Good morning, campers! Can you believe we’re diving into Week Four? The winner of Friday’s book giveaway from Katy Duffield is Kimberley Moran! Please email me (kmessner@katemessner dot com) with your address so Katy can send your books!
Before we kick off the new week, just a couple quick notes… I’m away this week with limited Internet access (curse and blessing that it is) so even though all our posts are scheduled to go, I’ll be around less than usual in the comments. I’ll still be cheering you on from afar, though!
If Teachers Write has made you hungry for more online professional development, Stenhouse is kicking off its free Summer Blogstitute this week with some great guest posts from its authors. Check it out here.
And if you’re interested in ordering personalized, signed copies of any of my kids’ books…I have this book signing coming up in Lake Placid July 2nd. They’ll send books to far-away friends, too, so you can call The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950 if you’d like to order anything.
Today’s Monday Mini-lesson is courtesy of Ruth McNally Barshaw, author of the hilarious and illustrated Ellie McDoodle series. She’s inviting us to explore the connections between art and writing!
Art Literacy is the concept, now borne out by studies (see some background and research links at http://www.picturingwriting.org/), that the act of creating art improves subsequent writing. When you draw – even doodle – it changes your thinking so that richer writing results.
The best part is you don’t have to be a trained illustrator to do it. This works for everyone. Surprisingly, stick figures work just as well as the most beautiful, intricate painting.
When you sit down to write, first draw or create art – any kind of art. It can be abstract or figurative. It can be paper or fabric collage, sketches, painted, doodled.
You can make paper, marble it, collage it.
Or you can get a head start on your manuscript by drawing a character and using callouts and labels to list traits.
Here’s a spread from the first Ellie McDoodle book where Ellie uses this method for characterization:
Here’s a page from my sketchjournal, drawn when I was 16, where I do the same:
(And that’s where I got the idea for Ellie to do it)
This also works for scene building and novel plotting.
I used it while working on a novel last year. I hit writer’s block, didn’t know what should happen next, and found that revisiting previous scenes helped unlock the door to the next scene. Drawing was the key:
While this trick works for quick sketching, it also works for more detailed art. Here’s a drawing I created while exploring characters for last year’s novel. The act of drawing told me information I hadn’t previously thought of, for each of the characters:
If you want to get to know your character better, draw him or her. Add description as callouts.
If you want to figure out what should happen next in your story, draw what just happened. Then start a sketch of what could happen next.
And if you want to write better, draw first.
I’m on deadline right now for the fifth Ellie book, Ellie McDoodle: The Show Must Go On; these techniques are helping me get the writing done on time.
To use this idea with students:
-Have them draw storyboards of their work. Or their fellow students’ work. Or stories they have read.
Storyboarding is used in advertising for developing commercials, and in filmmaking. Limiting them to 6 or 8 small boxes for the entire story prevents minutia or perfectionism from creeping in. It solidifies pacing and focuses cause and effect. (Illustrators storyboard their picturebooks, one box per page. I do this, but I also storyboard my novels.)
-Tell them to close their eyes. Visualize the character they want to write about. Then draw what they see in their mind’s eye, their imagination.
-To add depth to the drawn character, add callouts to describe various personality and physical traits. Brainstorm negative as well as positive traits, for a more rounded character. Next they write a story using what they have drawn.
Thanks, Ruth! Such a fun workshop today… now is everybody ready to get working? Ready… Set…