READ LIKE A WRITER

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					Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project




               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing

In this series of writing invitations, we’re trying to do two things: 1) enjoy
stories as readers and 2) connect to them as writers. We therefore spend a little
time on what we liked and what we remembered. Connecting to the story as a
writer often means connecting to the subject of the story or some aspect of the
content, and we certainly want to invite students to do that. But it can also
mean trying to learn something about the craft of writing from the author.
Each of the invitations below has both story and craft connections.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing

                             The Wednesday Surprise
                                 by Eve Bunting

INVITATION 1

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Write about a memory:
                     o a surprise,
                     o something “secret” that you helped plan, or
                     o a special time with a grandparent.
3. Try a technique that Eve Bunting uses (in this entry or in an earlier entry):

    Thoughtshot: Let us hear what you’re thinking.

    p. 11 Grandma is some actress.
    p. 15 Grandma is tricky.
    p. 20 I am sick from being nervous.


INVITATION 2

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Write about a memory:
                    o a surprise,
                    o something “secret” that you helped plan, or
                    o a special time with a grandparent.
3. Now try to add dialogue like Eve Bunting uses.

        o Notice how natural the people sound. Are these always complete
          sentences?
        o What kinds of lines are there beside the ones they speak? What do
          they do for us as readers?

    The Wednesday Surprise, p. 11:

                On Wednesday nights we have hot dogs.
                “Have you heard from your dad?” Grandma asks Sam.
                “He’ll be back Saturday, same as always,” Sam says. “In time for
        his birthday.”
                “His birthday?” Grandma raises her eyebrows as if she’d forgotten
        all about that. Grandma is some actress!
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project



    The Wednesday Surprise, p. 23

                   “Are you feeling well, Mama?” Dad asks Grandma. “How are your
        knees?”
               “Fine. Fine. The knees are fine.”
               Dad blows out the birthday candles and we give him his gifts.
        Then Grandma shoots a glance in my direction and I go for the big bag
        and drag it across to the table. I settle it on the floor between us.
               “Another present?” Dad asks.


INVITATION 3

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Write about a memory:
                     o a surprise,
                     o something “secret” that you helped plan, or
                     o a special time with a grandparent.
3. Try adding small details like Eve Bunting uses:

    Small details help us “see” the characters in ordinary moments.

    p. 6: I watch for her from the window and I blow on the glass to make
    breath pictures while I wait.

    p. 8 She’s hurrying, her big, cloth bag bumping against her legs.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                             By the Dawn’s Early Light
                                by Karen Ackerman

INVITATION 1
1. Enjoy the story.
2. Write about a time of day at your house or in your classroom. Try to notice
and describe all the little things that happen.
   Ideas for times of day:
                       o breakfast, lunch, supper
                       o bath time, bed time
                       o laundry, cooking, cleaning or some other chore
                       o music, P.E., bathroom break, DEAR or DEW time

3. Listen again to evening at Nana’s house (pages 1, 3, 5).
4. Go back to your entry. Add the
              o sounds you usually hear,
              o the things people usually say and do
 Bonus: Try to make more notes the next time this time of day happens.


INVITATION 2

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Notice how the author shows us the characters’ facial expressions and the



                                    sounds of their voices:

Josh scowls as he puts the knives and forks by the plates. “I always do knives
and forks!” he whines as Mom rushes out the door. (page 1)

Nana peeks over my shoulder. Every now and then she…murmurs, “That’s
right, honey!” or “Try again, sweetheart.” (page 6)

Her eyes look tired, and shadows show underneath them. (page 21)

3. Add dialogue to one of your entries. Be sure to add facial expressions and
voice sounds.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project




Invitation 3
1. Enjoy the story.
2. Notice how first we hear what the children are doing, then we hear what the
         mother is doing. This pattern continues for half of the book.
3. Gather ideas for a “When I’m… She/He is…” chart. (Pick an adult or child
         that you know.)

                       When I’m                  She/He is


    Interview project: What questions will you need to ask your person in order
    to finish your chart?

