Monday, May 24, 2010

Intended Meaning and Chocolate Cappuccino Frozen Cake


These tulips came wrapped in a protective sleeve with printed instructions on how to care for the flowers. From this angle, the message is hard to read. What about the angle of your writing? Is your writing clear? Sure some of the words can be read, but is the reader getting the message you intended? I had a recent experience where the answer was "no."

In a welcome burst of energy after almost two years of retreat and contemplation, I joined an online personal essay writing class offered by Story Circle Network. I looked forward to a chance to refresh and renew my thinking as well as my writing.

For our first assignment, I submitted an excerpt from a longer piece I had written, a piece I intended as a denouncement of guns. From the facilitator's comments, I could tell the denouncement part worked pretty well; but what I had not expected was, from the questions the facilitator asked,  I seemed to have portrayed my family as a bunch of gun-totin' red necks. "How do you feel about your husband having a gun in the house?" she asked.

A gun in the house? My Gentleman Friend? How could the facilitator have so misread what I intended?

Intended. The word reminded me of the best writing advice I ever received -- advice I have even preached to others. In fact, the advice came from My Gentleman Friend. One time I asked him to read something I was writing. He said, "This is confusing." He pointed to a few sentences. "What does this mean?"

I harumphed a little and said, "I was trying to say . . ." To which he replied, "If you were trying to say that, why didn't you just say it?"

Ah yes. As I have said so many times, the only way the reader knows who you are or what you mean is by the words on the page.

I re-read my gun essay. What I had intended to say was only hinted at on the page. Important parts of the essay were still in my mind. For example, I wrote that an ill family member committed suicide on a "never-to-be-forgotten Christmas." The class instructor/reader interpreted that to mean that guns could be used to relieve suffering. And, as, of course, the event would not be forgotten, it was unnecessary to state that.

What I had meant was that that event damaged the entire family and every Christmas forever. For my mother and her siblings, Christmas became a dreaded time of depression. The event created suffering; it did not relieve suffering. What I meant is quite different from what I wrote. However, as I didn't actually include any of that information about depression, dread, and Christmas, how is the reader to know what I intended?

We know writing is a three-part process, don't we? I will be visiting part three: re-writing. And I look forward to it. Refreshing and renewing my thinking and my writing.


Write about something you know very well and to which strong emotions are connected. You might write about the birth of a child, a wrong that was done to you, or a social injustice. Write. Put the piece aside for a few days. Look at it again. Have you written what you intended? Can you expand, fill in, flesh out, or clarify? Have you included setting and dialogue? Have you included all the senses? What about your feelings? Are they included?


Frozen Chocolate-Covered Cappuccino Crunch Cake

Thank you, Becky, for sending this recipe. It has all my favorites: chocolate, coffee, ice cream, candy, and cake. Becky said she substituted vanilla ice cream and a teaspoon or so of coffee for the more expensive hand-packed coffee ice cream. It calls for a springform pan, but a regular cake pan can be used. The recipe can be doubled. The recipe was created by Beth Royals of Richmond, Va. Don't worry about the length of  the recipe. Mainly, all you have to do is thaw stuff and assemble it. You can do it. Fast.

1 (10 3/4 ounce) frozen pound cake  
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/ 3/4 cup (11.5 oz.package) milk chocolate chips
4 cups (1 quart) coffee ice cream, softened
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 3/4 cup coarsely crushed malted milk balls
Frozen whipped topping, thawed (optional)
Coarsely crushed malted milk balls (optional)  (Not optional in my world.)

Slice pound cake into 1/8 to 1/4-inch slices. Place half the slices on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, (see note above)  press down firmly. Set remaining slices aside.
Bring cream just to a boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips, let stand 5 minutes. Whisk until well combined and smooth. Pour half the chocolate mixture over pound cake in pan, spreading evenly to 1/4 inch of edge of pan. Cover; freeze for 1 1/2 hours or until chocolate is set.
Combine softened ice cream and whipped topping in large bowl. Fold in 1 3/4 cups crushed malted milk balls. Spread over chocolate layer in pan. Cover; freeze until ice cream is firm, about 2 hours.
Top ice cream with remaining pound cake slices; press down firmly. Spread remaining chocolate mixture over pound cake. Cover; freeze at least 6 hours.
To serve: remove sides of pan. Garnish with additional whipped topping and sprinkle with crushed malted milk balls, if desired. To cut cake evenly, run a knife under hot water and dry with a paper towel before making slices.
Or. if you used a square or rectangular cake pan, slice into squares and serve.

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