Practice & Perfect the Art of Writing Well

Explore The Crafted Word

The Street I Never Go Down

As is often the case, I sit here with good intent to write my end-of-term comments--a dry litany of repeated phrases dulled by. obligation--and find myself instead writing poetry, the stuff I would rather share with my students who already know that I care dearly...

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The Storm of Fallibility

       One good cigar is better than two bad cigars, or so it seems right now. It is a beautiful and stormy night--pouring rain and howling wind, and I thought a good smoke would be a fitting end to a busy and over-booked week. As it goes, I bought a couple of cheap...

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The Crafted Word Summer Reading & Writing Offerings

Practice & Perfect a More Literate Lifestyle

A Simple Philosophy

Years ago, when I first started teaching writing to a class of 8th grade boys, a parent asked me what my expectations were for the year. Afterwards, I realized he wanted to know what my expectations were for his son, but I answered–perhaps naively–for myself and said, “I just hope my students get to the end of year loving reading and writing as much as I do, and I’ll try just about anything if it works.”

At the end of the year, that parent confided in me that he was not happy with my response and that he was looking for specifics, not dreams. But he happily acknowledged that his previously intransigent son now loved to read and write, and how his 8th grade boy lived a remarkably literate lifestyle–considering how much he once hated “English Class.”

Not much has changed in those twenty years. I still feel more like a coach than a teacher. I have remarkably high expectations for my students, and I will try just about anything new that I think might engage, empower and inspire my students to craft words with equal parts diligence and abandon.

The Crafted Word was borne out of a desire by my students to have a place to find all the cool stuff I created for them: my writing rubrics that they were still using in college, or my Fitz’s Top Ten Comma Rules, Top Ten Writing Errors, & Top Ten Great Sentences–and God knows how many how-to videos, blog posts, and essay maps. It has since expanded to include digital portfolios, multi-media production–and even singer.songwriter music recording!

The long and short of it is that The Crafted Word is my way of keeping on and keeping in touch with anyone, anywhere on the globe who sincerely wishes to become a writer who loves to write, a reader who loves to read, and an artist willing to create & share his or her best work with a real and authentic audience.

Let me know if anything we do here at The Crafted Word matches up with what you want or need.




Young Writers Community

Join a Crafted Word

Online Writing Community

~get your own password protected blog
~create a really cool digital portfolio
~weekly writing prompts
~prompt & positive feedback
~a receptive & friendly audience of peers
~weekly grammar, skills, & vocabulary tutorials
~includes podcasts and video essays!

This is an opportunity for any young writer in grades 4-6 to develop
a strong and confident writer’s voice in a community of young writers.

Find out more!

The Writer's Toolbox

Enroll in a dynamic & comprehensive,
unit-based writing & reading course

~8-10 hours of work per unit
~sentence & paragraph building units
~roots & SAT vocabulary
~poetry & creative writing prompts
~classic short stories
~learn to write structured analysis
~narrative & expository Essays
~prompt, positive & effective feedback & assessment

This course is great for any student
looking to get a jumpstart on the coming year

Find out more!

The Classic Reader's Club

Here is a chance to be guided through some of the greatest
classic short stories, poems & novels in American Literature

Each selection of literature includes:

~Video introductions and guides
~access to audio readings
~Rubric-based personal reading responses
~an online discussion board

This course is designed to put the fun back in reading & to discover
just what makes a piece of literature be regarded as a “classic!”

Recommended for grades 6-9

Find out more!

Vocabulary, Grammar & Mechanics

This course is designed for writers who are willing to get down & dirty and learn & practice solid writing skills

~learn the Top 100 (or more) Sat Words & Top 100 Roots
~learn to avoid the most common writing mistakes
~learn the most common homophone and spelling errors
~learn the Top Ten Comma Rules
~practice sentence building & rhetorical techniques
~practice effective proofreading & editing techniques
~measure & assess your progress through online quizzes & tutorials

Recommended for grades 7-9

Find out more!

Fitz as Tutor, Mentor, Guide & Coach

Good writers are created over the long haul. Having Fitz as a mentor & tutor to guide a student through the ongoing academic demands, crunch times, and the constant ebbs and flows of often conflicting teacher expectations will always be a source of confidence & wisdom. More importantly, Fitz can help any student grow and evolve as a disciplined and multi-faceted writer who is able to meet the challenge of any assignment with confidence in his or responses.



