I’m currently working my way through a book called Telling Writing by Ken Macrorie that I will be using as the basis for my writing workshop in March. Chapter 1, called “The Poison Fish” refers to something the author dubs “Engfish.”
Engfish is anything written–usually in school–and the response from the reader is: “Blah.” It can be pretentious, full of unnecessary adjectives or adverbs. Or it can employ everyday language that in the end says nothing. It’s as smelly as day-old fish.
I once had a student who loved Engfish. He reveled in it. Like a cat intoxicated with catnip, this guy couldn’t get enough of it: why say something in 10 words that he could say in 40? The more lofty sounding the vocabulary, the more he used it. It was, as Simon Cowell often described a poor performance on American Idol, “indulgent.” I kept trying to convince my student that good writing could be straight and to the point without highfalutin language. He didn’t believe me.
In another book, a writing instructor came at the same concept from a different angle.
He said that if the average reader struggles through a difficult text, it’s not the fault of the reader, but rather the fault of the writer.
Even the most abstract concepts can be explained deftly by a good writer. Pastors often fall into this trap: so loving and reveling in deep theological concepts that they can’t translate the ideas or make application to the average listener.
If you struggle to express yourself in writing, say it simply. Shorten your sentences. Give examples. Repeat difficult concepts in a different way. Write 3-4 sentence paragraphs. As you master the task of simple, direct expression, you can start adding more detail, more telling facts, more interest.
Quick Turkey a la King
Beginning writers need simple, straight-forward assignments to gain confidence and skill. The same is true for beginning cooks. And this dish, Quick Turkey (or Chicken) a la King (p. 56) delivers.
In it you cook milk on a stove–which requires constant tending. You also use cooked chicken or turkey. This gives the beginner and opportunity in learning frugal cooking–reusing leftovers in a new way. But other than scalding the milk, there’s not much to mess up in this recipe. It’s a basic, tasty home-cooked meal.
On another note, I thought I’d share my favorite potholder of late. It’s small–about 5″ x 2″ but it gives me a lot more control than a traditional square potholder.
It’s like a mini-glove, just right for fingertips. My mom gave this to me in my stocking one Christmas. Anyhow, I love it (and thanks, Mom!).