The older students also got a glimpse into my treasure chest (a.k.a. the writer’s toolbox). It was filled with items representing some of the tools writers and illustrators use to discover, create, and refine their stories. Many thanks to my colleagues (who shall be named at the close of this article) for sharing their great ideas. It gave me so much more street ‘cred to be able to say “Several of my writer friends . . .”
- The colorful cards with words represent the brainstorming tool of “What If”. I had the children call out 4 nouns and 4 verbs which I wrote on cards. Then we randomly paired nouns and verbs to jumpstart ideas for stories. What if a Dragon played tag with an author?
- The squishy brain represents our imagination. Need I say more?
- The eyeball represents being observant: watching people; studying nature; reading books. Observing people helps make our writing more realistic, our dialog more natural. Ideas come from all around us, sometimes from another author who mentions, in passing, a cat who rescued a firefighter. . . A good writer is always on the lookout.
- The heart-shaped tin filled with words represents. . . Words! Have fun with words! Learn a new word each week. Find a fun-to-say word and use it as often as you can. Would you like a pamplemouse with your breakfast, mon petite pamplemousse? Play with words.
- The pen and notepad sparked a lot of ideas from the kids. Writers could use them to write their story; to record their research. . . And, as several of my writer friends said, “To capture those elusive ideas that strike when you least expect them (while jogging, drifting off to sleep, waiting in traffic).”
- The crumpled piece of paper represents revision - Not that you should ever throw away your early versions. You never know what nuggets you might mine from them later. But, (as I explained to the kids) do you think The Sorcerer’s Stone you’re reading is the same as the first version J.K. Rowling wrote? Good authors seek input on their work and then they work to make it even better. Revise, revise and then revise again.
- Magnetic Man represents movement. Several of my writer/illustrator friends told me they get their best ideas when they are jogging or using the treadmill or biking. Physical activity gets blood flowing to the brain which brings oxygen to the brain. Brains on oxygen think deeper thoughts. Brains on oxygen think more creative thoughts. So oxygenate your brain!
- I also had a thesaurus in my toolbox and most of the kids knew what is was and how to use it!
And now my heartfelt thanks to Ann Finkelstein, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Nancy Frederixon, Nick Adkins, Lori McElrath Eslick, Sandy Carlson, Mary Zychowicz, Kevin Kammeraad, Isabel O’Hagin, Kristin Lenz, Elizabeth McBride, Elizabeth Westra, and Shirley Neitzel for sharing their favorite tools with me.
Keep your tools sharp and write on!
Coming up on the Mitten blog: take-aways from the SCBWI-MI Marketing Boot Camp, behind the scenes with our Co-Regional Advisors, creating teaching guides, crafting voice, and more MI kidlit advocates.