Writing Complex Sentences in the Twitter Age

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Last semester, my freshman composition students were having more trouble than usual writing multipart college-level thesis statements.

After repeatedly lecturing on the importance of drafting papers before revising for concise diction and syntax, I noticed the majority of my students switched on cell phones as soon as I dismissed class.

Then, it hit me; many emerging college writers have difficulty crafting long, complex sentences as a result of the overexposure to social media tools like text messaging and Twitter.

The original article was published by USA Today on April 16, 2012. Read the full version here.

Off the Record, Vol. 12-507

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“Last week was a vacation for me. Although it was spring break, a time when students abandon their books and follow their appetites to Panama City or Miami Beach for the sun, surf and certain other amenities, I stuffed midterm papers and portfolios into my suitcase and made my way to Sounds of the City: The 2012 EMP Pop Conference, held jointly with New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-US).”

The original article was published by atU2.com on March 25, 2012. Read the full version here.

Greece is the Word

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I have just returned from two weeks touring the Greek islands with my mother and sister celebrating my mother’s seventieth birthday. Admittedly, I had very little interest in going to Greece on my own. Yes, somewhere deep inside I held a Homeric fascination with sailing “the winedark sea,” but I neither speak Greek nor is anyone in my family Greek, so I had very low expectations of easy communication or paradigm-shifting culinary surprises. I was wrong.

The original article was published by Connotation Press in July 2011. Read it in full here.

Behold, the Microwave

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Until fall 2005, I was a regular visitor at Wendy’s. My usual order: a single with cheese, fries, and a Coke. When my local window operator knew my face so well that she once said to me, “See you tomorrow,” I knew I was in serious nutritional trouble. Within weeks, I saw Morgan Spurlock’s visionary experiment Supersize Me and have avoided fast food, and meat, ever since. I hate fast food.

However, that didn’t keep me away from the drive-thru. Several years earlier, Bruegger’s Bagels had moved into our abandoned Arthur Treacher’s restaurant filling orders through the fast food window as well as at the counter. If I didn’t have time to pack my lunch, I stopped on my way to work so I could have an Herby Turkey for lunch. When I became a vegetarian, I discovered the glories of the Leonardo da Veggie: “light herb garlic cream cheese, roasted red peppers, muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato & red onion.” A combination of flavors so yummy, I can taste them even now. I love fast food.

The original article was published by Connotation Press in February 2011. Read it in full here.

Long Distance

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The hillside is salted green, nothing too deep or too muted, and we wreathe the ocean at a consistent pace, not changing speed, not faster or slower but lighter than I’ve ever traveled before, alone on a highway in a rented Japanese car.

The original was published in The Literary Bohemian in January 2011. Read the full piece here.

Feliz Navidad

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“What I learned from the experience is that I can never stray too far from the expected, the traditional, especially with family at holiday time. For years, if the can-shaped cranberry sauce wasn’t on the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas, something was wrong. It didn’t matter that hardly anyone ate it, or that we children used to sculpt things out of it when no one was looking. It had to be on the table or the meal was lacking.”

The original article was published by Connotation Press in December 2010. Read the full version here.

Cherry Valley Organics: A Healthier CSA

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“Cherry Valley Organics makes me feel like family. Located in Washington County south of Pittsburgh, the farm is only a short drive from my home. Approximately 40 acres total, but with less than 10 acres in production, the property has five paid staff members and caters to the customer not the farmer. Unlike more traditional CSAs, Cherry Valley lets subscribers order from a menu rather than just receive an unpredictable amount of produce every week. Such a business model is much better suited to the home kitchen in terms of selection, flexibility, less waste, lower overall cost, etc. Similarly, because I agreed to be the drop-off point for my local area, three or four large white coolers appear on my front porch every week–sometimes late at night, sometimes early in the morning. When people walk up the street to share in the spring harvests, I see neighbors I might not have seen since the previous fall. Because of Cherry Valley, I feel more connected to my community.”

The original article was published by Connotation Press in June 2010. Read the full version here.

Love and the Ten Thousand Things: A Review

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“Expansiveness also characterizes Karasek’s collection. Among pieces that weave together seasonal references with the patina of memory are poems employing a Zen-like caesura. Such pieces recall a breathy confusion upon rediscovering a lost sensation or the staccato beat of a practiced scale. In “12 tones,” for example, the silence of the prairie is compared to an empty hall after the musicians have gone home. All that’s left is the discarded evidence of what was, “a barrelful of noise. discarded candy wrappers,” and sound, like pain, is referred: “narcissus hears only echo, / above the river. / the river shudders.” The aural imagery of Karasek’s poetry becomes a palette, as it were, of emotional landscape where silence fills in the gaps between awareness.”

The original review was published in Rattle in May 2010. Read the full version here.

Healthy Dog Muffins

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“For over five years, I have been preparing an organic, human-grade, (mostly) wheat-free diet for my dog, Radar. In February 2003, I adopted him from a no-kill shelter for dogs, cats, and horses. He was different from my first beagle, Cookie, who was quiet and aloof; after several harrowing days of panic and exhaustion, I began in earnest to train him: sit, shake, lie down, roll over, the usual commands. He responded with devoted attention and his destructive behavior changed significantly within days.”

The original article was published by Connotation Press in March 2010. Read the full version here.

U2 1980-1983: Portrait of the Artists as Young Men

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“Since the publication of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, Irish writers have rewoven Joyce’s entangled nets of family, religion and politics to accommodate changing circumstances and eras. While Irish writers such as John McGahern, William Trevor and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill remain writers known mostly to scholars and students of Irish studies, U2 has introduced millions of worldwide listeners to cultural issues facing the Republic in the late twentieth century. Thematic parallels in the band’s trilogy, Boy (1980), October (1981) and War (1983), suggest  Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. struggled with the same repression endured by Joyce’s semi-autobiographical hero, Stephen Dedalus, a century earlier. Like Joyce’s artistic manifesto, U2’s early albums, considered as a whole, are the youthful rejection of societal orthodoxy and a musical declaration of intent that act as an emotional, intellectual and moral framework for the albums that followed. Although these three studio albums are linked by subject matter to the band’s fourth release, The Unforgettable Fire (1984), they are separated by the November 1983 release of U2’s first live album, Under a Blood Red Sky, and a shift from the band’s first producer, Steve Lillywhite, to the more technologically savvy pairing of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, an adjustment which resulted in a substantial modification of U2’s style and tone and the unambiguous maturation into the second phase of their career.”

This paper was presented at the PCA/ACA Conference in Boston, MA in April 2007. Please contact Arlan Hess for a hard copy of the text.