Read Good Writing To Become A Good Writer


The critical reading and writing students at Gila Community College departed from the norm in a recent English 101 class.

Instead of opening their textbook to "Nonfiction Essays on Science and its Limitations," "Violence in the Media" or "Men in a Women's World," they read the short story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote.


"I have basically honed my writing style and punctuation more than everything else," English 101 student Dan Sweitzer (center) said. The 11-year volunteer high school track coach is back in college in pursuit of an education degree. "The instructors I have had at the college have all been very competent. I attended the University of Illinois for three years, one of the biggest and best in the country. I have had better instructors both in Glendale and here in Payson than I ever had in Illinois. The fact is, the teachers here care about you."

"If you want to be a good writer you must read to write," said professor Jim Quinlan.

In the short story, Capote brings his distinctive voice to a story about his own childhood in the South, brought up in part by his cousin.

"We talked about use of the senses in writing earlier in the year, so pay attention to the way (Capote) uses different senses in this story and his use of similes," Quinlan said.

Next semester's American Literature students may learn more about the author best known for "In Cold Blood," a novel about the murders of a Kansas family of four in the 1960s.

"It was almost like Capote started a new genre of nonfiction that reads like a novel," Quinlan said.

"Capote follows and traces the two murderers and makes you almost empathize with the murderers and their path in life."

Students went back to the textbook for their final class and exam.

Each chose, read and analyzed an essay from "The Blair Reader" that they have not already covered in class.

The final paper was a 1,000-word argumentative essay.

"They had to synthesize three or four articles out of the text and use them to support a for or against argument," Quinlan said.

Most of the 13 students who took English 101 are pursuing their degrees, according to Quinlan.

"Mr. Quinlan has really strengthened my writing skills," Kori Wells said. "My vocabulary is better and I have become a more critical reader."

Wells is studying towards her degree in radiography.

"This is an intensive writing course," he said.

"Just about every class the students had a new article to read and questions in regards to the article and an essay they had to turn in."

Over the course of the semester students were graded on argumentative, refutation and narration/observation papers.

"The standards are high," Quinlan said. "If they had more than three errors on their papers in sentence structure, their paper was docked."

Classes at GCC begin Jan. 10, 2007, but students may sign up through Jan. 24.

English classes offered on the Payson campus are: Written communications 1 and 2, Composition Skills 1, English Literature 2, Poetry Writing and American Literature 2.

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