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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