews hold people dressed in starched collars, hot wool, and scratchy lace sitting like wooden soldiers staring straight ahead at the priest in his long black robes and heavy silver cross, And he reminds them, Shhhhhh… Be still!Everyone pretends not to notice Mama trying to catch my little brother as he scampers by; scurrying under the pews and out again, marching up and down the rows, She’s reaching, He escapes, She hisses, Shhhhhh… Be still!I sit very straight with my hands in my lap— I am old enough to know how to act. The preacher asks us to bow our heads for prayer. Brother scurries by, hopping like a jackrabbit, He giggles And it echoes through the heavy pine beams. They seem to roar, Shhhhhh… Be still!A gray-haired man watches with a scowl, Then he turns his face But I can see him chuckle.
  10. 10. A matron in a high-necked wool dress shakes her head and frowns, Then she holds her handkerchief to her mouth And her eyes crinkle from the smile she hides.Brother escapes Mama’s grasp again, He croons as another giggle rises from his belly. She begs, Shhhhhh… Be still!I try to be silent, but I giggle too. Then the gray-haired man and the matron look at each other And laugh out loud. Then all the people throw back their heads in a chorus of noisy laughter. Who says we should be so quiet? Who says we should be so still?As the organ begins the closing hymn, the sun strikes through the stained glass casting a honey-glow on the faces of the people in the rigid wooden pews and commands them, Stand and sing! Stand and sing! Stand and sing! Stand and sing!
  11. 11. “Sunday Best” Reflection I grew up in a very traditional church atmosphere—and I still prefer traditional services.However, since I have moved away from my childhood church, they have had a series of issues withpreachers. One of these preachers was plagued by depression. The church congregation wanted togive him a chance even though his illness often caused him to totally miss church services withoutany notice, leaving the congregation members to divvy up responsibilities and lead their ownservices in his absence(yes, this is a true story!). One of these Sundays when the preacher didn’t show up, I happened to be visiting. I wasdeeply impressed by the way the congregation honored the essence of their reason for coming tochurch and collaborated to thread together a makeshift, informal service (even though they areaccustomed to proper and predictable). Their version was one of the most touching and enjoyableservices I have attended. I was remembering this incident one Sunday as I sat watching a toddler. I was wonderingwhy he had been allowed to come into the service and why the mother wasn’t taking him out of thesanctuary when I suddenly remembered that spontaneous, totally improvised service at mychildhood church. I looked around and an old man caught my eye. From time to time, he would turntoward the boy and mother with a sour expression. “He’s ticked,” I thought with confidence. Then,the little boy suddenly escaped and ran up to the man’s pew and slid into the seat next to him. Theman’s face lit up. The boy made lots of racket. The man laughed. I jotted down my observations ofthis exchange, and the idea for this poem was born. Originally, the poem was not child-centric. I am still struggling with some lines and the tone,but thanks to the suggestions of my classmates and some time spent tweaking the lines, it is closerto a child’s perspective than it was before. I only submitted this piece to the workshop once, so therevisions have been solely focused on modifying the poem from an adult-centric observation to achild-centric piece. My next revisions will focus more on tone and structure. I hope to achieve amore playful, casual tone than I have now as well as tighten the structure so that the lines form arepetitious rhythm and the “Shhhhh… be still!” lines are more predictable for a child listening to thepoem.
  12. 12. A Letter to RainDear Rain,I don’t know why you catch such a racket.As soon as the weather man says, “Rain, rain, rain!”boring grown-ups and stodgy kids throw up their hands,and they moan, moan, moanas if the forecast for your arrival was the same as,“Everyone will step in chewed-up, gooey gum today,and it will stink like canned asparagus.”But Rain, I don’t agree.You make me want to parade through your showers cheering, “You’re here, You’re here!”I throw on my slick raincoat and galoshes and try to trap your wind in my open umbrella.I imagine your raindrops are candied sprinkles fallingto cover the rooftops, parking lots, and sidewalks like giant cakes squares;I watch your droplets race down the windows of cars and buildings.Even after you’ve left, I can watch the squishy earth rise up between my toesand flood my toenails:I pretend the murky water is ocean wavesand I am a lifeguard or a surfer or a sandcastle artist;and then I stir up the waves and become a dancer,splashing the water to the rhythm of my feetand making the puddles swirl and splatter.Rain,I especially like when you visit in summerbecause it’s like a gigantic sprinkler has been turned onfor us to play in together.
