Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Friends, Old Uses

I'm typing this on my new pal, the AlphaSmart 3000. Those of you with school-age children may be familiar with this little device, as they are used in schools around the country. I picked this up on eBay (for a steal) and I'm playing around with it.

I've been thinking about word processing lately--thinking about the tools that we use to write, to compose, to think on "paper." Once in a while I read a blogpost about the excesses of word processing programs--how, for some writers, the interface (all the bells and whistles, the font changes, the graphics, the endless stream of formatting options) gets in the way. It's like cell phones and the feature creep; every new cell phone has to be better, do more, and the end result is a phone with a gajillion features that you'll never use because all you really want to do is make a phone call.

Some folks just want to write words. So the word processing program, with all of its options, is a bit of overkill. Sure, it's great to be able to style your text the way you want to, but first you have to have some text to style. There are programs that simulate a "just writing" environment; one particularly cool one is Q10.

The AlphaSmart takes you away from the computer altogether. It's a keyboard with a tiny screen. You turn it on. You type. You hook it up to your computer and send the text into a word processing program. And that is all.

The thing is light--less than 2 pounds. It runs on 3 AA batteries (the claim is 700 hours on those 3 batteries...we'll see). The keyboard is a bit noisy; I understand from a support group online that I can get a new keyboard that's quieter for about $25, so I may just spring for that upgrade. It's small and I'll be taking it along with me to meetings next week to test it out. I wanted it to take notes with in meetings and at conferences. Who knows--I may even use it to write!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Happiness Is Validation

It makes me smile a little inside--the AWP has made some recommendations for literary training that are close to my heart:

The guidelines recommend 12 methods for achieving those goals. "Extensive and diverse reading requirements" leads the list. Instructors should also make sure their students study literary terminology and critical approaches, and that they practice critical reading as well as doing their own creative and critical writing.

"Close reading of literary works and student manuscripts is the central mechanism in creative writing courses," the guidelines say, and that skill should enable students "to learn craft strategies, discern authorial intentions, and deepen the pleasure they take in the work."

Read more about it in the Chronicle.