  Comparison Chart for The Dawn’s Early Light by Karen Ackerman


When we’re                                 Our mother is

Setting the table                          Going to catch bus

Sitting down to eat supper                 Punching time card, putting on
earplugs

Drying the dishes                          Making creases in cardboard boxes
                                           with a machine

Doing homework                             Taking coffee break

Taking baths                               Eating “lunch”

Sleeping                                   Coming home




INVITATION 4

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Good authors “show” rather than tell. They give us a picture. Try
“snapshots” like the author uses:
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project

Instead of “Mom comes home tired”:
She unlocks the front door and closes it quietly, then slips off her shoes and
hangs her coat in the closet. While the streetlamps hum and cast a cool white
light, she sits in a chair, rubs her toes, and puts up her feet for “good
circulation.” (p. 12)

Instead of “We snuggle with Mom”:
We lay our heads in Mom’s lap and tuck our slippered feet under the folds of
our robes. Beneath my head I can feel Mom’s legs tremble a little from
standing all the time at work. She runs her fingers through our hair. (p. 18)
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing

                                 All the Places to Love
                                by Patricia MacLachlan
Invitation 1

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Think about a place that you love. Write about it in your notebook. Try to remember
little details about it, especially things you would miss if they weren’t there.


Invitation 2

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Notice how the author uses comparisons (metaphors and similes) to help us see
pictures in our minds.

            o Crows in the dirt swaggered like pirates

            o Trout flashed like jewels in the sunlight

            o Cattails stood like guards

            o Wild turkeys left footprints for us to find, like messages.

            o Leather harnesses hang like paintings against old wood

            o Ducklings follow their mother like tiny tumbles of leaves.

3. Try to describe something at your favorite place using similes or metaphors like
Patricia MacLachlan does.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                                           Owl Moon
                                           Jane Yolen

Invitation 1

    1. Enjoy the story.
    2. Think about the words and phrases you remember, the ones you can still hear in
       your head after the story is over. These are ―Velcro‖ words and phrases; they
       stick with you, tug at your mind and heart. Some of the ones you remember
       might include

            o dogs talking to the trains

            o shadows that bumped

            o Pa’s face looked like a silver mask

            o shadows staining the snow

            o furry mouths

3. Take an entry you’ve written and try to create literature out of it by using Velcro
language instead of ordinary descriptions.

Invitation 2

  1.    Enjoy the story.
  2.    The child in Owl Moon had older brothers who’d gone owling and now was finally
        getting a turn. Think about times when you’ve been treated ―older‖ – gotten to do
        ―adult‖ stuff or finally got to do something that you once were too little to do. Start
        an entry about one of those times.
  3.    On another day: Write an entry just focused on the significance of that time to
        you: What did it feel like? Why is it or was it important to you to get to do that?
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                             My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
                                       Patricia Polacco
Invitation 1

    1. Enjoy the story.
    2. Write your own story. One of these ideas may help you get started:

            o It’s normal for brothers and sisters or friends to have ups and downs in
              their relationships. Write about a time that someone came through for you
              when you needed help. Try to show how your feelings changed by
              looking at how Patricia Polacco wrote this book. First we hear how her
              brother teases and upsets her, how he tricks her, and so on. Later, his
              actions show how he really feels.
            o We like to tell the story of times we broke a bone or went to the hospital.
              Notice how this story gives a much bigger picture of the author’s life than
              that she fell off a ride and got stitches. The story is about something
              bigger—it’s really about what she learned about her brother because of
              the accident. Notice also that we don’t actually see what happens;
              instead, we hear about it through the voices of the other family members.
            o Write about some other experience that this story helped you remember.

Invitation 2

    1. Enjoy the story.
    2. Learn from the author how to use a through line. That’s a line that’s repeated in
          several key spots in the story. It helps give the story a sense of unity.
          Sometimes the line changes in meaning as the story moves along, and
          sometimes it doesn’t.

                                    Through Lines in MRROB:

              o ―I’m four years older than you…always have been and always will be.‖
              o Rotten redheaded older brother
              o Lines about stars and wishing
    Try a through line or repeated idea in a piece you are working on.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                               A Chair for My Mother
                                    by Vera B. Williams

INVITATION 1

    1. Enjoy the story.
    2. Write about a time when you saved money for something special.

INVITATION 1

    1. Enjoy the story.
    2. Find interesting ways the author uses dialogue to let us hear the voices of the girl
       and her family.
    3. Try it: Add dialogue to one of your entries.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                                        My Old Man
                                       Patricia Polacco

Invitation

    1.       As you listen to the story, make a list of every memory or experience that you
             think of.
    2.       Choose one of your connections and write an entry in which you tell the story
             of that experience.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                                         Mrs. Mack
                                      Patricia Polacco
Invitation

  1.    Enjoy the story.
  2.    Patricia Polacco writes about people she knows and things that really happened
        to her, but she also uses literary craft to tell her stories. Notice how she develops
        the character of Mrs. Mack (insert page 8 below):
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project



Patricia Polacco doesn’t just tell us that ―Mrs. Mack was special to me,‖ she shows us.
She also doesn’t gloss over things that others might consider faults; we see her, warts
and all. That makes Mrs. Mack more human, more real to us. Sometimes when we
write memoirs about people we care about, we turn them into supermen and
superwomen. Most of the time, if we just try to tell the truth, our readers will find these
special people even more admirable.