  13. 13. “A Letter to Rain” Reflection I wrote this piece by accident. It came from the assignment in which we listed ten thingsfound in nature. I listed “rain” because I was tired at the time and it was raining outside. As I wasreviewing the list, “rain” caught my eye. For a split second I was going to write about what one cando on a dreary, rainy day. Then, I thought… maybe a child wouldn’t always see a rainy day as dreary.In fact, I suddenly remembered that I loved rainy days until I started fixing my hair and putting onmakeup before junior high school each morning. As a child, I thought rainy days were exciting andeven a bit enchanting. So, I decided to write a “Letter to Rain” from a child who happens to enjoyrainy days. I wanted the child to seem as if he or she was concerned that people’s general reactionto “rain” was something that hurt rain’s feelings.
  14. 14. Messy RoomPssst! C’mere and let me tell you something:A messy room can promote an average middle-school kidto the ranks of the coolest college guys—the ones who get all the chicks.All you have to do is smear greasy fingers across the wallafter snacking on Tator Tots; eat funnel cakes in bedand let the powdered sugar and fried ringlet crumbsfall between the layers of sheets; let the dust pile upuntil you can make mini moguls on the window silland surfaces, lounge around with a pack of long-haired dogsand let them shed their fur and slather their drooling tongues acrosseverything a soapy mop might clean; leave glasses of half-drunk milkin every nook and cranny until they curdle and stink and eventuallyharden in the bottom of the glass; then pop them out andwhittle little carvings from the small, repulsive slabsand place them on display.Well, now I gotta go. It’s almost time for the bash of the year—Everyone who’s anyone will be there—And anyone who’s not will be a loser at school on Monday.My gang of guys will be here any minute...Oh wait a sec, my mom’s calling me—“WHAT? But Mooooooom, why do I have to clean my roombefore I can go to the party?”
  15. 15. “Messy Room” Reflection Writing “Messy Room” was one of the assignments that removed me from my comfort zone.One of my personal tendencies I have noticed this semester is to automatically slip into a detached,nostalgic voice. I also tend to be drawn more towards complexity and formality in meaning andtone rather than just sitting down to write fun pieces. Children generally prefer fun pieces, so myhope was that in writing a few, I could gradually become more comfortable balancing “fun” and“funny” with profound meanings and poetic language. This is not a poem I would want to share with the general public— that “cool” means“irresponsible” is just not the sort of message kids need more of. Kids get that message enough frompop culture and peers. I had several suggestions to remove or totally rewrite the ending. Thisstanza is meant to convey the point that you won’t actually get anywhere if you live by the “messy iscool” philosophy—maybe my intentions make the piece a little too pedantic, which is anotherreason I wouldn’t strive to distribute it. My hope is that I achieve a point in a lighthearted, ShelSilverstein way. Regardless, I tried to rework the last stanza rather than delete it, but I am not sosure it’s tight enough even now. Moreover, I feel the tone is a bit too cool and irreverent for mytastes, although I think it is consistent and convincing. I am including this poem in my portfoliobecause I feel it was an important exercise for me, and I also want to show my flexibility as a writer. In the final revision, I chose to play with colloquialisms to more greatly influence the overalltone. In addition, I tried to apply more of my classmates’ suggestions—with the exception ofreplacing the term “mini moguls” with a more common image. After considering it, I decided that“moguls” are common enough for anyone who has attempted snow sports or watched the winterOlympics—and if the readers doesn’t know the term it would be a good one to learn!
  16. 16. The Feast of the After-Christmas Birds, A Picture BookWhen green polka-dots sprout on the trees,and pinkand purpleand redand yellow starburstspop from the tight buds,and the warmth finally drives the nip awayThat’s when she remembers the birds.There was a River Oak tree behind the blueberry patchwhere she found them,living in a holedeep in the trunknear the ground.The hole wound downand aroundand through the trunk,and there,tucked in the cool, dark bottom,were four baby birds.They were only scrawny creatureswrapped in pink skin and tissuewith ugly stems for legsand gaping beaks
  17. 17. on spindly necks.She hurried to see them every day.Between chores. Before school. After school.And soon, they began to look fuzzy(like an odd peach that had sprouted spindly stretches of limbs)and still so pinkbut with a tinge of brown and gray.And then, they grewsoft and plumpwith feathers of grayish-brownlike the mud scooped from puddles after a spring rain.She wanted them to playin the polka-dotted trees,the blueberry patch,and the bright starburst blooms.But Father said,“Don’t touch themor the mother might get spooked by your scentand leave them.”So instead, she left them giftsof little china teacups filled to the rim with nutsand seedsand dried red berries.And she left cotton fluff she pulled from her pillowand even some very curly shavings from her school pencils.
