Daily Archives: May 10, 2008

Fairfax Journalism Institute calendar


I was asked to make a schedule for a small, one-day journalism event. Here’s my final result.


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A life freewritten–year two

I have always found “freewriting,” an approach to composition in which the writer does not allow her or himself to stop typing or even go back and make corrections in the process of writing, to be an excellent means of quieting the inner critic. What comes out of the experimental process is often muddled, vague and poorly crafted, but it’s an invaluable tool for unlocking creativity and quieting one’s “inner critic.” As someone who often stops to hunt for the “best word” in every sentence, a process that proves derogatory to the flow of the piece, I find freewriting to be a refreshing alternative to a perfectionist approach.

I thought it might be fun to try writing a completely freewritten book. Each chapter would contain numerous grammatical errors, a horrid lack of conciseness and no real plot structure, but it would be a fun endeavor nevertheless. The following is my second chapter from “A life freewritten,” a book in which an 80-year-old character in a retirement home writes an 1,000 word chapter on each year of his life.

(One final reminder: as part of the freewriting exercise, I did not allow myself to stop typing except for the occasional break, nor did I allow myself to think about a certain chapter or paragraph. Perhaps that explains the quality (or lack thereof) of the piece. 🙂 )


Kenneth Burchfiel

It comes as some luck to you that my second year was a little better than the first. Still nothing exciting, but what does one respect? My memories of this event were a little spotted, but—again—as I was only tow years old, what is there for me to do, or say without the help of others?

And so I rely on the testimony of my mother and my father, who both seemed to adore me—at this point, at least. The terrible twos were terrible from time to time, but not from any direction action of mine. Can I say that, or would that be shading the truth? It is for you to decide, my friend, my reader, my purveyor of this somewhat useless text ()that would be useless without me to talk about it.)

So the year of two arrived without much spontaneity. I was morn- or, born, I suppose I already covered that point. I had been walking along, one day, for see I could walk rather early on in my years, when a vicious dog leapt out at me. Or—at the time, at least, I seemed to think it was a vicious dog, but in reality it was my sister. My parents still joke about my story, but I suppose it is a bit of dehumanization on my port. Not to worry, though; I didn’t actually try to lash out at her, or anything like that. “I was two, after all.

So that is the first story. But we were a mobile family, you see, having come from Mobile and moving on to Hayward, Indiana after some time. (The Mobile pun is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, at this age, I am not a man of humor, see, and I lack puns such as those as they flood out of me each year. :But alas, it is enough to pick at my “Tuna Surprise” and compose these thoughts, as the mere chance—and ability—to write is more than enough at this state and time…

Yes—back to Hayward. Well, it was a sultry place, filled with people who very much wanted to see my father’s wallet out of his pocket and into theirs if they could do anything about it. (luckily, my father was trained in martial arts and manage to resist all such attempts with a simple chop from behind—one such chop landing him in district court. Oh, I’m sorry—that was when I was two and a half, and I’m only at two and a quarter! Well, I suppose that I’m at two and a half now…) yes, about that chop. We had been shopping in a local mall when a strange—I only remember that he had vivid blue hair—came up and tried to nimbly pluck my dad’s wallet right out of his pocket. Well, one of my father’s famous “justice hits” landed a clean fracture on the robber, and in minutes, the situation was reversed: my dad, somewhat proud and mighty-looking, standing over a bawling robber whose pain was only compounded by the handcuffs that ensnared him. The court trial was an interesting one; first, there was the trial for the robber, who did manage to get a hand on the wallet before his arm got snapped in two; and my father, who was petitioned as having to pay for the medical bills of the robber. Unfortunately, the case went in favor of the crook, and my dad had to pay insurance. (Luckily, he had a wallet with which to do so.)

Perhaps that was the most interesting thing that I can speak of for my second year—no! Wait! For there is one other thing, diminutive as it is. I was in an airport when I saw a large plane—had three decks, I think—land on the nearby runway. How young was I , and yet how enthralled I was to see such a sight, when the only recollection of flying aircraft I had came from the picture books and the children’s shows! Well, much to my delight, we boarded that flight, and took it some 3,000 sandy miles to Fresno. (The three thousand is a complete estimation, although I have always been quite the geography bug. Even then, I knew that we were going west.) When the plane landed (and, with apologies to the persons in Fresno, I always did find that plane far more interesting than the place at which it landed), I had a chance to meet the pilot. Such a distinguished man, such an elderly person—oh, goodness, there I am poking fun at my own kind—but distinguished, nevertheless. Why, he even took off his hat and gave it right to me! Who else can say that they have done such a thing? And I still have that hat; some days, when I’m feeling especially loopy at this old white-walled institution (no, that would not be an asylum, they just haven’t put up the floral printing yet), I’ll take the hat just to hear the others ask me about it, and so that I can repeat the story.

How boring these first few chapters must sound to the youthful ear! How much of a pain it might be just to turn the page! But please, bear with me; I promise you, year three is one of the most interesting of them all, and the things—the implications it has, I’m sure, you will not want to miss. Here I am again, advertising the future of my life when I remain stuck in the childhood ages. But such ages there were! Oh, and how my parents adored me… my friends, relish the age of two—if you can read this. Relish the age of two, for you only get 365 days of it. But you get so many other days, and so many chances to do some wonderful stuff- just, please. Relish it if you can, and if you want to. That is all I have to say from this dinner desk at the retirement home.

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