Try a dose of objectivity in writing about a person, place, or thing that you care about.
Write an entry in which you try to describe what others would see.

Next, help us see this person, place, or thing the way you see it.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                              Chicken Sunday
                             by Patricia Polacco

INVITATION 1

1. Enjoy the story.
2. Write about an experience that the story made you think of:
                 o a time when you had to earn someone’s trust
                 o a time when you saved for something special
                 o a time when you were falsely accused
                 o a time when you made crafts for a holiday
                 o other


INVITATION 2

1. Silently read the story.
2. Write about someone who is as special to you as Miss Eula was to the
author.
3. Go back to the story and notice how the author adds details that help us
know Miss Eula:

Voice: “like slow thunder and sweet rain”

Sayings: called them “Baby Dears”

Appearance: “her skin glowed”

Actions: held their hands crossing the street; fixed big Sunday dinners with
greens and hoppin’ john

Try to add these same kinds of details about the person you’ve chosen.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                             Grandma According to Me
                              by Karen Magnuson Beil

INVITATION 1

1. Enjoy the story. Listen like a writer!
2. What did your writer’s ear hear? Share a favorite word or picture you made in
your mind.


INVITATION 2

Think of someone you like. Draw or write about this person. Show us what
YOU think about him or her. Don’t forget to put yourself in the picture!


INVITATION 3

1. Listen for the pattern in the story as I reread some of the pages. (“She says
____. I say _______.”) What does your writer’s ear hear?
2. Can you add “talk bubbles” so we know what he/she would say and then
what YOU say?
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing

                                             Rowan
                                        by Robin McKinley

Invitation 1

You can learn something about writing from almost every writer, including what you
don’t like.

    1.       Read the story.
    2.       What are the strengths and weaknesses of the lead?
                 I didn’t know I wanted a dog. And then, one day, I did know. I did want
                 a dog.

    3.       Try to write a better lead for this story.

Invitation 2

Look at the way the author describes the dog, paying special attention to strong verbs,
specific nouns, and Velcro language:

         I knew mine at once. She sprang up when I first bent over her, and kissed me on
         the nose. She ran like a fawn, and chewed her brothers’ ears and my fingers.
         She was white with brindle patches: both ears, one eye, one shoulder, a few ribs,
         the base of her tail. And one silly black spot that looked like it fell off a Dalmatian
         on the back of her neck.

         It’s easier to appreciate description when you realize the ordinary words that the
         author could have used:

         I picked my puppy right away. She jumped on me and licked my nose. She ran
         fast and bit the other puppies and me. She was white and brown with a black
         spot.

    4. Rewrite a passage in your WNB. Try to use specific words. Create literature!
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                                     Boodil My Dog
                                   by Pija Lindenbaum


INVITATION 1

    1. Enjoy the story.
    2. Notice how each page is a “snapshot” of one memory or event. Do each
       of them involve Boodil? Look at a few of these snapshots and read them
       aloud again. We can see Boodil through the words of the author, not just
       through the pictures. She’s SHOWING us Boodil, not just telling us about
       him.
    3. Start a book of “snapshots” using words and drawings about someone
       you know.

INVITATION 2

    1. Enjoy the story. Listen for the times that the child gives an opinion about Boodil,
       such as “They’re not her style.”
    2. Sometimes we call these opinions “thoughtshots” because they let us
       know what a character thinks. Combining snapshots and thoughtshots
       usually produces good writing.
    3. Add a comment to an entry in your notebook that will help let us know
       what you think about someone or something.
Jean Hicks
Louisville Writing Project


               READ LIKE A WRITER: Personal Writing
                                  Song and Dance Man
                                   by Karen Ackerman
Invitation

1. Enjoy the story.
2. What does the title of this book mean?
3. Instead of writing about everything that Grandpa does or did, the author lets us know
him by focusing on ONE thing about him, that he used to be in vaudeville. Being a song
and dance man is the narrow focus that the author takes on the bigger subject of
Grandpa’s whole life.
4. Think about someone you know. In your notebook list all the occupations and roles
that this person has. For example, your grandmother might be all of these things:

                   Grandma
                   Mother (to your parent)
                   Daughter (to her parents)
                   Day-Care Worker
                   Doll Collector
                   Great Cake Baker
                   Church Choir Singer
                   Storyteller

5. Instead of writing about EVERYTHING that your person does, choose one to be the
theme of your memoir. In other words, narrow the focus. Then collect descriptions and
memories about this one theme.

				
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