On Being the Author

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The derivation of the word author, a word used more frequently in the 1800’s than it is today, (replaced by the word “writer”?) still means a bit more than someone who writes books.

Middle English: from Old French autor, from Latin auctor, from augere ‘increase, originate, promote.’ The spelling with th arose in the 15th century, and perhaps became established under the influence of authentic .

The word was even sometimes confused with actor:  Derivation of author

I like the original sense of author as one who invents, or causes something and the connotation of authentic.

I met with a colleague and friend the other evening whose job it was last week to develop writing coaching for instructional coaches.  However, after her hours of careful preparation, her first day of presenting was cut to an introduction, like 30 minutes instead of five hours.  Or something extreme like that.  And then, for the final part, where she was going to give the instructional coaches time to practice what they’d been learning (on writing workshop) one of my friend’s managers got into her slide presentations and cut most of the practice and added in a bunch of unrelated items that were the party line, or the message managers wanted to be sending down the pike, without any perspective on whether they forwarded the teaching of writing workshop. All about alignment.  With what??

As L1 told me about this debacle, not only did I feel for her, knowing how much thought and care she puts into a presentation and training, but also I felt shocked, then rankled.  I remember the same incredulity and aggravation  I felt when teachers tell students the topic, what to write, where to put it and how to end it.  (See definition of “author” above.

And I am amazed that someone can treat a presenter’s writing as if it is their own to revise however they feel like it — not in conference, but from the top down.  A mandate.  No, after days of work, just do this.  Copy. Arbitrary.  Arrogant.

Sometimes school writing conferences with students lack that respect for the author, too.  A teacher (as the authority) will take over and say fix this, do that, and don’t talk about that, without respect for who the author is.  I think that is why such terrible pre-scripted writing continues to happen in schools, simply because the control, the authority, is in the teacher’s hands.  When, oh when, are we going to believe in student’s creativity?  And let them be in charge of their work?

3 responses to “On Being the Author”

  1. Thank you, Stacey!

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  2. This is such an interesting post/perspective on what it takes to make things work. It dovetails nicely with something I just read by one of our fellow Slicers, https://1gratefulteacher.blogspot.com/2017/03/am-i-writer.html.

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  3. It is so important to be able to let people say what they were going to say the way that they were going to say it. If you let students write what they want but within the structure, they can say so much more. Great post.

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