A Reader’s Rubric

I’m not much for rubrics, those pesky little university-endorsed things that supposedly make grading papers objective so that when Suzie the Freshman visits the Dean to complain about her under-inflated grade, you’ve got something to back you up.

[As always, those looking to be stimulated by seizure-inducing animated GIFs of random celebrities are encouraged to try a different website. I hear Sesame Street’s is quite colourful.]

I’ve never been much for grading writing, either. My favourite grad-school professor limited our syntax papers to two double-spaced pages because he said, and I quote, “Most people can’t get from the first to the last word in a sentence without losing their minds.” He didn’t want to read twenty pages of shit, and when I started teaching, I understood what he was talking about.

But I digress.

It turns out I do have a sort of rubric, even if it lives in my head. It’s a simple one, and starts with a single question:

Is this good?

Now we have talk about what “good” means.

When I’m reading flash fiction slush (which, by the way, I like a lot more than reading frosh comp five-paragraph essays on sleep-inducing topics like ‘The Dangers of Cell Phone Usage’ or ‘Why Carbonated Drinks are Bad for You’), I have a list of questions running in my head. Here are a few:

  1. Does this resonate with me?
  2. Is this memorable?
  3. Do I ‘get it?’
  4. Has this concept been played out before?
  5. How original is the form?

I’d like to expand on each of these. Ready? Let’s go. Read more