No matter how you slice it, prepping for SAT testing is a source of stress for parents and students alike. Fitz can give you a thorough grounding in essential vocabulary, roots & suffixes, grammatical constructions, punctuation, and common writing errors–as well as a foolproof formula for responding to writing and literary responses in clear, concise, and articulate ways!

There is no shortcut to success, but it is essential that any student knows what to expect and how to respond in an experienced and confident manner.

Try a session for free! It is that good.

Essay Writing

Essay Writing

An essay starts as a caterpillar and emerges as a butterfly

The bottom line in every writer’s repertoire is–and always has been–to effectively develop and convey a unified theme or thesis in a clear and concise way that engages, elucidates, and expresses a thought fully and passionately explored that is a joy (and never a chore) for a reader to understand and enjoy as simply a good piece of writing. Fitz’s body of essays is impressive and expansive by any measure.

The ability to respond articulately to a writing prompt or expectation is an essential skill for life; moreover, being able to embrace the essay forms–whether it be personal narratives, literary analysis, reflective explorations, argumentative or expository statements–is a “skill” that must be practiced, perfected, and mastered from the ground up. It is not something that anyone can “just do.”

At the The Crafted Word we believe that impressive essays evolve out of a painstaking attention to relatively simple adherence to detail, foundation building and effective approaches to thesis development, a unified theme, paragraphing and punctuation, tried and true rhetorical techniques, and narrative fluency.

We can help your essay writing become a source of joy and pride in your accomplishments as a writer!

And that is a promise.

Grammar, Mechanics & Rhetorical Devices

Grammar, Mechanics & Rhetorical Devices

Even just the word “grammar” sends chills up the spine of any aspiring or struggling student. The often arcane expectations surrounding the study of grammar is often bewildering to well-intentioned students of writing. At The Crafted Word we do not have a solution, but we do have a reliable, consistent, and simple approach–and that is to learn the most common writing errors and to develop lasting habits that have served the best writers since words were first put to papyrus; moreover, we take a huge step forward by learning, practicing, and mastering the rhetorical techniques that help bring common and enduring thoughts to a sublime and lasting level.

Reading & Vocabulary Skills

Reading & Vocabulary Skills

All of us have a “weak spot” in our arsenal of literary skills. Understanding the essential themes of  literary works and developing an effective approach to understanding complex and specific vocabulary is crucial to anyone trying to develop and sustain a literate lifestyle. The Crafted Word helps students develop the skills needed to understand and explicate the meaning and intent of a wide variety of multi-genre literature.

Paragraphing Skills

The Meaning of Paragraphs

      If some alien linguists came to earth to study how we communicate with each other, they would probably return to Alien World University and tell their scholarly alien brethren how we create and assign words to our thoughts, and then we share these words either by sound (by talking with each other) or by changing those sounds into a strange and silent written language (written words) that tries to recreate the way we humans talk with each other. Further study would show that we group our thoughts (and hence words) into blocks that we call sentences and paragraphs. Sometimes we group a series of related paragraphs together into an essay, or a speech, or a story. In short, they might say that we communicate using a trinity of expression: a sentence is a thought fully expressed; a paragraph is a thought fully explained; while an essay (or any longer writing piece) is a thought fully explored.The perceptive alien would notice that we humans have no difficulty speaking in sentences and paragraphs, but we sometimes have a heck of a time trying to do the same when putting our words into writing because most of us humans do not really know (or even have to care) what is and what is not a paragraph. But we should care, because a well-spoken or well-written paragraph adds detail, clarity, and beauty to even the most common thought. It is important to remember that a paragraph is always born in a single thought, and that paragraph ends with the original thought more fully developed and explained. In a way, a paragraph is like caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly. The original thought ends the same, yet different.How long it takes for that caterpillar to become a butterfly is up to the writer. There is no minimum length for a paragraph.  The maximum length is just before the writer drifts or shifts away from the original thought. Generally speaking, the more deep and complex the original thought, the longer a paragraph needs to be; however, if a writer is simply presenting the facts of a story (as in the news) the paragraphs are often remarkably brief–oftentimes just one or two sentences. Check out CNN or The BBC News and see how long their paragraphs are in today’s news stories.  Now check out the longer lengths of the paragraphs in a recent New Yorker article about the basketball player Yao Ming. In short, a paragraph simply needs to do what you (as a writer) need it to do.All of this might fly in the face of those of you who have been told that a paragraph needs to be five sentences long, or have three supporting facts, or a topic sentence at the start, or it needs a quote. Really all a paragraph must do is explain, elucidate, expound, and/or explicate an idea, thought, experience, or fact.  Once that is done, after ten words or ten hundred words, it is time to end the paragraph and move on to the next one.One of the ironies of my life as a writer is that I have always felt that writing is an organic process that tries to recreate the voice that speaks within us; but, here I am as a writing teacher creating all these “rubrics” and “formulas” to help my students write more effectively. My hope is that the rubrics will help them any aspiring writer find and develop that inner voice that is completely and uniquely his or her own.This formula for narrative paragraphs is based on the way we would naturally talk about an experience we have had: we introduce what we want to talk about; we narrow it down to something specific and more focused; we offer proof that we have had the experience, feeling, or thought, and then we add some commentary or further explanation. Anything less than this and we run the risk of sounding disjointed, confusing, and random. There are no laws for writers, nor are there really any rules aside from what teachers or employers impose, but there is an audience out there, and if confuse them, you lose them. At the very least, if you try this formula, you will write a focused and logically structured paragraph; moreover, with a little bit more effort, you can write paragraphs that ring with beauty, clarity, and resonance!