  18. 18. Then one day, the birds were gone.She searched through the patches of brushwhere the blueberries had all been picked,and the starburststhat were already beginning to wiltand fade.And then she saw them.No, not them—not the birds—she saw four velvet feathersresting at the bottom of the hole.Her legs shook.Her lip quivered.She searched through the brushand did not find the birds.She turned from the treeand felt warm tears begin to dripdown her cheeks.What went wrong?She was sure she hadn’t touched them—But she had gazedand lingeredand left so many gifts.School began.She studied. She played. She laughed some, too.But she could not—she did not—talk about the birds.Nor did she forget them.
  19. 19. Christmas came.She and her father decorated an evergreen tree.Christmas went.She helped her father take down the tree.He said,“Maybe we should have an After-Christmas Tree this year.”And she agreed.So, she helped him make garlands of dried red berriesand pinecone ornaments gilded with peanut butter, cereal, nuts, and seedsto lace throughout the After-Christmas Treefor the squirrels.And then, they came.No, not they—not the squirrels—the birds came.Grown-up birds the creamy color of rain-puddle mudfluttered around her After-Christmas Tree.How many?One,Two,Three,Four.Four birds!Every day the snow whipped fresh drifts,And every day they cameuntilthe winter bluster surrenderedand the feast of the After-Christmas Treewas over.
  20. 20. But, the birds seemed…very busy.And one day,in the holeat the bottomof the River Oak Treeshe heard a fragile chirp.And behind the blueberry patch,she heard another,And near a green polka-dotted tree,There was another,And then,in the pinkand purpleand redand yellowstarbursts,she heard a lot of fragile chirps.And Father said,“I think we need to put out a bigger bird bath.”And after many teacups of treats,she once againfound nothing but a soft pile of featherswhere the birds had been.And this time,she understood.
  21. 21. The Feast of the After-Christmas Birds Reflection This poem is based on an idea I jotted down two years ago and decided to begin writing itout this semester. At the time of the inspiration, we lived in Charlotte, NC. Even though our housewas just two miles from the bustling uptown, we had a large fenced-in backyard. It was the kind ofyard where something was always in bloom. One spring day, I noticed a hole at the bottom of a tree.I looked in the hole and saw four gaping, hungry beaks begging me for gourmet worms to eat. I hadseen bird nests in the rafters of porches, nestled in rooftop eaves, and in the limbs of branches, but Ihad never seen one in a hole in a tree trunk so close to the ground. Suddenly, this story just came tome, and I have loved the idea since. Now, I must get it right, which I am learning reluctantlyrequires “killing my darlings”, as Dr. Bartoletti quoted. In my last round of revisions, I tried to focus on cutting words, phrases, and entire stanzas—especially from the end.
