Teachers Write 8/8/13 Thursday Quick-Write – A Double Dose!

Good morning! It’s time for your Thursday Quick-Write, and we have a double dose for you today.

First… here’s guest author Margo Sorenson! With her latest middle grade/tween novel TIME OF HONOR (MuseItUp Publishing) featuring a prep school debater catapulted into the middle ages to prevent a murder, Margo Sorenson continues to draw on her life’s experiences to write her twenty-eight books for young readers.  A Minnesota Book Award Finalist in YA Fiction and Milken National Educator Award recipient, Margo can be found at www.margosorenson.com, on Twitter as @ipapaverison, and on http://pinterest.com/margosorenson/  Her prompt for us today might generate some spooky stories…

You come into a room and on the desk is a single slip of paper. It reads:  “Somebody knows.”

What is the room – a classroom – a jail cell – a hotel room in Vegas – the office in the dairy farm – a tween’s bedroom —  or? What kind of paper is it written on?  Is it handwritten or typed?  Is there blood on it?  Greasy popcorn stains?  Why are you worried?  Or, why are you giggling?  If you’re working on a WIP, how does this question figure in to what you’re writing?  What character knows something the others don’t?  What does one character wish other characters knew?  Have fun and don’t stop writing – let those fingers fly – it’s Quick Write!

Quick-Write option #2 comes from guest author Nancy Castaldo, who loves books and science. Her writing honors include an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Smithsonian Notable Book For Children, a NSTA Recommended title and a Junior Library Guild Selection. In addition to these accolades, Nancy was honored to be the recipient of the 2007 New York State Outdoor Education Association’s Art and Literature Award for her body of work.


I just finished spending the week with a group of 5-7-year-olds. I led them on a weeklong imaginary Mediterranean cruise to Italy, Turkey and Greece. We discovered new foods, words and mostly, lots of art. It was wonderful to watch them after lunch on the playground pretending to sail into Venice to eat pizza and gelato.

I find the summer is a perfect time to dream about these types of new adventures, whether it be a cruise to a faraway land or exploring a nearby town.  Vacation dreams can tell you a lot about a person.  Are they daring?  Adventurous?  Meditative?  

For today’s prompt, write about the place your main character would most want to visit and why. What are they looking for there? What do they want to see? Is it some place exotic or right around the corner?

You might want to incorporate their travels into your writing, or it might just give you more insight into their character.

Got ideas to share! Fire away in the comments!

19 Replies on “Teachers Write 8/8/13 Thursday Quick-Write – A Double Dose!

    1. Holly, what a fun way to incorporate books into your travel! I loved reading about the characters, and your voice is engaging and inviting. Those kids will want to scoop those books right up! Aloha!

  1. Hi ladies,
    I started on prompt #1, and then when I “finished”, I looked at #2. My quick-write actually covered both…weird. I edited a tiny bit, but here is what I wrote:

    Billy knew the trip would be worth it. He made it! How did this ever happen… he wondered as he walked into the hotel room in Tokyo! As he breathed in a little of the foreign air, he knew he had to concentrate. Focus. Today was the day that mattered most. He worked so hard, and he imagined standing on that pedestal, a champion. “Only the gods invite the Olympians…” he remembered the line from his first book he read as a boy, so long ago. He must have had help or how else would he have journeyed this far?

    But, the coaches didn’t think he had a chance or they wouldn’t have given him a “one size fits all” uniform and running shoes. Billy lowered his head at the thought. Billy squeezed the doorknob and walked into his hotel room, his USA uniform slung over his shoulders. He dropped his one-size-too-small team sneakers on the bed and stopped in his tracks. The door slammed behind him.

    Where was she? He glanced around the simple, yet comfortable room, past the double bed which was much softer than his bed at the Marine base at home. The neat room passed before him in one glance, it wasn’t that spacious. When he scanned the desk area, he saw it. As he towered over the slip of paper, he read, “Somebody knows.” The words dashed across the hotel stationery in brushed cursive. His heart skipped a beat. Where was she?

    He picked up the note with the familiar handwriting and turned it over. The back read, “I know you will be the fastest runner on the track today. Look for me in the stands! Love, Pat”

    Billy slipped the note in his pocket, grabbed his gear, and left to catch the bus to the stadium.

