Strengthen your Writing Voice by Counting Your Words


Since  September I ‘ve been teaching high school seniors the art of college essay writing. This unit offers diverse challenges because every student is writing a unique, personal narrative that’s a reflective presentation of themselves. But for me,  the biggest challenge lies in encouraging high school students to break away from the rigidness of “school writing”. For years students have […]

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Great Lines in Literature- The Things They Carried


Line: “I was a coward. I went to war.” From: “On the Rainy River” from The Things They Carried  by Tim O’Brien. These two simple, declarative  sentences conclude O’Brien’s complex short story “On the Rainy River” which details the emotional anguish O’Brien wrestled with while considering the following…   to accept his Vietnam draft notice or abandon his family, trash […]

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My Summer Reading in Review (2016)


Now that the sun has set on yet another summer, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on my summer reading endeavors. As usual I entered the summer with pale skin, a full heart and  intentions of reading six books over 10 weeks. But then life happened. I failed to read my intended six books and only read […]

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Great Lines in Literature- The Great Gatsby


Work: The Great Gatsby Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Published: 1925 Line: “He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and […]

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College Essay Advice- Don’t be Afraid…Take the Plunge!


Here’s a conversation I have multiple times with multiple students every September… Student: “But Mr. Armstrong I can’t do it. I just can’t do my college application essay.” Me:”Why?” Student: ” Why? You want to know why! I have no idea how to begin!?!Really NO idea. I might as well drop out of high school […]

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Restless Adult Syndrome (Part 2)– Muting the Clatter


“There’s nothing more inspiring or – beautiful than the sight of a mare and a new colt. And it’s cool there now, see? Texas is cool now, and it’s spring. And whenever spring comes to where I am, I suddenly get the feeling, my God, I’m not getting’ anywhere! What the hell am I doing, […]

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Restless Adult Syndrome


“Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or […]

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Get Your Writing Running!


I often equate writing a sentence to starting a jog ( or at least the way I start a jog) .  The first few words/steps may be awkward, unbalanced and  a sad  attempt to find a rhythm. A simple way to to gauge your writing rhythm  is to take a concentration of sentences ( I recommend at least […]

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Great Lines in Literature- “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy


Book: The Road Author :Cormac McCarthy Publication Date: 2006 Line: “Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.” Analysis: Damn you Cormac!!! Lesser writers, like myself, would have simply ended that line  with “each other’s entire world” because  I like clichés…I sigh at Hallmark cards […]

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Ordinary Experience + Extraordinary Reflection = Great Success!


Regarding writing, the most frequently asked question by my students is, “But what do I write about?” My  answer: “You write about anything you want. As long as you write it well.” This response causes a wave of moans and groans and exaggerated eye rolls  followed by silence followed by one annoyed student asking ” But seriously,  what […]

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