  22. 22. PART TWO Critique One Critique One Reflection Critique Two Critique Two Reflection Critique Three Critique Three Reflection Critique Four Critique Four ReflectionWriting Philosophy: An Essay
  23. 23. Critique One By: Paula White For: Courtney Riggin’s “The Barn Loft” Lesson 5 WorkshopThe Barn Loft After presents had been ripped open and cake eaten down to the chocolate-streakedcardboard platter and the leftover ice cream had melted in the trash bags and begun to seep out of ahole onto the garage floor attracting an army of ants, Allie asked if we wanted to see their old barn.This sounds a bit like passive voice~you might want to rethink this opening as occuring rather thana recollection- We all ran behind her with our party hats hanging from our necks or jutting off our mouthslike beaks.This scene has child-centric qualities ~I see the kids running and laughing with the hatshanging off of their faces. I like this imagery. She was right. The barn was old. The red paint had faded to a chalky hue that made it lookas if a fog stood between our little group and the barn. Vines climbed up the looming clapboardwalls, and the metal roof was rusted and dented. Inside, it smelled like hay, manure, and horsemusk. I could hear Allies three horses blowing and shuffling inside their dark stalls. The air wascold and with each snort and blow, a little gust of steam puffed through the feeding trough windowat each stall. Perhaps you can pick a tense and present the whole piece in that tense. "Whats up there?" Lucia asked Allie. We all looked to the wooden ladder, draped withcobwebs and dusted with hay remnants, earth, and pollen. Dried mud clumps clung relentlessly tothe tops of each rung--probably left by someones boots. Your story could start here-"Follow me!" Allie whispered mysteriously. We all made ourway silently, single file, up each ladder rung, each one of us hoping not to meet the weaver of thewhite, sticky webs. I was the last one up, and as I crawled over the ledge at the top rung, I saw what I thoughtmust be Gods spirit itself piercing like a beam across the open loft. The effect was from the sunlightfiltering through a broken window, catching the hay particles waltzing through the air. Bales werestacked up along the walls as high as the ceiling. “This must be what ‘holy ground’ looks like,” Ithought. Allie was showing the group a shoebox coffin where she had buried her dead pet Finch theyear before. It had mummified perfectly so that it looked as if it would hop up chirping at anymoment. “Well, that’s all there is to see up here!” Allie announced. The group--no longer silent and
  24. 24. mystified-- began to clamor a perfect word choice-down the ladder. I thought Id take just a fewmore moments to gaze at what I was sure must have been the spirit of God wafting I like this wordchoice, but Im wondering if your reader will understand that this is a spiritual piece-is it? You say"holy ground" and allude to the hereafter when you mention death and a coffin (although only witha pet)...Are you setting up the plot to unfold as a spiritual journey? Just wondering... across theroom. Suddenly, I couldnt hear the voices of the girls any more. Where had they gone? How hadthey gotten out of earshot so fast? Then I looked down the ladder I had come up just minutes agoand my knees began to shake. I realized with terror that I couldnt climb down. This beginning unfolds not only as a mystery but also as a spiritual journey of sorts. Youmention "Gods spirit itself" and "the spirit of God" and "holy ground." Are these mentions strictlydenotations? They carry some weight. Will the reader take the spiritual journey in which you seemto be alluding? Critique One Reflection This particular critique was helpful to me for two reasons. First, Paula showed me anotheroption for my opening lines when she pointed out “Your story could start here.” I realized as I re-read that she was right. It would be a much more interesting opening line and more likely to hookthe reader right away—or at least not make the reader work very hard in the first sentence. In thisfirst draft, the story’s opening line is long and descriptive. It’s a good sentence, as several othercritiques pointed out, but it also makes the reader work. I don’t want my reader to have to work sohard in the beginning—at least not until the second sentence of the story! Paula’s suggestion bringsthe reader right into the story’s action. What’s more, it works out so perfectly to switch a few linesaround, I don’t even need to lose much from the descriptions I really like. Second, Paula’s questions about the spiritually-driven descriptions in the last paragraphmade me realize the kind of character I was introducing—and I liked it! Originally, I set out to writeabout the barn loft. I ended up realizing I was writing about a little girl who fits in well on theoutside the but feels very different within herself. Yes, Paula. This is a story about “a spiritualjourney of sorts”—I just didn’t know it until this critique helped me see it!
  25. 25. Critique Two By: Lisa Moe For: Courtney Riggin’s “Autumn Fort” Lesson 11 WorkshopI felt like I was discovering the fort along with your character. What a great idea! Kids and forts gohand-in-hand, dont they? :-)Yellow: sophisticated wording that feels too old for the speakerBlue: great word choicePurple: exceptionally awesome imageryGreen: This seem to assign the speaker to a specific gender. If that’s the intent, you’ve donewell. If you’d like to make the poem relevant to all children who fantasize about such a fort,perhaps you might change this detail to something more gender-neutral.Autumn FortAs the first Autumn winds whipped through the air, I hollered for my brother across the yard, and barely glimpsed his outline as he darted behind a bush.I dashed around the bush to catch up with him, leaning into my turn like a rodeo barrel racer; the bush must have been the size of a funnel cake stand— the kind on wheels that travels around from fair to fair, circus to circus, and show to show.As the swiftly-moving clouds sprinkled sunlight like a disco ball across the lawn, I suddenly stopped, frowned, and turned round and round looking for him, I shuffled my feet through the fallen leaves until I heard the soft, smooth sound of a single Harmonica chord.When the Harmonica went silent, I moved closer, staring at the bush’s curtain of leaves; suddenly my brother’s hand burst through the draping foliage, pushing it aside in one sweep, scattering leaves from the branches like the confetti tossed toward a parade float carrying Miss America.As the leaves were caught by the wind and carried through the playful sprays of sunlight,
  26. 26. I realized the branch was only a thin wall of leaves covering a secret space—I crawled into the entrance and saw the open room my brother had chopped inside the bush with the garden shears meant for pruning mother’s holly bushes.I looked around the room— I liked the walls and ceiling of gnarly, leaf-studded branches And the roots and limbs that stood like ballroom pillars across the room; I liked the spongy floor of twigs and damp leaves; I liked the fresh smell of wet earth and cool air;As my brother exited through the leaf curtain to build a better fort, I decided the room needed a table and two chairs, a welcome rug, and a vase of flowers to make it just right.
