Tiny Teaching Stories: Tragedy to Hope

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Today's Tiny Teaching Story is by Patrick Morgan, Assistant Professor of English and Director of First-Year and Professional Writing at the University of Louisiana Monroe.


Tragedy to Hope

It was my first semester teaching in the Deep South. Introducing a narrative unit to twenty-four freshman writers, I shared that apocryphal story about Ernest Hemingway betting a bunch of writers that he could compose a six-word short story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” I asked them to unpack the story. Twenty-three students offered the usual tragedies: variations on infant mortality and infertility. One shy student said, “Maybe the author is a shoemaker.” And just like that, tragedy turned to hope. This was the story of an enterprising cobbler carving out the market for new shoes.  



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About the Author
Nancy Sommers, who has taught composition and directed writing programs for more than thirty years, now teaches in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. A two-time Braddock Award winner, Sommers is well known for her research and publications on student writing. Her articles “Revision Strategies of Student and Experienced Writers” and “Responding to Student Writing” are two of the most widely read and anthologized articles in the field of composition. She has also created three films—Shaped by Writing, Across the Drafts, and Beyond the Red Ink—to bring the voices of student writers into a larger discussion about writing instruction. Nancy Sommers is currently the coauthor of Diana Hacker’s best-selling handbooks: The Bedford Handbook, A Writer’s Reference, Rules for Writers, A Pocket Style Manual, and Writer’s Help (see hackerhandbooks.com). Her newest instructor resource, Responding to Student Writers, offers a model for thinking about response as a dialogue between students and teachers.