I’m probably being a little pretentious here by calling this “fan mail”, but I think this letter is close enough and who knows when I’ll be able use the term “fan mail” regarding myself again in the future? Full Disclosure: I emailed this individual and he responded, albeit favorably. Can correspondence be considered fan mail if it’s solicited? Anyway, here’s the letter I received today from Virginia Community Colleges:

Hi, René,

Great to hear from you! I love your article on review writing.

The main reason for including your piece is that it is clear, lively, practical, excellent writing. A related reason is that you are a professional writer working in a genre that has relevance and immediacy for college students. Asking them when they first get to college to write in highly academic genres like literary criticism (or unused and meaningless genres like “classification and division papers”), as many programs do, fails to ease their transition into more esoteric genres of writing. I try to get my students to write in genres they will recognize and in which they have the chance to develop real purposes and audiences and write about what interests them, as you do.

Hope this finds you well and thriving.


mark r

That letter would be from one Mr. Mark Richardson who is the instructor/lecturer/professor that put me on his required reading list. I had emailed him to find out “what prompted him to include me.” I couldn’t tell you how he is as a teacher, but there was a part of his syllabus that struck me as particularly ingenious and I would hope that if I had ever become a professional teacher that I would include something similar in my syllabus.

Come to class prepared to take notes—with a notebook and pen or pencil—and have your material ready to use. Don’t study for other classes in this class, or read the newspaper, or listen to your iPod, or eat a meal, or sleep. I reserve the right to mark you as absent if I observe you disengaged from the class.  I will email you about these “absences” if they occur.

Tell me that’s not genius! Sure, it’s probably an unnecessary rule to have at a bona fide university, but as someone who has experienced community college, I can tell you that there are many students who actually do show up to class and zone out. In previous day and age, paying for education that you were purposefully disregarding would be unheard of. Somewhere along the line, college became the new high school and young people simply feel compelled to go without any real desire to learn anything.

My friend DKS wrote a great post about students writing admission letters to colleges. One cynical passage reads:

notwithstanding the general grammar/logic problems, sometimes they just fail to understand the prompt and the prompts themselves are your usual familiar questions: tell us about your background, accomplishments, and interests. tell us about what makes you unique. tell us about why you want to buy our bachelors degree.

That last line was stunning.