The Library was the place to be Thursday as the Upper School welcomed The Commercial Appeal’s award-winning sports columnist Geoff Calkins to the University Campus to speak with our students about his career and the importance of writing. Mr. Calkins began his talk explaining that while he is a sports columnist the stories he most enjoys writing are about more than sports. They are about people. He shared several stories that he had written that are about people who are great human beings as well as being great athletes. The stories emphasized the attitudes and values that made these athletes so special — values such as never giving up, putting other people first, helping someone in need, and finishing what you start.
Mr. Calkins went on to describe the road that led him to becoming a sports writer. He stressed the importance of pursuing a career that you loved. As a boy, Mr. Calkins loved reading the sports page and dreamed of being a sports writer but later made the decision to pursue a degree in law because he wanted to be important. After becoming a lawyer, he regretted his choice and at the age of thirty, he decided to return to school and pursue a journalism degree so he could follow his passion for writing and sports.
Mr. Calkins enjoyed writing as a boy and to the delight of the students, he shared an entry from his own seventh grade journal. Laughing, he admitted his seventh grade writing wasn’t exactly award-winning material, but he emphatically made the point that he was WRITING in elementary and middle school. He shared that the writing he did in his boyhood helped to provide the necessary practice for him to improve as a writer which ultimately lead to his successful career as a writer. Showing students his reporter’s backpack of essential items (notepad, pens, press passes), he stressed that the reporter’s most important tool wasn’t in the backpack. That essential tool is the ability to write and all of us present need that ability, even if we have no plans of becoming a professional writer. Mr. Calkins continued stating, “Writing is everywhere.” He told students that people must be able to write in order to be an active participant in social media and to utilize technological communication methods such as texting and email. In addition, writing is still essential for more traditional purposes. People need to be able to write in order to apply for a job, college, and New Hope upper school students will need to write well in the very near future when they apply for a middle or high school of their choice after they leave New Hope.
During the question and answer session after Mr. Calkins’s talk, he offered several suggestions on how students can improve their writing and as the WRAP writing test approaches, how to write under pressure.
Improving Your Writing:
- Just write. Write everyday. The more you write, the better you get at it.
- Read other writers and if you discover one you like, try imitating his or her style.
- Don’t worry about trying to use fancy words when you first write. Be yourself and just write.
- Use lots of details — even everyday things like mowing the grass can be interesting if you write with a lot of detail.
Writing Under Pressure:
- Take 3-4 minutes to organize your thoughts.
- Jot down the points you know you want to make.
- Write. Just start writing. Start getting your ideas down on paper.