Scott Stanfield, Editor
- Your vocation and your avocations. A valuable part of the Torch Club experience is to share the expertise you have gathered in your profession with others who have followed other professions, and to benefit in turn from the expertise they have gathered in theirs. To have an architect explaining architecture to non-architects is a challenge and an opportunity both for the architect, who must explain the nature of the field vividly and clearly without recourse to professional jargon, and for the audience, who will probably have to stretch their minds around unfamiliar concepts, but will be rewarded with the intimate view of a field that only an insider can give.
But hobbies and passions of other kinds can also make for great Torch papers. In the Tom Carroll Lincoln Torch Club, we have a tradition—inaugurated by Tom Carroll himself—of encouraging members to look outside their professional expertise for paper topics. Thus, we have heard from an electrical engineer about the process of making maple syrup, from a minister about the collecting of outsider art, and from a historian about Swedish murder mysteries.
Whether you are writing about your vocation or your avocation, you are more likely to be interesting if you write about something that deeply interests you.
- Give them something to talk about. Good Torch papers are informative, lucid, sometimes even entertaining, but the real goal of the Torch paper is to inspire discussion. Torch club members come to a meeting ready to listen, but also ready to talk—ready to exchange ideas, ready to offer other perspectives, ready to ask a probing question. Your paper should not aim at closing a question down, answering it once and for and all, but rather at opening the question up, bringing it into the bright light of inquiry.
- Don’t forget what you learned in Oral Comm 101. Introduction: make sure you have one. Main thesis: make sure you have one. Transitions: make sure you have them. Conclusion: please, please make sure you have one.
And remember, it pays to practice. If you are lucky enough to know someone who is both patient and honest—in my case, it’s my spouse—ask permission to read your paper aloud to him or to her. That way, you will know your paper is not too long (Torch Commandment No. 1: Thy paper shalt not be too long) and you will learn where the weak or unclear parts are in time to fix them.
I wish you many, many years of good meals, stimulating papers, and even more stimulating discussions.