Weekend Wisdom

Emily Barton ’87

“Revise, revise, revise.”
“Young writers need encouragement to express their ideas and validation that their thoughts are worthwhile. At the same time, many shy away from get-your-hands-dirty revision. But under the guidance of Kent Place’s gifted English teachers, we learned to write and revise. Every essay went through two or three drafts. We chose more persuasive passages to quote; refined our interpretations; used stronger words. Each draft grew incrementally more supple and assured.
“Faculty supported creative endeavors with mindful critique. Dr. Cole read a draft of a novella I wrote — and returned it with pages of notes. Mr. Pridham, our beloved drama teacher, agreed to produce a play I wrote, but first interrogated everything from individual lines to the play’s dramatic arc.
“Kent Place’s teaching serves me well as a writer. When The New York Times Book Review asks me to write 600 words about a book, I can’t come back to them saying, “Oh hey, I couldn’t fit my ideas into 600 words, so I wrote a thousand.” The first draft always runs long, and then, line by line and draft by draft, I jettison and condense.
“These skills also have broader applicability. Scientists and businesspeople know that while their first thoughts may be their best thoughts, expressing an idea perfectly can take many drafts. And as all of us grow as people and in our careers, we need to be able to revise our original plans. Maybe the first major we picked in college wasn’t right; maybe, after years in a given field, we want to change course. Kent Place women learn the critical skills, self-confidence, and flexibility we need to make confident, agile revisions.”  

Photo credit: Greg Martin

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Kent Place School is an all-girls K through 12 independent college preparatory day school with a coeducational Preschool, located in Summit, NJ.