Revising Leah

May 16, 2008

A Ninth Grade History Report by Leah Nells

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:41 am
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[ATTENTION GOOGLE SEARCHERS: Welcome! but I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. This is a blog about a young adult novel titled Leah. If you’ve found this page while searching for information about Egypt or the Egyptian pharaohs, Leah’s report (which is what you’ll find below) isn’t the best source of information on those topics. Google isn’t really the most efficient way to find information either. What you might try is visiting the Wikipedia pages for “Ancient Egypt” or “Pharaoh” and then scroll to the bottom of those pages until you find the section titled “Sources and External Links.” There, you’ll find a list of websites which should offer good information for you to use. And don’t forget to acknowledge your sources in your essay!]

For the last few days, I’ve been working on Leah’s history report that she presents to her class near the end of the novel (chapter 18, for now). As I’ve mentioned already, it’s a challenging task, partly because producing writing in the voice of a character is not the same thing as producing dialogue for a character. In my day job, I’m a teacher, and I know that an inexperienced writer (such as Leah) has a “writing voice” that is somewhat different from how that writer speaks. It would be a mistake, for example, to craft Leah’s report as if she were simply speaking (and in Leah’s case, it would be very difficult to do because the character never speaks for an extended period of time in the novel). What I have noticed over the years is that inexperienced writers, especially when they are producing writing for school, all tend to write in a voice that is very similar to the writing voices of other inexperienced writers. (This is one of the things, for instance, which makes plagiarized work so easy to detect — a different writing voice suddenly interrupts the student’s voice.)

It has also been a difficult task because of the precise amount of time that I need to fill. I’m trying to fill about two and a half minutes, but it seems like the more I write, the harder it is to reach that point.

In any case, here is what I have produced:

I am going to talk about the Egyptian Pharaohs. The pharaohs were like kings and they

ruled in families called dynasties. The pharaohs were not only the political rulers of

Egypt, but they were also religious rulers as well. They were treated like gods by their

people and it was believed that when they died they went to live with their gods in the

afterlife. Most pharaohs were men, but there were some women who where pharaohs

too. Three of the most famous pharaohs wereRamesses the Second, Tutenkhamun, and

Cleopatra. Ramesses the Second, also known as Ramesses the Great, was Egypt’s most

famous and powerful pharaoh He was the pharaoh for 66 years and he is the pharaoh

who Moses fled from in the Bible. He constructed a lot of famous buildings and monuments

that still stand today. Tutenkhamun, also known as King Tut, wasn’t really that important,

but we know a lot about him because his tomb was discovered in 1922 with the mummy

and other objects still inside. Some people say that his tomb was cursed because a lot

of people who helped discovered it died mysteriously. He became the pharaoh when

he was only 8 years old and he died when he was only 18. He might have been murdered,

but no one knows for sure. Cleopatra was not the first female pharaoh to rule Egypt but

she is the most famous. She became pharaoh when she was only 17. She fell in love with

both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She died when she was bit by a snake. She was

trying to commit suicide. When a pharaoh died, he or she was buried with all of their

belongings. Sometimes they were buried in pyramids and sometimes they were buried

underground. The pharaohs believed they became gods after they died, and when they

were buried they were buried as mummies. They were buried with food and gold and even

some of their servants and workers were buried with them. The pharaohs were a very

important part of Egyptian society.

So far, it is 344 words long, and when I read it at a relatively average speed (including a few mistakes and stutters) it is only about 1:50 long. I’ll try to add more text to it, but for now, this is what I’m working with.

Instead of just dropping this chunk of text into the appropriate place in chapter 18 and clicking “save,” I’ve made sure to integrate this text with the story itself. Although you can’t tell from this post, Leah’s report follows the five-paragraph scheme, so after each paragraph, the narrator of the story interrupts and describes what is happening while Leah is reading. We get to see some glimpses of Leah’s nervousness, the class’ boredom, her partners’ amusement, and her teacher’s struggle to hear what she is saying (throughout her presentation, Leah barely speaks above a whisper). It’s turned into a very interesting scene, one which is much better than in the 1996 draft in which I simply describe, in a brief, boring paragraph, Leah’s presentation.

This is the joy of revising: improving a text, making it better, crafting writing that I will want to return to and read again and again.

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