On Writing, Predators and 4H


April 27, 2011 by themommahen

So if I was going to use a bad chicken pun, I’d title this Flying the Coop or start with a lede like “The chickens have flown the coop,” but I’m not going to be lazy like that. My BU professors taught me better. My freshman writing teacher used to get so peeved at me when I would start with what I thought was such a clever intro. Apparently cliché and clever are not the same.

But what I’m doing now is equally as bad, my sophomore professor would tell you. I’m totally backing into my lede. Instead of just punching your lights out, I just danced around you with some not-so-fancy footwork. You have no idea what my point is, do you? And now I’ve broken the cardinal rule #3 of good writing, using a rhetorical question to get to the point.

So while we’re here and I’m completely off-topic, here are the top pieces of writing advice I retained from my years at COM, in no particular order:

  1. Colloquialisms are your enemy. Not mine, because I’m from the South so I can get away with it. At least that was my argument at the time when I used the word “whole” as in “the whole time.” My TA wanted me to use “entire” or something similar. I see her point now, but I’m guessing in the age of IM, texts,status updates and tweets, this whole argument is pretty outdated.

  2. Just say it. Don’t try to be clever. Or flowery. Just write it. This is eternally helpful in leaving efficient voice mail messages, tweeting and writing obits..

  3. If you begin anything with a rhetorical question, trash it. Immediately. If you can’t get to your point without having an imaginary conversation with yourself, no one wants to hear your point anyway.

  4. If you love it, cut it. Because no one else is gonna get it. Invariably, my favorite parts of my writing were the first things my professors told me to edit. I mean, I would write something that I knew was the best sentence or paragraph since King James recorded his version of world events, but it was always the first to go. In fact, if my creative writing prof edited this paragraph, there would be no King James reference. I think it’s awesome, but it’s really just confusing. You still with me?

  5. Never start a sentence with “Invariably.” It just sounds pretentious and stuffy. Okay, really, that was just something I decided two minutes ago. But I’m standing by it.

  6. DON’T BACK INTO THE LEDE. It just bears repeating. And yes, you get to spell “lead” that way if you go to a leading communication school. Or is it lede-ing. Oh boy, now we’re punning. Get out quick. Puns are the death of good writing.

Whew, I feel better now. Not sure where that all came from, but I’m sure my parents (who are the only readers still hanging with me at this point, so thanks Mom and Dad) are glad to see that all these years later, that was still tuition money well spent. Now back to my lede…

The chickens are in their new coop. Moved ’em yesterday and it was good times mucking around, catching chickens and crawling in poop with my farm boots and jeans on in 80 degree heat. And I mean that sincerely. I actually liked it. So, my real point (damn that lede) is that ever since they moved out, Momma Hen has been on heightened alert. Because there is some cruel stuff that goes down on the farm, my friends. Raccoons like to amputate whatever they can reach. Hawks like to explode fellow feathered friends. Possums (In the South, it starts with a P. Don’t question it.) eat the eggs and the bellies of the hens. It’s just downright gross. And I don’t want to see it.

Not because I’m squeamish. I mean I am. Couldn’t ever watch the Mutual of Omaha show (Is that what it was called or was that just my first memory of blatant consumerism and branding?) because I couldn’t stomach the animal attack parts. Sick. But this is more than that. I’ve already nursed two of these hens back to health (saved their lives, I’m telling you!) and the husband and I feel a bit invested in this little flock of ours. In fact, the husband (I really need a better name for him in this blog. Suggestions?) is feeling a bit like an empty nester with the ladies out of the garage and in the coop. I’m constantly looking out for foxes, owls, hawks, raccoons, possums, (Seriously, who can be scared of an opossum? Possum yes, Opossum, no.) snakes, coyotes and whatever else might be out there that wants to eat my fowl. I can’t help thinking if we feel like this now, how in the hell are we going to be with our kids?

Constantly vigilant, for sure. I’ve been thinking a lot about how life-changing August is going to be when our daughter starts kindergarten. One of my friends told me that after a few days, she won’t seem like my sweet, innocent kid anymore. Sniff. But I swear to you (and to her) that I’m going to let her go, I’ll just be forever on guard. Because she is going to meet all kinds of predators in her life. Foxes and all their cool tricks up their sleeves. Owls with their wise and bookish exterior just hiding some bird-gone-wild personality. Hawks just looking for a stray loner to pick on. Raccoons with their cute little gloved hands and masked eyes that turn all evil on you when you interrupt their night roaming and dumpster diving. You know all the people out there I’m talking about. And you get some idea of my twisted Momma Hennish thoughts and fears.

I wish I could say that I have a neat little bow to put on this post, but my professors also taught me that tying up everything sometimes can be the worst cliché. So for now, I’ll tell you that I’m thinking about joining the 4H. Or rather having my kids join 4H. Funny, that sounds pretty cliché for a Momma Hen living in the South doesn’t it? But guess what? It’s not as uncool, back-woods and antiquated as you might think. And if you never thought that, please accept my apology right now. In fact, it’s pretty cool. All three of our nieces were big 4H-ers and I have always admired how they carry themselves, the decisions they have made, (So far, girls. Don’t get lazy.) and they all credit 4H to some degree. (In full disclosure, they also had some pretty amazing parenting.)

For the kicker, a new study claims that 4H members are less likely to to do drugs and have sex. Yes, thank you. Sign. Us. Up.

Ahh, but I digress once again. For sure, I’m gonna keep my eye on those issues, and I know I’m going to be having versions of “The Talk” sooner than I want. Today I just need to register her for kindergarten, where I achingly hope she finds some birds of a feather to flock with and that for now, the predators are held at bay by innocence, youth and starry-eyed wonder. Or possibly home-schooling.


4 thoughts on “On Writing, Predators and 4H

  1. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely love your writings…

  2. Larisa Spillman says:

    Thank you Ms. Peacock. Really means a lot.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love everything about this blog entry, including the rambling writing lesson at the top. I wouldn’t change a word. (Of course I’m a terrible editor, never edit a word I write, but still. You rock.)

    I would ask The Husband how he’d like to be named here. I have another friend who just started a blog… she asked her daughters what they’d like to be called and they chose Lily and Zoolander, which is just awesome. The Husband might come up with something equally as cool.

    Anyway, your concerns about Elphie remind me of Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter. Have you read it? Because it is fab: http://braiker.tumblr.com/post/4710736472/tina-feys-prayer-for-her-daughter

    And now I will stop hijacking your comment thread. Glad you’re back.

  4. Larisa Spillman says:

    Corinna, you can hijack my comment thread anytime!! I have to admit, I just read Bossypants in two days on my droid Kindle app. I think it may be the first book I’ve read in 5 years! Love, love, loved it and the prayer was beyond awesome. I think I’ll do it in needlepoint and give it to her for her 13th birthday…

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