Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Critique/Review (for writers) (05/06/10)
TITLE: Prophetic Critique
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Theresa was an academic-minded college student who also was, oddly enough, passionate about shoes - but not in the sense that she had to have a special pair to match every outfit. Rather, she loved one particular style: the comfortable Converse canvas sport shoe featuring big eyelet holes and rounded toes capped with an inch of rubber.
As an engineering major entering the second semester of her junior year, Theresa enrolled in an elective beyond her usual analytical comfort zone: creative writing. On a frigid January snow-covered morning she tromped through snow across campus in one of her four pairs of canvas shoes, found her way to room 103 of the liberal arts building, and discovered Professor Albright who would teach English 237. He seemed fifty-ish with silver hair and bright eyes, and wore a wrinkled shirt, pants with fraying pocket edges, and … a very tattered pair of Converse canvas shoes!
“THIS is no coincidence,” she murmured to herself as she peeled off her snowy coat and hat and plopped into a seat in the front row. What were the odds?
Soon the room filled up with blank-faced students. “Gooooood morrrrrning Vietnam!” boomed Mr. Albright, in the tradition of Robin Williams. “It’s 0900 hours. What does the “O” stand for? OH! It’s time to start a new semester of CREATIVE WRITING!”
Some students smiled. Others rolled their eyes. “My superiors say there’s an ‘irreverent tendency’ in this class, but … I want to make something very clear. I like having fun, and in return I expect you to work hard enough to be popular with me. So shall we get on with it, then?” The opening ceremony for English 237 concluded as he scrawled on the blackboard in big block letters: LET THE (FUN AND) GAMES BEGIN!
“Creative writing is somewhat a subjective endeavor,” Professor Albright went on, dusting his hands and turning back to face his students. “Although there ARE rules to the game.” He began passing out sheets of paper. “You do your part in composing your assignments well, according to these guidelines, and I do mine in critiquing them.”
Oh great, though Theresa. Just grrrrreeeaaaat. Math and science are straightforward. You can measure progress; you know where you stand. This, on the other hand, could get mushy.
“So, what are we going to write about – eh? Tell me!” Professor Albright faced the blackboard. “C’mon now! What matters? Do you want to have a voice about something?”
Professor Albright turned his head in mid-stroke, clenching the chalk in his fingers zealously. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Continue!”
“Love and hate!”
“Hope and despair!”
Theresa could stand it no longer. Impulsively she chimed in.
As if stricken with a sudden palsy, Professor Albright rotated his entire body in slow motion with his right arm still poised – a Statue of Liberty holding the chalk high. “What was that last one?”
Theresa felt a prickly red lizard-of-a-blush creep up her neck. “I said ‘shoes’.”
“Shoes? This is a subject of passion for you?”
“Yes sir. It is. Right up there with, uh, pizza.”
The class tittered.
“Your name? Your major field of study?”
“Theresa Goodrich, sir. Electrical Engineering.”
The class of grinning liberal arts students seemed to collectively recoil with a subliminal gasp of mock horror.
“I see. Well, Theresa Goodrich, we will make sure to write on this topic. In fact, it will be the first assignment.” He laid the chalk in its tray carefully, as if deep in thought. “Yes. Shoes. How perfect.” He paused briefly and then continued, addressing the entire class. “Your essays on ‘shoes’ should not exceed 750 words and are due at our next class meeting. Otherwise follow the general rules on your hand-out.” With the flourish of an orchestra director gesturing them out the door he announced, “Class is now dismissed!”
When Theresa received her graded paper a couple of weeks later, Professor Albright’s red pen had left comments sprinkled through the body of the essay as well as an encouraging critique at the end that would prophetically inspire her future professional life. “I like your analytical, honest style and look forward to having you in class. This is very creative, direct, logical, and carefully engineered. You have potential as a writer. Have you thought of integrating writing into your career goals?” Below the critique was a grade, B+.
Theresa Goodrich graduated the following year and became a regional marketing and advertising director for Converse canvas shoes.
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