  27. 27. Critique Two Reflection Throughout the semester, Lisa has offered so many helpful suggestions. I love reading herstories and admire her skill, so I always perk up a little as I read her critiques on my own writingfeelings that perhaps some secret potion to acquire some of her talent might be hidden in hersuggestions. At some point during our workshop experience, Lisa began a color-coding technique. It is soorderly and makes it easy to skim through the critique, picking out the good and the bad. She alsoseems to identify and focus on select facets of craft for each workshop rather than pointing outeverything that needs work in one sitting. I have found that this approach helps me focus moreproductively on revisions because the editing load seems more manageable. For example, the firsttime I posted “Autumn Fort”, she focused on areas that seemed wordy and phrases withconsonance. In this particular critique from a later posting of “Autumn Fort”, she focused on wordchoices and images that work versus those that do not. She highlighted the images that were“exceptional” and the wording that was “good” so that I could easily skim through those sectionswhile editing, knowing that her reading considered them valuable. She then highlighted thewording that did not work, specifically stating that the reason was the age-appropriateness of theword choices. I think her has worked for me on many occasions because it is direct, constructive,and concise. Critique Three Critique Three Reflection Critique Four By: Courtney Riggin For: Kelly White Lesson 11 Workshop
  28. 28. Hey Kelly!I agree with the other two comments on watching pronouns and wordiness and making dialoguemore concise. Here are two specific suggestions:The scent of a wood fire pit burning in the crisp fall air floated through the air as groups of peoplewalked across the large, dirt parking lot situated on a hill where crops were once planted. I still think it’s distracting to repeat the word “air” so close together. I’ve offered a remedybelow. I think this remedy also shortens your introduction just enough so that there are fewerwords padding your lovely details: The scent of a wood fire pit burning filled the crisp fall air as groups of people walked acrossthe large, dirt parking lot situated on a hill where crops were once planted. Crowds of people stood in line to see how long it would take them to conquer the 1 ½ miletrack where monsters lingered and dead ends played the spoiler to progressing closer to the exit ofthe maze. This sentence still doesn’t make sense to me… Also, I like the way you switched the perspective from your original piece! It makes it atotally new story in the same setting. If you like the way it turned out from this perspective, I sayleave it and work within the text for revising. If you still arent head over heels for it AND are up fordoing a total revision again :) , I suggest keeping the story as close as possible to the original onethat included you and your friends but write it from the childs viewpoint. In that viepoint, we wontknow what the mom and dad are doing. In this version, the story almost focuses too much on theparents fear-- and therefore their perspective-- and too little on the childs experience of being lostin a strange, crowded place. Whatever you decide, I also think you could consider starting the story with less of a scenedescription and more of the immediate action. Re-read it looking for points of energy anddetermine if any of those areas would make an interesting beginning. Then, tie in your scenedescriptions (which as VERY good!) within or immediately after the action of the opening. Id be interested to see how you approach these final revisions! Its a great piece with a lotof options. Ive enjoyed working with you this semester and appreciate your critiques on my work :) Good luck in all your future endeavors! Courtney
  29. 29. Critique Four Reflection By: Courtney Riggin For: Kelly White Lesson 11 Workshop I appreciate criticism more than praise in writing workshops. For that reason, I like to givemore criticism than praise. Granted, I certainly want to know what works and what strikes thereader as particularly poignant; but in connection with laud, I want to know what stands in starkcontrast as weak. I want to know what drags my story down. I also like open-ended suggestions or suggestions that contain several options whensomeone wants to suggest that my story is not working. There was one particular workshop critique where I felt I was reading a story withpotential—but one that (in my view) needed to be re-worked in order to reach its potential as achild’s story. Focus on a few things at a time for each revision. Take my own advice. Writing Philosophy: An Essay PART THREE Author’s Note Biography
