Tuesday and Thursday are Quick-Write days at Teachers Write, so our guest authors will be coming by with some writing prompts to try out. Do as much or as little as you’d like with each mini-assignment, and feel free to bookmark those you’d like to use with students later on. Teachers Write posts don’t go anywhere after the summer ends. They’re always here for you to use and share with student writers.
Before we start today’s quick-write, I’m going to toss around a little virtual confetti because today is release day for RANGER IN TIME: RACE TO THE SOUTH POLE! This is the fourth title in my Scholastic chapter book series about a time traveling search and rescue dog.
Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ship. They’re racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time… and a struggle to stay alive.
I’d love it if you’d share this one with your students and help spread the word on social media today, too. Thanks!
Now…on to your Tuesday Quick-Write!
Our guest author today is Anne Marie Pace, who writes picture books for kids, including VAMPIRINA BALLERINA, which is in production as an animated series with Disney, and its sequel, VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER. She’s with us today to talk about generating ideas.
by Anne Marie Pace
Yesterday, Kate talked to you about having a writer’s notebook. Today, I’m going to give you something to put in it.
I came up with the 100 Steps exercise for my picture book writing classes for adults to generate picture book ideas, but it’s very adaptable.
The idea behind 100 Steps is that every step you take puts you in a different spot than the one you were in before you took that step, and every different spot gives you a different perspective. If you want to get technical, yes, I agree that whether I walk 99 or 101 steps south down the street I live on, I can still see Kristin’s car and that strange mailbox with the smashed-in side and the house where the lady with the corgi lives. But at another level, at some point as you move towards something and away from others, something new comes into view and something else vanishes. A tree seems taller or shorter. A house that seems grand at a distance suddenly comes into focus and seems more run-down when you see the unpainted siding or the cracked window that you couldn’t see from farther away. You see the trail of ants but not their destination—and then suddenly you can see the anthill.
Your Assignment: Take your journal or notebook and your favorite writing implement (mine are Uniball Vision Elite BLX roller ball pens, but I digress). Now walk 100 steps, preferably in a direction you don’t usually walk. Take a side street or walk into your neighbor’s yard (assuming your neighbor is a friendly person who doesn’t own a vicious dog). Remember — 100 steps, not 99 or 101.
Stop. (Obviously you can’t stop in the middle of a busy intersection, but try to plan your path so that you don’t have to.)
Observe. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What random thoughts occur to you?
Take notes. Jot everything down as fast as you can. Don’t think too hard—just take notes. In ten minutes, you can probably fill a page or two with words and ideas.
Now find a comfortable place to sit. Reread the notes you’ve taken and see what connections you draw between your various observations. You can even mark up the page if you like—maybe drawing circles around everything to do with nature and rectangles around man-made things, or making triangles around sights and ovals around sounds, or using dotted lines to connect all the notes you made about trains.
Finally, pick one of the connections you’ve made and use that connection as a starting point for some writing. I don’t know what you’ll want to write. Maybe you’ll do a focused free-write on your connection. Maybe you’ll write a dialogue. Maybe you’ll start an essay or a poem or a picture book or a bit of description.
It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. Feel free to share a snippet of your writing in the comments today if you’d like!