Diary of of a Wimpy WEMer

19 Feb

JournalsUnlike my super cute journals (Jeannette’s right, invest in ones you love,) I’m a mess.

I feel like you need to know that before you read this post about my WEM methodology.  Don’t let the doctored photos and wordy explanations fool you.  Those are pitfalls in the dangerous land of internet perfection.  My classics journey takes place in the land of illegible scribbles, rushed chapters, half-written ideas, misspellings and forgotten deadlines.

For instance, I read late at night.  I need the quiet silence.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that it goes against SWB’s recommendation.  But I do try to follow some of her other suggestions.

I keep a character list.

Character List

Although this is an example from back in the day when I took notes about each person.  Prior to that I used to put the page of their first appearance here as well.  Oh, the glory days.

I summarize every chapter, if by “every” you mean the ones at the beginning of the novel thoroughly, the middle ones in sloppy scrawl, and the last two to twelve not at all.  I try to write the factual summary in cursive, and then print out my reactions, questions, analysis, foreshadowing and the like below.

Chapter Summaries

The printed part is the equivalent of talking to myself.

Confused Note

Which I also sometimes do.  By reading aloud, that is.  This is my go-to strategy for dealing with a particularly difficult section of a book or a dreary, weary brain.  And then there are the times that I just turn the whole shebang over to the professionals:  audiobooks.

I also picked up a helpful hint from John Bunyan.  You remember how throughout Pilgrim’s Progress he gave us those clever little side notes told you what was happening?

Pilgrim's Progress Margin Notes

I try to pencil in little things like that if 1) the action is hard to follow 2) I think something pivotal has just occurred, or 3) I have reread the same paragraph four times.

I also jot other notes in the margins next to a plethora of underlined text.  In college wind symphony our conductor once gave a helpful bit of advice that I’ve carried into my classic book marking.  He said that we shouldn’t just circle a note or dynamic marking; doing so wouldn’t help us fix the mistake.  Instead we needed to write something that explains the problem to be addressed; name the note, draw eyeglasses to remind you to watch the director, write the words “slow down.”  Deceivingly simple, astoundingly effective.

Margin Notes

So when I highlight a passage I try to take the time to scribble a few words to myself that explains the significance of the section.

Recently I implemented a new technique in my WEM journaling.  For past novels I’ve simply added pages to the end of each section to answer SWB’s questions.  For the reading of POAL I put those questions in my journal first, and as I came across portions of the book that seemed to specifically address those things I had a preorganized location to drop the page numbers for safe keeping.  It’s hard to tell how well it worked because I did a really lousy, half-baked job of answering the questions on James’ snoozer novel.

Rhetoric Answers

Because we blog about the books I also have an additional note-taking method.  I keep a small piece of lined paper (I’m definitely with Christine about the importance of lines) as a bookmark.  On one side I list words and pages for future Classic Word of the Day posts, and the other I brainstorm ideas for other posts.

Bookmark List

So, now you know what I’ll be up to in about an hour.  Sooner or later I’ll quit cleaning/grading/planning/chilling-with-my-husband, don my pajamas, and crawl into bed.  I’ll crack open the Huck Finn, read a chapter, stop to chat with my beloved about it, journal a little, remember something I should have told him earlier, jot down some more, complain about how he turns over as many times as a puppy when he gets into bed thereby messing up my handwriting, start another chapter, finally decide my eyes will stay open no longer, flip off the reading light and snore away the hours.

See you in the morning.


Posted by on February 19, 2013 in The Blog


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14 responses to “Diary of of a Wimpy WEMer

  1. Adriana

    February 19, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    So much goodness here. Wow. I’m taking notes on how you take notes, Christina!

    Thank you for taking the time to share all of this! I’m looking forward to getting more from my WEM experience now.

    • Christina Joy

      February 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you, and may your note-taking reflect the days of yore when notes galore adorned my well-loved journals.

  2. Patty Sessions

    February 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    This is great stuff! Thanks!

    I too read late. I know SWB says to do it in the morning, but it takes me a while to wake up (and I don’t drink coffee!). I do better in the evening–or really any other time.

    • Christina Joy

      February 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Yes, I’ve never read anything in the mornings (unless you count reading Hunger Games at 4:00 while nursing my twins when they were 2 months old, but I don’t think that counts.) I can’t imagine I would be able to process much, I’m doing good if I can remember to put the milk back in the fridge before 9:00.

  3. Fanda

    February 20, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Thanks for sharing all these. Although I don’t think l would change my feeling towards scribbling in the book, I’m interested in the Bunyan system, maybe I will adopt it in my own way. Reading WEM-ers posts do give me many ideas to try!….

    • Christina Joy

      February 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      When I first started writing in books I had to ease my nervousness about the process with this information: One of my professors for my actual Masters Degree owns the largest collection of Lutheran hymnals in America, and a few years ago he invited my classmates and me to his home to see it. What he shared with us surprised me a bit, he said that the most valuable books in his collections were the ones with names and notes scribbled in them. Those books, as opposed to the clean copies, brought history with them, and allowed researchers to better understand the impact of the book on people and society at the time.

  4. Jerry

    February 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    All right then. The other day at our school staff meeting we discussed briefly once again the merits of continuing to teach hand writing. Is it even neccessary in this day and age outside of a signature. I think your journaling supports the teaching of teaching hand writing.

  5. Ruth @ Experiment with The Well-Educated Mind

    February 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    You’re not a wimpy WEMer! That’s a lot of work. I commend all of you three for how much you do.

  6. Tonia

    February 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Love the idea of having the questions from WEM pre-written and ready to fill in. That is a great idea!

    • Christina Joy

      February 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      I’m notoriously bad at having quotes to back up my answers to the questions, and I’m really hoping this well help.

  7. Christine

    February 23, 2013 at 6:49 am

    How about that! Even I learned something new. I didn’t know you did the whole cursive and printed thing!

    • Christina Joy

      February 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Writing this post has made me return to a more consistent use of this technique. We’ll see if it show come wrap-up time.


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