  30. 30. Blurbs Author’s Note This course got me wondering, Why don’t I think of myself as a writer? I certainlyenjoy writing and feel compelled to write often. Perhaps I cannot see myself as a “writer”because I am not published; or maybe it is because I have an everyday job; or possibly it ismerely that I am too busy to be a writer. In the first several weeks, this course quickly extinguished any logic I might haveargued these reasons carried. I do not need special certification or ordination to be awriter, as I would to be a priest or a nurse. I do not need a series of books published in myname and listed in Oprah’s book club to call myself a “writer”, just as I do not need to beaccepted to the Boston Marathon to call myself a runner. Being a writer simply meansappreciating writing, writing often, and working diligently to revise drafts. In short, being awriter means being a person who writes. Now, this is not to say I use the term irreverently. I would not call myself a runner ifI only ran 1.4 mile every 3 months. I call myself a runner because running is something Ifeel the urge to do several times a week—and something I have decided to focus on. On theother hand, I do not call myself a photographer even though I take pictures—this is becausetaking pictures is not something that drives me or touches my brain in a place thatdetermines my sanity for that particular moment, nor is it something I strive to improveand work into my daily routine, like running. Considering this, I think I can begin to whisper quietly to myself in a mirror eachmorning, You are a writer. Therefore you must value the calling you have answered and carveout some time to write today. So I whisper into empty spaces where only I can hear, Iam a writer. And I write.
  31. 31. Maybe soon I will be able to whisper in someone’s ear. And maybe soon after that, Ican whisper it to a group of people. And maybe someday, I can say it aloud in ordinaryconversation without missing a beat. Biography Im Courtney. I am currently completing my last course in Pennsylvania State University’s M.Ed. inCurriculum and Instruction program. I have also completed the Post-Baccalaureatecertificate in Family Literacy, and I have a bachelors in English from Auburn University. In my career, I teach reading to children who have language-based learningdisorders or attention deficits. I am in the process of completing my certification in theOrton-Gillingham approach, which is an individualized, multisensory, phonetic-basedprogram specifically used to teach reading and writing to students with dyslexia. My husband and I moved in early September from Greenville, SC to Columbus, GA,where I have started a new job at a large private school. Its even more exciting because itwill be the schools first venture in using the Orton-Gillingham approach with students whoare struggling in reading. In fact, it is the first school in Columbus to implement Orton-Gillingham for struggling readers. I feel like a pioneer! My husband is a handsome and ambitious construction manager. In the four yearswe have been married, his job has transferred us to a new state five times. Needless to say,the online option through PSU was ideal for me, and it has gone so well that my husbandplans to begin an online MBA through the University of Massachusetts in January.Hopefully, we will settle in Atlanta, GA in the next several years and he will commute tojobs as necessary. Moving around has been fun and rewarding, but it is exhausting to packand unpack an entire house as often as most people pack and unpack Christmasdecorations! This time, we are living just 30 minutes from my parents, and we will be herefor two years instead of one. Because of the familiar area and longer stay, we decided tobuy a house— which we are renovating (as if we dont have enough to occupy our time!). Speaking of occupying our time, we had our first child—a boy—on 11-11-11.Thomas Walker Riggin came into the world two weeks early at 6 lbs 11 oz, and he has been
  32. 32. teaching us many lessons and skills since his arrival! We are thankful beyond words for hishealth and presence (and overall adorable-ness!). BlurbsCourtney is by far the most innovative and imaginative writer I know. Her use ofhyperboles is exquisite and I have never once been disappointed reading her work. -Ashleigh Land, Atlanta, GARiggin is a marvelous author! Her imaginative and wholesome tales weave beautiful storyand lessons to be enjoyed by all ages. My students and children ask for stories to read againand again...and I certainly dont mind obliging! -Lydia Knizely Johnson, Mobile, ALAlways a delight...Ms. Riggins writings are at once a cozy warm sweater to the soul and ajolt of stimulating peppermint mocha to the brain. She never disappoints! -Betsy Mazzola, Hatchechubbee, AL