Of Books and Pen: Steinbeck’s Advice and Mine on Writing Your First Book

By: Professor Abigail L. Perdue

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.

John Steinbeck

I first dreamed of writing a book when I was nine years old. A precocious fourth grader with a vivid imagination, I had always been an avid reader, going off on grand adventures from the comfort of my father’s study. The walls of that tiny room – not much larger than a closet – were covered from floor to ceiling with books on every topic imaginable. I would crawl on his chair and reach for the classics on the highest shelves. That’s where I first met Alcott, Austen, Hardy, and a host of other beloved childhood companions. I lost myself in his library, but perhaps I found myself too.

Like many insatiable readers, I soon discovered that I enjoyed creating stories almost as much as reading them. In the fourth grade, my teacher entered my short story – The Eagle’s Eye[1] – into a writing competition. Much to my surprise, I won, and my first story was published. That unique experience reinforced two burgeoning desires – my passion for writing and my dream to one day publish a book.[2]

Fast forward several decades later, and I’ve published two books and am currently waist-deep in a third. All the while, Steinbeck’s ghost has been whispering in my ear while I revisit his Depression-era classic – The Grapes of Wrath. So here are a few things I wish I’d known before naively embarking on my first book-writing journey: Continue reading “Of Books and Pen: Steinbeck’s Advice and Mine on Writing Your First Book”

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Empowering Nervous Students in Oral Arguments

By: Professor Heidi K. Brown

For many law students, the unpredictability of the 1L oral argument experience poses a daunting challenge, even more than an intimidating Socratic classroom exchange. Some well-meaning mentors urge reticent advocates to “fake it till you make it,” “just prepare and practice and you’ll be fine,” or “if you’re nervous, it just means you care.” Unfortunately, these slogans do not help apprehensive students and instead, can exacerbate anxiety. A better strategy for helping our hesitant students succeed, and hopefully thrive, at oral argument includes (1) acknowledging the reality of fear in performance-oriented lawyering events, (2) providing adequate context about the logistics of the scenario, and (3) modeling substantive mental and physical preparation techniques. Continue reading “Empowering Nervous Students in Oral Arguments”

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Tiny Dancer, Big Lesson

By: Professor Abigail Perdue

I’m a dancer . . . or at least I was. From the age of five until I entered college, I took one or more dance lessons per week, performing in recitals, talent shows, and later, competitions.

Dance taught me many lessons that have proven critical to my professional and personal success. My first major recital was particularly formative. I danced for the most prominent studio in our very small town. The studio owner required every group to rehearse its number in full costume the day before the big event. Continue reading “Tiny Dancer, Big Lesson”

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‘Twas the Night Before Finals

By: Abigail Perdue 

Final exams can be daunting for first-year law students. Many of them have never had their grade in a course rest on a single exam or been forced to recall everything they have learned throughout the semester under tight time constraints. Although exam anxiety is natural, it can undermine performance. Thus, to interject some light and levity into the stressful exam period, I send my students the following poetic parody of Clement C. Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas: Continue reading “‘Twas the Night Before Finals”

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Speed Editing

By: Abigail Perdue

“I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” – Top Gun

Apparently fictional fighter pilots and forward-thinking Jewish rabbis have that in common. The widespread modern phenomenon of speed dating purportedly began in the late nineties when an innovative Jewish rabbi organized the first speed dating event as an efficacious way for busy Jewish young professionals to meet and mingle (Kennedy 2013).

Speed dating soon became so popular that its model was exported to the business world. Speed mentoring events sprang up across the country, and after attending a particularly impactful one, I brainstormed how to implement “speed editing” in my writing classes. Speed editing simultaneously achieves multiple learning goals from encouraging collaboration to demonstrating how to work effectively under tight time constraints. It teaches students how to thoughtfully give and receive constructive feedback and further hones their editing and oral communication skills. Here’s how it works.

As our time on an assignment module draws to a close, I provide a brief overview of the effective editing techniques we have already discussed and then dedicate the remainder of our 1.5 hour session to speed editing. This generally occurs in one of two ways, each of which I will discuss below.
Continue reading “Speed Editing”

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