So, here is my formula for writing a good narrative paragraph. In narrative writing we write about our own lives and thoughts and feelings, and so we write in the first person (except where noted). Fitz’s Narrative Paragraph Rubric.doc

Creative Artist Development

Take Control of Your Digital Footprint

Create. Collate, Curate & Share: Tell Your Story

Songwriting, Poetry, & Portfolio Development

The ultimate goal and dream for any writer and performing artist is to develop a body of work that can be shared with an audience that respects and appreciates well-crafted words and music. Our goal at The Crafted Word is to help aspiring artists realize that dream by teaching, guiding and mentoring artists to create, collate and curate their best efforts in traditional publications, high quality audio recordings, multi-media digital portfolios, social networks and well-designed websites.

Music: The Journey of an Artist

Music: The Journey of an Artist

Music Lessons, Songwriting, & Recording

Any good educator or coach knows that exceptional focus, drive, and effort is preceded by clear and realizable goals. Good musical and songwriting skills develop over time–but the fortitude to keep at it and bring your songwriting, performing, and recording skills to the highest level is a process that can be guided by experienced artists who have been there, done that and have created some incredible work of their own.  We can help you find a path that directs you toward your goal and dream–and we can help you stay on that path.

Digital Portfolios

Create a Digital Portfolio

Create, Collate, & Curate the Best of Who & What You Are

Someone is not just looking for you; they are searching for you, and you are only one one regrettable statement or stupid posting away from your judgement, and hence your character, being questioned by an admissions committee, potential boss, or anyone else casually (or intently) searching your name on the web—and it is going to happen! The irony that the only thing worse than a questionable digital presence is no presence at all. While there is some nobility in being off the grid, there may also be precious little else to set your particular genius and passion apart from the masses that are arrayed beside, before and behind you.

A powerful and compelling digital portfolio puts your proverbial best foot forward. Your digital portfolio collated and curated over the course of years makes a powerful statement of who you are, what you value, and what you have accomplished. A digital portfolio shows that you give a damn, and that you have been giving a damn for a long time.  And that is a powerful reflection of your inner character, your persistence, and your values.

The Crafted Word guides students through the process of creating digital portfolios that can grow and evoke over time. An effective digital portfolio reflects not only who a person is, but it also captures the depth and breadth of who he or she has been and aspires to be. A compelling digital portfolio combines the archiving and presentation possibilities of a website with the dynamic and engaging qualities of an active and interesting blog. And it is easier than you think to get it all started. The harder part is to keep it going and to let your portfolio morph and change and grow with the same naturalness as you morph and change and grow.

And that is where we can guide you every step of the way.

Multi-Media Production

Multi-Media Production

Fitz was one of the earliest pioneers of the paperless classroom, and he is well-known for his innovative use of online writing communities, video essays, interactive tests and quizzes, documentaries and podcasts–all of which are based on a focused teaching of traditional writing and rhetorical skills. The stumbling for any teacher or student to get started is often as simple as he or she does not know where or how to start.

It really is more simple than you might imagine and the academic benefits of engaging students in a dynamic and disciplined creative process is well-documented.

The Crafted Word can help you (teacher or student) get started and provide the guidance and resources to keep you going!








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