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Grading Grohl: An English Teacher Gives Feedback to Foo Fighters' Budding Author

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs onstage at the 2018 Children's Hospital Los Angeles "From Paris With Love" Gala at LA Live on Oct. 20, 2018 in Los Angeles.

After Dave Grohl shared a short story on Instagram, we asked English teacher Andy Berens to grade his homework.

David,

Thank you for the submission of the first of your collection of stories, Dave’s True Stories. This is a great first draft. It’s clear you applied yourself, and there are a lot of things working well. You are a couple drafts away from being able to publish, if that’s what you want to do.

First, I am afraid I must insist that you title this particular story if you wish to include it in a collection. Second, since this is supposed to be a final draft, it must adhere to the MLA formatting requirements—head it properly and write it in double spaced 12-point, Times New Roman font. At least pick a font with serifs, David—anything that’s not blocks and blocks of text in all-caps.

This story is about two things, David: music recording and the explosion of an ill-selected firework at a bad time. It doesn’t have to be about both of these things, and I think a little more focus on the latter would keep the reader’s attention from drifting away early in your story, especially since the last two pages are such a barnburner. Cut away the dead wood, David. Kill your babies.

Your writing is at its best in the last two pages because you have established a desire of yours—a desire for normalcy, for sepia-toned simplicity, that cuts against what the audience knows about you. The way you write deftly and organically to sell your audience on these earnest, sincere (dare I say corny?) desires, only to blow them apart with a firework at the end of the story, is a mark of very advanced writing indeed.

Despite my quibbles with your formatting, I was won over by your infectious and exuberant sense of voice. You have a clear knack for the idiom of music recording, and lines like “OUR IDEA OF SOUNDPROOFING WAS LITERALLY NAILING OLD SLEEPING BAGS TO THE WALLS. EGG CARTONS. BIG CHUNKS OF FOAM QUESTIONABLY GLUED TO SURFACES IN FORMATIONS THAT WE IMAGINED WERE ACOUSTICALLY RELEVANT” establish your credibility well and paint a vivid picture for the reader.

I want you to know how much potential I think this story has and how much it owes to other literary techniques and devices you have employed along the way. In particular, “THE CENTERPIECE OF ANY CLASSIC STUDIO IS THE RECORDING CONSOLE! […] IT’S THE HEART! THE ALTAR! THE WOMB! THE SOUL!” not only shows a strong command of symbolism, but recalls Ken Kesey in its exclamatory psychedelia.

David, your voice is a little raw, but you have strong writerly instincts and it’s clear you know you are telling a good story. If your audience can ride out your parentheticals, asides, declamations, exclamations and typos, they are in for an expertly detonated ending.

Grade: B+

Andy Berens is an English teacher at Milwaukee's Divine Savior Holy Angels High School.

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