For those of us who consider ourselves writers, there’s nothing more elementary or atomic to what we do than the sentence. Of course a sentence can be broken into words, but we don’t create the words. We only arrange them. This is what Ryan Block, a visiting writer from the Chicago area, would like to illustrate in a six hour lecture at the Loft this weekend. For writers, this is an opportunity to delve deep into the most important facet of what we do. Everything flows from the sentence.
Let’s quote Block, in a block quote:
When a sentence we write fails to conform to the thinking that precedes it, or when a sentence faithfully mimics incomplete or incoherent thinking, the writer rightly despairs. This lecture gives battle to that despair and addresses the sentence as the basic unit of composition on which a style may develop. We will begin with the technical features of the sentence, with particular attention paid to cumulative syntax. We will investigate the functions of propositions—the fundamental units of cognition that we represent in language. We will explore metaphor as the template by which propositions (and therefore sentences) are designed. We will then interrogate the value of cliché, both in its particulars and in the challenge it poses to writing with effective style. Overall, we will examine the technical and imaginative features of the sentence, identify common mistakes in their construction, and acquaint ourselves with various strategies for avoiding the dangers inherent in the act of writing. The class will review examples of bad and good sentences (and every other kind) and will engage in several exercises.
This is the third time that Block is offering the course. Previous incarnations—another lecture and a multi-week class—were met with positive feedback across the board. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the sentence, Block will doubtlessly prove you wrong. The wonderful thing is, of course, that you want him to prove you wrong. It’s part of his charm.
MCB feels that excitement is contagious. Registration is still open for The Sentence, held this Saturday, July 23rd, at Open Book. The lecture runs from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. For additional details, visit the registration page on the Loft’s website: https://www.loft.org/adult-classes
Ryan Block has a BA from Simon’s Rock College of Bard and an MFA in creative writing from the New School University in New York. He was co-editor of a political blog based in New York City. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines such as Happy and Omnia Vanitas Review. He is currently finishing his first novel, Symphony No. 1.