Writing: Talking & Tutoring
There’s always room for more good writers. Even one can make a difference.
The literacy of our state’s youth — already underwhelming — is in silent crisis today. According to new New Jersey Student Learning Assessment tests only about half of the freshman at our local high school are proficient in literacy; just 20% meet the minimum benchmark at the city high school.
Pretty bad. Pretty big. No wonder so many people can’t harness the power and pleasure that comes from writing well. I understand there’s blame enough to go around for our education problems but that’s no solution. These tests results have motivated me to offer some sort of writing wisdom.
My 35-year writing career has taught me some things. Mostly, writing isn’t easy. It’s something done alone. That’s why I became an editor; I wanted more people contact. A bonus was it made me a better judge of writing. Above all I’ve learned that words are powerful — yesterday, today and tomorrow.
“Writing is the greatest invention of the world.”
I’ve won jobs with my writing and changed people’s minds. I can make some people laugh and others cry. It paid the bills for a long time and earned me plenty of loyal readers. I’ve found fulfillment as a writer and feel I must try to share the skill set or at least the thinking behind it. To push my knowledge forward. Good writers are necessary. Now more than ever.
Great writers are born — they can’t be taught. Good writers can be made though. And a good one is rare enough that it can be an clear advantage. In fact, the person who can write and speak well has unlimited potential (see the quote above). Above all — writers must write and write and write.
You must want to be good writer. Those I’d work with need to be “young at heart” and bring some real game. I’m not teaching spelling, punctuation or grammar. The budding writer must bring an awareness of words and an eagerness to take their writing to another level. Any writer worth reading has a curiosity and enthusiasm to get into something — whatever it may be.
One-to-one, outside a classroom environment is the best way to start a discussion about good writing. Interested candidates are welcome to reach out to me and make further inquires. Thank you.
All good writers are good readers too. So here are a few useful books for emergent writers:
• The Old Man and the Sea (1952) by Ernest Hemingway. This one is my Holy Grail. No one could get at truth in fewer words then “Papa.” Just by reading this book I learned to write. A masterpiece of short sentences and short paragraphs, the novel won both Pulitzer and Nobel prizes. Hemingway believed greatness was in “lasting.”
• On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2010) by Stephen King. The ultimate sci-fi sage has a nice, neat book on his craft. My fave: “to write is human, to edit divine.” Review his “toolbox for writers” — he’s only sold 400+ million books.
• A Bishop’s Confession (1981) by James Bishop. For 25 years he wrote a “go anywhere, write anything” column three times a week for 200+ newspapers nationwide — all penned in Sea Bright. Later on he was nearly run out of the town.
• Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing (2019) by Robert Caro. His amazing deep-dive research abilities embody the journalist’s creed to answer: Who? What? Where? When? and Why? That level of understanding is not bad practice for life either.
• The Elements of Style (1920) by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. You can question it all and still be your own writer but it helps to get a sense of the “rule book.” Plus, EB White’s Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web are cradle-side books.
Greg Kelly CV
• MonmouthBeachLife.com (2017-Present). Publisher; website covers Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright and Long Branch.
• MoreMonmouthMusings.net (2012-2020) e-Communist; weekly collection of Things to Do in Monmouth County called “Greg’s List.”
• Physician’s Money Digest (1992-2006). Editorial Director; launched/managed the #1 magazine to US primary care doctors for 10 years.
• Atlanticville (1985-2006). Editor and Columnist; a once popular weekly newspaper in Long Branch.
• Author, Monmouth Beach: A Century of Memories (2009) and MBFC Centennial Journal (2005).
These are Facts
The pandemic has shattered even minimum progress in the education of our local youth. The numbers are too frightening to ignore. Proficiency rates for literacy in area schools have fallen off a cliff since 2019. But few are talking about it. According to former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg today‘s education leadership “throws money at the problem with no plan for actually solving it – and no oversight, accountability and rigorous standards to ensure that they do.”
In privileged Monmouth Beach, 83% of 8th graders are proficient. In Sea Bright (Oceanport where SB students go) about 70% of 8th graders hit the literacy benchmark. Not one grammar grade in Long Branch (grades 3 to 9) is proficient in literacy. Overall, about 80% of students didn’t meet benchmark basics in 2022; one-third fell short in 2019.
Only about 20% of LBHS freshmen were proficient in literacy. At Shore Regional High School, slightly over half (53%) of freshmen were literacy proficient in 2022; a decline from nearly three-quarters (73%) proficient in 2019.
It’s only the future of the nation.