WW Fenn Publick Speaking Contest


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“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1.The nervous and 2. Liars.” 

~Mark Twain


The WW Fenn Publick Speaking Contest [my spelling] originally started out as a poetry recitation contest. Over the years, however, the original rules have been bent and distorted to the point where it is sometimes hard to tell that it is supposed to be a celebration of "greatness" in literature, not a mimicking of a speech seen on TV or in a movie; not a silly comic piece or sing-songing children's story, and not a shallow barrage of clever words set into a story. 

I want you to have an experience that will live on in you and for you through as many years as you walk this earth; I want you to remember your words for the power that gives those words timelessness.  I want to get back to the purity of the original source and lifeblood of the WW Fenn contest. 

I want you to choose your WW Fenn performance piece carefully and thoughtfully. We will begin the classwork memorization and performance process right away--which is a multi-step process!


You may choose a poem, ballad, or a passage from a piece of classic or singularly great literature, which includes: novels, short stories, or essays; moreover, you may choose to recite a traditional myth or cultural story. Speeches that are a part of a larger piece of literature are allowed, but not speeches. If you wish, I will choose a piece for you.

The piece must be at least 60 seconds long, but not more than three minutes in length. I have included links to sources in the extended entry to help find a piece.

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The Journey Begins...

Read. Write. Create. Share. 
Collaborate. Assess. Reflect.

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“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” 



     I am a writer teaching writing and a reader whose life has been, and continues to be, inspired by other writers—including you, you luckless souls who have been forces or coerced onto a yearlong journey with, yes, me..

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Entering the Stream

The Courageous Writer


Time is but the stream I go fishing in...

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

     Writing well requires a writer to write with courage, confidence and honesty. Your journal is your place to live fully within yourself as a real and committed writer who practices these ideals. Journal writing is simply a way to give form and substance to your inner thoughts. It is simply a way for you to be completely you—not an expectation driven by academic expectations directed and choreographed by me.

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The Time & Place of a Writer

   How to be a Writer

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“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”

—Enid Bagnold

    This is the time—the dog days of summer—when writing can become more of a chore than a pleasure. The hot days and humid nights don't always lend themselves to creative and articulate thought; plus, the day is always full of enticing and entrancing possibilities. Because writing is part and parcel of my daily life, I need to create a time and a place to write that works for me no matter where I am or what I am otherwise doing.

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The Wagging Finger

Your Own Garden

(and the extended classroom)

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“You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page.”

Jodi Picoult


     Where does the classroom end? If it ends in school, it dies. All we learn and practice and work to do in school fades into some blurry memory of possibilities lost in the irretrievable cloud of unknowing, We have abnegated hope and make little of our lives. We need to live out a new paradigm of learning—to extend the classroom and make our lives universes of learning, to actually, deeply and truly expand above and beyond murky and distant horizons, and to grow when and where we grow best, and that, I can say with confidence, is rarely accomplished in the confines of the classroom.

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Essay Template for Blogs

Copy the HTML below and paste it in the "HTML" tab of a new blog post. 

Then Click on the "Rich Text" tab and you have a Quick and Easy blog post template!


<p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 24pt; color: #ff9f40;">Insert Title Here: four words or less</span></p>
<p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 18pt; color: #737373;">Insert Subtitle here: Eight words or less</span></p>
<p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">Insert Image here: Center, medium size</span></p>
<p style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 13pt;">Insert Quote here</span></em></p>
<p><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">Insert Opening Paragraph here: Set the Scene &amp; State the Theme...</span></p>
<p><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">Insert Body Paragraph #1 here...</span></p>
<p><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">Insert more body paragraphs as needed...</span></p>
<p><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">Insert Conclusion here.</span></p>


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Ten Ways to Write a Blog Post

Be interested in being interesting...

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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.

Old Man's Advice to Youth ―Albert Einstein

    Doing something which is “different” does not come easily to most of us. The wrestling team I coach will look at me sideways if I ask them to practice cartwheels. I’ve even heard that some professional football teams bring in dance instructors to teach their behemoth linemen the art of ballet and foxtrot. My point is that practicing “any” athletic sport develops your skill in another seemingly unrelated sport. The same is true in writing. 


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Remember the Time

The Power of Memory


Write what you know.

~Mark Twain


    I don’t always practice what I preach, especially when it comes to the simple, unaffected, and ordinary “journal entry.” Much of my reticence towards the casual journal entry is the public nature of posting our journal writing as blogs that are more or less “open” to the public. It is hard for me as a teacher of writing to post an entry that I know is trivial, mundane, and perhaps of no interest to my readers—but that is precisely what I need to do if I am to model the full spectrum of the writing process. Keeping a journal is more than a search for lofty thoughts amidst the detritus of the day; it is a practice that keeps our wits and writing skills honed for a coming feast by rambling through the meat of the day and drifting and sailing to whatever port is nearest to my pen. Writing is always an odyssey, and so I have to let my mind go and journey (journal) where it will.


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Don't Do It

What Writing Does...

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Do one thing every day that scares you.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt


    I was eighteen and designing a production line for making stepladders at Fitchburgh State College—the only college I could afford, and probably the only place that would have me. I remember thinking, ‘Man, this ain’t no life for me.’ I barely had a working idea of what life meant, but I was pretty sure it meant I didn’t have to do something without any meaning or purpose—and I certainly didn't want to spend my life designing a better stepladder.’

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The Original "Give a Damn"

A Teacher's Plea

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 11.32.53 PMOnly those who go where few have gone can see what few have seen.
Buddha Gautama


I wrote this piece many years ago, and it is my first writing piece that I wrote "for" my students at the time. For ten years I was the shop teacher, but the school needed an English teacher for one section of 8th grade. I had to beg for the job. Mr. Ward somewhat reluctantly gave me a try. Then they were stuck with me. This was before we even had blogs, and I was struggling to get my students to actually give a damn about what they were writing. I wanted them to know that I cared more about who they were then what they were. They seemed shocked, but they reacted with enthusiasm, and when I see them now, many years later, we laugh and remember it as if it were yesterday.

    This is my first year of teaching English, and already a horizon of discontent is looming. In another place I would probably need a bodyguard. Today, I not only assigned my eighth grade class the first five chapters—37 pages—in some book called A Guide To Writing Essays, but I also told these students the same thing I told their parents: that nothing is more important than the ability to write a good essay; that essay writing is a skill that will save them time and again in this great adventure called life. I then went on about how educational, fun, and rewarding it would be. I teased them with tales of how they would discover huge deposits of original thought and creative speculations—rough stones that they would craft into a wonderful creation called The Essay. They were writers, each and every one of them, and I would prove it to them. I think some of them believed me—even I believed me! I’m sure some of them saw through my pontifications and secretly wished to be placed in another section. Their parents were, I’m sure, aghast at my naivete, but they simply looked at me with stoic resignation, accepting the fate of their son to be the proving ground for an old shop teacher run amok in a classroom. 

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