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"Bear-Infested" Forest

Recently there was a news story of parents who chose to punish their son by leaving him by the road in a forest in Japan. They drove off. When they returned a few minutes later, their kid was gone. And he wasn't found (safe) for almost a week!

News reports didn't just say it was a forest. It was described as a BEAR-INFESTED forest. Oh, my! And every year there are news reports that describe a wetland as alligator-infested, or a swamp as snake-infested. In other words, wild animals live there, in their natural habitat. INFESTED?! Sometimes I'm tempted to take the side of native wildlife, and write about HUMAN-INFESTED habitat. Read More 
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From a Student in Mexico

In late May a Mexican student reached me (via this web site) to ask a question. In his English class he had read some information about bats, written by me. For his homework he wanted more information--not about bats but about the writer. I was happy to respond with some details. And he soon reported that he had enough to do his homework well.

So this ended as a win-win situation. I was reminded of the strange and wonderful things that can happen when a writer gets published. Jose had read something that I wrote many years ago. It was in his English textbook. The publisher had paid me, long ago, to use a few paragraphs I had once written about bats. This is always a sweet surprise in a writer's life; work done perhaps 10-20 years ago, mostly forgotten, suddenly yields some income. And, in a roundabout way, it helped a kid with his homework!  Read More 
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In a School, A Girl Asks a Question

Last week in a New Jersey school, a 4th grade girl (Emily?) asked an unusual question. She said she often started to write, then tossed away her start, tried again, discarded it again. That was her problem. I recall saying two things: 1) that maybe she was actually a good writer (her teacher, seated nearby, murmured, "Yes, she is!) and maybe she was just being too critical of herself; 2) I said that if my parents had saved my 4th grade writing, probably no one would be impressed by it, and say, "This person is going to be an author!"

My comments weren't very helpful for her specific question, but I felt I had to go on to another student's hand-in-the-air. Ever since I've had those "I wish I had said" thoughts. Ideally, we could sit together for half an hour and talk, writer-to-writer. I would ask her specific questions about the problem she posed. And, at least, I'd give her this advice: Try to give up on writing perfect sentences. When I write, my first try at a sentence is often far from perfect. Some might be called a "sloppy sentence." But I know that I can and must go back to it, and try to make it better. Revise! Edit! And, after writing many books and getting advice from many editors, I'm pretty good at it. But that is not true of most 4th graders. So, I'd try to leave Emily with the idea that a not-very-good sentence can be made better, and eventually she will probably learn to be a good editor of her work. Read More 
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