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A new genre of writing

July 14, 2020

“The voice is inviting and educated, but not pretentious,” she explained to me.

I nodded, wondering how to make a catalog description inviting and educated but not pretentious, and, furthermore, if I myself was inviting and educated enough for the task.  Perhaps this was where the rose-colored glasses of our friendship would shatter and I would be revealed as not as smart or cultured as she’d always thought.

I fell into this naturally.  One minute my friend was talking about being stressed with too much work, the next I was offering my abundant, not-structured-enough-summer-vacation time to help, imagining sweeping the floor of her store or carrying mail-order packages to the post office–and then the next minute she was saying, “You’re a writer–what I really need is someone to write product descriptions for the website.  Can you come on Tuesday?”

So here it was Tuesday, and I’d dutifully, though apprehensively, showed up.  I was a few minutes late, due to last-minute studying of her website, with its already written catalog descriptions; I needed mentor texts to draw on.

“It’s fun!” she told me as she set me up at a table with beautiful, handmade goods. “You get to research the artists and different types of wood.”  (Yes, I confirmed to myself.  I’m definitely not as intellectual as she imagines.) And she handed me a painted welcome sign, suggesting I start with that.  “It’s the first product we’re selling by this artist, so you’ll get to write the artist description!” she gushed. I gulped.  I was hoping to get to do at least a little cutting and pasting.

The sign was beautiful.  A cheerful orange with daisies on the sides (Were they daisies?  Could I write that in the description if I wasn’t sure?  Should I research daisy varieties?  In the end, I decided to leave out the daisies.)

I looked at the other product descriptions on the website.  Should I start with a question?  None of the other descriptions did.  (Not educated enough?)  What about a dependent clause?  (Too pretentious?  I decided to go for it anyway.)

Painted on reclaimed barn wood, this cheerful welcome sign cheerfully greets you…

Too many cheerfuls.

Painted on reclaimed barn wood, this cheerful welcome sign sings a greeting…

Did the other descriptions include personification?

I searched through the website again, finding no personification.

Painted on reclaimed barn wood, hang this one-of-a-kind sign in your entryway to welcome yourself home after a long day of errands….

Who does long days of errands anymore?  What if the buyer didn’t do any errands?

Painted on reclaimed barn wood, this one-of-a-kind sign sends a cheerful greeting to guests…

But how many guests are people having over these days? It’s cheerful for the owner too.  How can I work that in?

I agonized more over my two sentence description than I do over report cards, typing and deleting, rereading “mentor texts” over and over.

Painted on reclaimed barn wood, this one-of-a-kind sign combines rustic character with vibrant hospitality. Display it by an entryway to greet guests and add cheer as you return home from outings.

In the end, I came to love the sign. How can one spend an hour examining the details of something and not appreciate it? This is what I learned this afternoon.  Not how to write in an inviting and educated, yet not pretentious style (though perhaps I learned to approximate that, as well), but the intertwining of attention and love.

As I worry about the beginning of the school year, perhaps this is what I need to hold onto.  With careful study of details, comes appreciation.  With attention comes love. However school starts, students and I can study each other and get to know the details.  We’ll fall in love.  I didn’t know I could write catalog descriptions, but given enough time, I can.  I didn’t know if I could build community in the new (as yet unknown) “normal” of school, but now I do.





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One Comment
  1. We learn something new every day and soon it becomes a part of our lives. It was good to read about your experience. Take care and all the best.

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