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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Our church held its annual Thanksgiving service earlier this week, and because of the COVID-19 situation, the turnout was much smaller than normal. And while the virus did not alter the basic format of our Thanksgiving service, it did affect what people shared regarding their personal situations.

Normally when our church body gathers on Sundays, we sing songs of praise, we hear announcements, we offer our donations, we pray, we listen to the pastor’s message, and we sing one final song before being dismissed.

Our Thanksgiving service, however, is much simpler. We still sing, of course, and pray, but we do not have announcements, we do not make donations, and we do not listen to a message from our pastor. Instead, the church members present the message as many of us stand and give thanks to God. I have always enjoyed this unique service because it allows us to publicly acknowledge our appreciation for our families, our health, our welfare, our freedom, and for God’s specific blessings during the year. …


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When my daughters were in grade school, they loved to use colored strings to weave friendship bracelets for their classmates. Typically, though, Maria and Katrina became frustrated early in the process because their colored strings had become a tangled mess, and the girls had a hard time picking out the four colors they wanted to use for their bracelets. Inevitably, they’d come to me and ask, “Daddy, can you help us untangle this ball of string?” Though my daughters didn’t realize it, they were really asking, “Daddy, can you show us how to write a division/classification essay?”

When you write a division/classification essay, you’re really doing the same thing my daughters were trying to do. You’re trying to bring some kind of order or logic or organization to a subject that has not yet been categorized. In my daughters’ case, for instance, they solved the tangled-string problem by, first, separating all the different colors and, then, storing them in different compartments in a new, plastic divider they purchased solely for that purpose. The separation and organization by color made it so much easier for them to choose their colors and to begin work on their bracelets. …


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Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash

Usually when I tell my students that they’re going to write a definition essay, they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind. They think I’m crazy because definitions are typically one sentence long, and these students can’t imagine writing an entire essay on the meaning of a single word or phrase. And, quite frankly, they shouldn’t be expected to do so. Definition is a writing technique that cannot stand alone; definition essays must include at least one other technique to be truly effective. Choosing the correct technique, then, is paramount.

Narration — For example, when Frank Deford decided to write a book about cystic fibrosis, he could have written a scientific textbook to explain the disease’s causes and effects and treatments. Instead, however, Deford used narration to tell the story of his daughter Alexandra who suffered and died from this horrible disease (Alex, the Life of a Child). Personalizing the disease in this way allowed Deford to reach readers who may not have read the technical cause-and-effect approach. …


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Illustration by Wendy Nooney; Provided by Jim LaBate

Book Summary:

Streets of Golfito focuses on two individuals who meet in Golfito, Costa Rica in 1974. Jim (Diego) is a 22-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer from upstate New York, and he has been assigned to introduce sports other than soccer to the young people.

By contrast, Lilli is a shy, beautiful, 17-year-old Costa Rican girl who wants to learn English and escape her small town, a banana port on the Pacific side near the Panamanian border.

In alternating chapters, the first third of the book shows these two characters growing up in their respective countries. Then, after they meet, Lilli experiences a tragedy that will drastically change her life, and Jim does all he can to help her survive and thrive in her new circumstances. …


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Illustration by Wendy Nooney; Provided by Jim LaBate

Book Summary:

Streets of Golfito focuses on two individuals who meet in Golfito, Costa Rica in 1974. Jim (Diego) is a 22-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer from upstate New York, and he has been assigned to introduce sports other than soccer to the young people.

By contrast, Lilli is a shy, beautiful, 17-year-old Costa Rican girl who wants to learn English and escape her small town, a banana port on the Pacific side near the Panamanian border.

In alternating chapters, the first third of the book shows these two characters growing up in their respective countries. Then, after they meet, Lilli experiences a tragedy that will drastically change her life, and Jim does all he can to help her survive and thrive in her new circumstances. …


Image for post
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Illustration by Wendy Nooney; Provided by Jim LaBate

Book Summary:

Streets of Golfito focuses on two individuals who meet in Golfito, Costa Rica in 1974. Jim (Diego) is a 22-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer from upstate New York, and he has been assigned to introduce sports other than soccer to the young people.

By contrast, Lilli is a shy, beautiful, 17-year-old Costa Rican girl who wants to learn English and escape her small town, a banana port on the Pacific side near the Panamanian border.

In alternating chapters, the first third of the book shows these two characters growing up in their respective countries. Then, after they meet, Lilli experiences a tragedy that will drastically change her life, and Jim does all he can to help her survive and thrive in her new circumstances. …


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Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Every time we say “Hello” to another person, we stand at the entrance to a potential conversation. Oftentimes, the way we say “Hello” will lead the other person to initiate the conversation or to cancel that potential conversation. Once we are admitted to the dialogue, though, our own conversational style will either allow that conversation to live and thrive, or it will cause that conversation to wither and die. Here are some conversational styles that I have observed in my almost 70 years of life.

The Miser. The Miser is a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge, the tight-fisted, money hoarding character in The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The Miser is the individual who will verbally share nothing whatsoever, often not even a return greeting. This character may grunt or nod after the initial “Hello,” but he or she is clearly not interested in talking. If you fall into this category, you may be perceived, unfortunately, as antisocial, self-absorbed, or downright rude. However, you might have a good reason for remaining silent. Perhaps others have hurt you in conversation, perhaps your personal situation is so complex and involved that you can’t formulate the words to express it, or perhaps you are creating a poem or a song in your mind, and you do not want to be interrupted. Whatever the reason, you are entitled to your silence if that’s what you need, and you can eventually break away from that silence, as Scrooge himself did in the end of Dickens’ story, if you ever feel so inclined. …


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Images from Wikipedia

One of my favorite magazines is Sports Illustrated, and one of my favorite features in that magazine is a feature called “Where Are They Now?” Typically, the magazine highlights former athletes whose pictures once appeared in the magazine, and each article explains what those athletes are doing now. This “before-and-after” essay is a classic example of comparison and contrast, and you may want to use this format in your own writing.

Fortunately, you have already had some experience with this compare-and-contrast technique. For example, every time you open your wallet or your purse to spend money, you’re evaluating all the similar options available to you. For instance, if you decide to buy lunch or dinner today, you can choose from among numerous nearby establishments: Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Deli and Brew, Market 32, Chinese Wok Buffet, Alexi’s Diner, or Moscatiello’s Italian Restaurant. …


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Photo by Zachary Keimig on Unsplash

A few years ago, the clothes dryer in our home died. Since this dryer is more than 30 years old, and we’ve already fixed it three or four times, my wife and I assumed we’d finally have to buy a new one. We began by talking to friends who had recently purchased a new dryer of their own, and, then, we looked at Consumer Reports for the best models and prices. Once I looked at the prices of a new dryer, however, I decided to take the dryer apart one more time to see if I could determine the cause of the machine’s malfunction. …


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Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash

Do you remember reading the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in high school? I’m pretty sure I read it when I was a freshman, but I don’t actually remember a lot of the specific details. I do recall that the main character, Pip, was rather poor and raised by his sister and her husband, but Pip had “great expectations” placed upon him because a secret individual paid for Pip’s education due to a kindness Pip had previously performed. …

About

Jim LaBate

Jim LaBate works as a writing specialist in The Writing Center at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York.

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