Welcome to writing camp, everybody!
Teachers Write! is a virtual summer writing camp for teachers and librarians. Click here to sign up if you’d like to join us! If you’re on Facebook & want to also join our group there,here’s the link. Then click “Join Group.” And please click here to sign up for my email newsletter so that you’ll get updates throughout the year.
A quick note about blogging your Teachers Write experience: There will be daily opportunities for you to share and interact with one another in the comments section of each post. It’s great if you also want to set up a blog where you share all of your writing from this summer. One important request: Our guest authors have given permission for their lessons & prompts to be shared on the Teachers Write blog only. Please do not copy and paste the mini-lessons or writing prompts – publish only your own writing on your blog. If you’d like to reference the ideas shared here, providing a link is the best way to do that. Thanks!
Three quick things before we get started today…
1. Teachers Write is an online summer writing camp with more than two dozen published author-mentors who donate their time to work with us. It’s free. There’s no charge to participate, but we do ask that you buy a few books over the summer as a way to support the authors who are supporting you. Our request: choose one book from each of our three main “all summer long” authors – Kate, Gae, and Jo – and at least one book from one of our daily guest authors. You can read about all of our author mentors and find great books here. If you truly aren’t able to do this financially, we understand that and still want you to write with us. We’d love it if you requested these books at your local libraries & signed them out.
2. Our weekly schedule will look like this:Monday Mini-lesson, and a Monday Morning Warm-Up on Jo’s blog Tuesday Quick-Write Wednesday is Q and A day – authors will be here to answer your questions! Thursday Quick-Write Friday Feedback on Gae’s blog, and an occasional Friday feature here, too Sunday Check-In on Jen Vincent’s blog
3. I’ll be popping in to comment, and I know many of our guest authors will, too, but since this community has grown so much (we’re more than 1400 teacher-writers strong now!) you’ll also need to commit to supporting one another. When someone decides to be brave and share a bit of writing in the comments, or when someone asks for advice or feedback, please know that you are welcome (and encouraged!) to be mentors to one another as well. Watching this writing community grow is one of the best things about being part of Teachers Write.
Today’s Monday Mini-Lesson: You Come, Too
I fall in love with places.
I can’t think about the drenching afternoon rain in Costa Rica or the creaky bridge over the creek behind my childhood house without sighing. And many of my favorite books are my favorites because they transport me so fully to a different place and time. The Revolutionary New York of Laurie Halse Anderson’s CHAINS. The small-town New Hampshire parade of Linda Urban’s THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING. The gritty inner city streets of SCORPIONS by Walter Dean Myers and the Boston landmarks of Erin Dionne’s MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING. As a reader, if I can not only see your setting, but also smell its air and hear its song, I’ll come along with you anywhere.
Writing, in many ways, is an invitation to come along someplace. Robert Frost knew this when he wrote “The Pasture” (from North of Boston, 1914)I’m going out to clean the pasture spring; I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away (And wait to watch the water clear, I may): I sha’nt be gone long — You come too. I’m going out to fetch the little calf That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young It totters when she licks it with her tongue. I sha’nt be gone long — You come too.
Those tiny details – raking leaves, the mother’s lick of her calf – make good on Frost’s “You come too” invitation by taking us along on the walk. And we can all do this as writers.
Last night, we hosted my son’s graduation party at the house. Maybe my favorite moment was near the end of the afternoon, when all of the teenagers swam out to our raft and the neighbor’s float nearby.
If I wanted to share this moment in a way that brings you into my yard, I might start with a free write:
The kids have left us late this afternoon, for that small, square island of independence seventy yards from shore. The girls are on one raft, stretched out to soak up Saturday sun. On the other, the boys stand awkwardly until somebody shoves somebody and there is leaping and laughing and splashing and so much teenager joy that I ache from missing it already, before they are even gone.
Now, I kind of like this snippet of writing. But in order to bring you closer, I’ll want to bring in more of the tiny details – those that go beyond the expected sun’s warmth and light shining on the waves. Sometimes, when I’m searching for those unexpected details, I like to isolate senses and write about one at a time. So I might spend a minute or two focusing only on the sounds of that moment. This is easiest if you close your eyes and only listen:Call from the house: Do we need more ice? trampoline springs as the kids bounce – sproing – squeak – sproing Neighbor’s porch door slamming wind rustling the oak leaves that hang over the deck scrape of a metal spatula on the grill
Then I might isolate only the sense of touch – scratchy grass under my bare feet, the tickle of a bright green, newly hatched bug that’s landed near my elbow. And smells – hamburger smoke, sunscreen and bug spray, new cedar mulch from the garden we cleaned up just in time for the party, and that lake-smell that is half fresh and half fish. You get the idea…and then I’d go back to rewrite the passage sprinkling in some of those had-to-have-been-there to notice it details to make the piece more alive.The kids have left us late this afternoon, for a small, square island of independence bobbing in the lake-wind seventy yards from shore. Here at the deck tables, hamburger smoke drifts through the sunscreen-and-bug-spray air of summer. I wiggle my toes in the rough grass under the picnic table and listen to their cold-water squeals over the hush of rustling oak leaves above. The girls are on one raft, breathing in the cedar planks and lake air, half fresh and half fish. They stretch long and tan, soaking up Saturday sun, while on the other float, the boys stand, arms folded over their chests until somebody shoves somebody and there is leaping and laughing and splashing and so much teenager joy that I ache from missing it already, before they are even gone.
This is still rough around the edges, and if it were to be part of something bigger, I’d revise more, trimming words here, adding more there, and playing with the blend of those concrete details and the inner world of emotion as I take it all in. But you get the idea, right?
So here’s your assignment for today:
Take your notebook or laptop and go outside somewhere – your house, the beach, the woods, a city bench…wherever. If it’s raining where you live today, you can sit by a partly open window.
Write a snippet of that moment, just off the top of your head without thinking about the details. Then, underneath that snapshot paragraph, try to isolate the tiny details of each sense with your words. Take a minute or two to focus only on the details of what you hear…then what you smell…and so on. And then, go back and rewrite your paragraph if you’d like, working in some of those tiny, had-to-be-there details.
In writing, I find that the first details that come to my mind are not the most original. It’s when I really stop and listen to what’s there – rather than what I expect to be there – that I discover the richest details…the ones that invite a reader into the place I’m writing about. You come, too.
If you’d like to share your revised paragraph in the comments today, feel free! If you’re not quite ready yet, that’s okay, too. We’ll be here when you are. 🙂
Want some more inspiration for today? Check out your Monday Morning Warm-Up on Jo’s blog, too!