One of the main things I am here to work on is the writing programs at the schools BEADS works with. I have been trying to compile some of the best student writing to put in a little booklet, because we figure the students will be inspired by seeing their work in print. But I'm feeling a little irked by the local standard of good writing. It seems as though what is most prized and encouraged in the students' writing -- the skill they work hardest to hone -- is the lavish use of similes. Not original similes, but a sort of standard list that everyone must get issued at a "here's how to write like the pros" seminar held sometime around fifth grade.
Also, in sifting through eighth grade writing I was given, I was at first amazed by the number of really exceptional experiences these students have had, such as multiple homicides, gang violence, terrible accidents, mysterious deaths -- until I realized that no one writes about things that have actually happened. I think the usual assignment consists of giving the students the title of their story ("A Narrow Escape" seems popular) and having them loosely transcribe the plot line of a week's worth of Guiding Light. Kind of like this:
I awoke and jumped from my bouncy bed and went to the frog's kingdom. I took a shower as cold as ice and then felt as fresh as a daisy and as cool as a cucumber. I was as happy as a lark when I sat down to a breakfast fit for a king. I was as busy as a bee washing the dishes. It was as quiet as a grave. Then I heard a noise and shook like a leaf [where might be added in red pen "on a tree in the wind"].
I will spare you now, but that's a taste of the agony. The thing is, the little kids, the ones who haven't yet "learned how to write," there are some great stories from those guys. For these, there is yet hope, and in such hope we soldier on, and may God have mercy on our souls.