Where the Sidewalk Ends

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One of my favorite collection of poems by Shel Silverstein, a poet whose works I have read a few times in the past, is Where the Sidewalk Ends. Here’s the poem where the title of the book comes from:

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Sidewalk

 

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The Great Divide or Blurred Line?

Daily Prompt: The Great Divide


I disagree with the notion of The Great Divide when talking about non-fiction and fiction. Since a lot of fictional works do incorporate elements of reality into them I don’t think it’s quite a great ‘divide’ as in the crack of an earthquake but more of a ‘blur’ between two worlds. Some historical works also take liberties as well to incorporate fiction as a way to make the story a little more interesting than it would be if it was told straight. The author might also be intimidated by writing something so historically accurate, such as if it was dealing with a tragedy and the survivors, that they use fiction as a way to escape some added heat, such as with Jessica Francis Kane’s retelling of the Bethnal Green Tube disaster. Either way, it is a matter of the author choosing to go wild with his or her imagination, play it straight up, or incorporate reality and fantasy into the story as to make the characters more human and connect with the readers. That’s the blur of fiction vs. non-fiction: imagination.

Do I prefer fiction or non-fiction for a fun read? Depends on how I am feeling but recently I have been preferring fiction more since the knowledgeable half of me is a bit uninterested at the moment.

Fiction is for days when I am feeling bored or content and would like nothing better to do than read something that doesn’t tax my brain power. I like being transported to a world totally unimaginable and out of our realm. This stretches my imagination and I usually come away with happy emotions and some food for thought. Harry Potter is obviously my favorite fictional series ever (I just bought a new 7 book set in hardcover) followed closely by Artemis Fowl which I have been waiting eagerly for a movie to be announced but it seems quite unlikely now.

Non-fiction is for days when I feel like being intellectual and adding something worthwhile to my “data base”. Many a great times I have walked by shelves in the library and saw books about real-life or historical events, machines, or the human body that instantly opened that curious door in my brain. Some of my favorite non-fiction books tend to be on the subject of how things work, how they are built, or what is inside them. One of my favorite non-fiction titles was (and still is) called The Way Things Work by David Macaulay, a reference book actually, which was choke full of artistic drawings of machines from simple to complex and explained the process of how each one operated when they were initiated by a human or something else. One of my cherished memories of reading that whole book (yes, it was THAT good) was the humorous drawings of wooly mammoths and people in it where they would often be pictured in some way on the machines either operating or dwelling within them. I suppose one of the true non-fictional works I read was about three NFL players whose boat capsized in the middle of the ocean and recounted their rough battle for survival. It was told from the eventual final survivor’s point of view, who was the author. The book was so captivating and full of emotion and strong words that I believe a few tears were shed reading it, much like listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

I get a sudden ‘itch’ to read or watch fictional works because I am willing to escape and get lost in another world that plays on my emotions and I get a sudden curiosity to read or watch non-fiction because I am looking to come away with some new-found knowledge and find answers or I want to relive the heroic or harrowing journey of someone based on my own emotions at the time.

So to sum things up, non-fiction and fiction are alike in some ways and there is no deep, impassable abyss between them. They do overlaps sometimes, depending on the book, with emotions, relationships, morals, and tragedies. It all comes down to a little thing called imagination. Without imagination there is no fiction. A lot of characters in fiction are drawn from the author’s own experiences and they both end up sharing things in common. The same can be said for non-fictional characters; their experiences, personalities, and dialogue are based on the actual person themselves either from the author’s point of view or someone else’s and when the author is not so sure about true events they sometimes might use a little fiction to move the story along.

My Toughest Critic

Treat me with kid gloves? No way. I prefer the cold hard truth. Come at me bro. Spit in my face. I’m not afraid of your criticism.

Good honest criticism helps me become better at what I do. Break me down, build me back up, you might say. It challenges me to reach my full earned potential.

A time I faced harsh criticism was back in my first year of college. I had just turned 19 years old and was a few months fresh out of high school. I had an introductory English class with a teacher who was probably the toughest critic I had faced in my academic career at that time. Of course I was a little intimidated when he said to the class that he had a Master’s Degree in Language and Literature and here I am thinking, “Oh, this guy sure thinks he’s hot stuff. I’m totally screwed in this class”. Which I wasn’t completely – it just felt like an uphill climb for me because I wasn’t sure how tough the English class would be.

There were about five papers we had to do during the course and they all required a lot of peer editing and blotches of red ink. I believe they were a literal analysis, descriptive essay, informative essay, narrative essay, and one other I can’t remember the type of. My first few papers did not receive very good grades, sub par at best and I instantly became worried that I would have a tough time passing the class. The first ever college essay I wrote was, now in my mind, an embarrassing piece about my first girlfriend in high school. I cannot believe the chummy stuff I put in there, some of it so silly I felt like it was better suited being read by children than a college professor. This was my narrative essay. Soon after that paper, which received an okay but not superb grade, I got more serious with my essays, especially the research papers. There arose a nagging thought in my head that I would have to submit an exceptionally well-crafted paper if I ever wanted to receive top marks because, according to the professor, that first paper was rubbish. A lot of other students had a tough time ‘cracking the code’ as well.

This was the first class that my writing really got critiqued and scrutinized. The teacher, Greenman his name, covered and crossed out my papers with lots of markups and red ink the few first times I turned a paper in, while also adding short notes on the back page critiquing my work. At first I was getting frustrated each time my papers came back with grades that I was not satisfied with and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong (fixing those occasional fallacies in my papers took some trial and error). But through a little bit of hard work and effort I did manage to receive a decent, but not perfect, grade. The discussions and group editing also helped with my essay writing and getting them up to the teacher’s tough standards. I’m glad I got a chance to take this class because soon after my writing greatly improved and I learned that accepting harsh criticism would only make me better. I did not break down at all but kept on taking the prof’s advice and learning from my mishaps. And look where I am now, blogging like a champ on WordPress!


In Response to the Daily Prompt: Handle With Care