    1. Andrea p, what a creative way to blend the two prompts — all without purposely intending to do that! You’ve set up a nice scene, using both the travel and the “someone knows” ideas. I’m wondering how you can intensify Billy’s character, making him even more of a sympathetic character, letting us know more about his struggle. Just a few verb tweaks could do it. Also, eliminating some of the details could put more focus on the character. You left me hoping he would do well for his girlfriend — and for himself. It’s great when you create a character that your readers want to cheer for! Aloha!

  2. The open blinds in my office cut the orange glow from the streetlight into ribbons across my desk. When I left that afternoon, the desk had been empty. (What can I say, I like things tidy.) Now there was a single paper on the blotter. Funny: the door had been locked, and I was the only one with a key. I eyed the paper, standard issue sticky note, probably peeled off the pad I keep in the top right drawer. I could make out two words in smudged pencil – “Somebody knows.” Ominous, I thought, but obvious. If I had learned anything in 22 years on the job, it was that somebody *always* knew. My livelihood relied on being able to shake loose nuts like who and what.

    1. Brian, this was fun and intriguing to read. That’s quite a first sentence; I could really picture that. Your last line confused me just a bit (I need help!); is there a way you could clarify that a bit more? Now you’ve made me wonder who it is who knows something — and how did she/he get into that office? You’ve created an ominous and suspenseful scene, and your character has a wry sense of humor that hooks the reader. Aloha!

  3. Biology. The great inevitable suckfest of my day. I slid into the last open seat right before the bell rang. The heater was going crazy, which meant we were all going to be fighting formaldehyde fumes for all of Mrs. Pepper’s boring lecture. A thin slip of paper, ripped college rule was smack in the middle of my desk. “Somebody knows.” I shoved it in my backpack and pulled out my book, barely held together with shipping tape. Stupid Devon, always leaving me notes like that, trying to create an aura of mystery. I wish she would just leave me alone. Those dumb glitter pens she always uses and that stupid circle handwriting she always does, like her letters are roly-polys folding into themselves.

    But the note wasn’t written in glitter pen. I dredged it out of my backpack and looked again. The letters were angular and dark, made with a thick pencil. Not Devon. Not even Devon disguising her handwriting. I looked around. The guy on the left was scrabbling in his bookbag for a pen and coming up short. The girl to my right was preoccupied with her retainer. Everyone else was halfheartedly taking notes on the body parts of a crayfish, which we would be expected to dissect and identify next week. Nobody, not even Devon, looked the least bit interested in me or like they knew anything. And believe me, if they knew it, they’d be looking.

    1. What a great YA voice! This really drew me in from the first sentences. Your verb choices and the details paint a concrete picture that makes me want to read on. The way you set up the realization was ingenious and so apt for a teen. One question: the very last sentence: what is “it”? I’m wondering if you actually need the pronoun there. I am easily confused, though, so, as always, please take all comments with a big pinch of salt. Jane, this was intriguing in its voice and raises questions the reader really wants answered!

  4. Thanks for the idea starters Nancy and Margo!
    I went with the second one and thought about my character. Like most people, she wants a bit or normalcy.

    The place I most want to be? Back before the war, before everything got all tossed up and turned over like some kind of farmer going rototiller crazy.
    Before the war, we were all together, and not just me and Momma, and Daddy. I’m talking about Cassie and her family, too.
    Before the war every house was full –some of ‘em full to burstin’. In Glen’s house he and his older brother slept on the floor so the little ones could have the bed.
    Now there’s too much space.
    We read a story once in school about some old Civil War soldier. He said after awhile he got used to all the dying. He’d meet a friend one day, have dinner next to him, pop lice over the fire with him, and the next day that friend would be dead. Simple as that.
    Well, I think his brain got addled. It ain’t as simple as all that.
    When people die it hurts. And it don’t matter if they’re young or old, if it was battle that killed ‘em or a train. It hurts, in your gut hurts. And there ain’t no normal after that.
    My daddy’s coming back. I know he is, even though the army said they don’t know where he is right now. He’s my daddy. He’s coming back. But, when he comes back, and this is all over, it still won’t be like it was.

    1. Kimberly, you’ve definitely created a different time and place, using Nancy’s prompt. That strong sense of personal voice is what draws the reader in, and the cadence and rhythm is spot-on. There are lots of questions left unanswered that make the reader want to know more…what’s next? What is this about? What’s the hidden story surrounding your main character? You’ve created a nice tension and hook. Your “Now there’s too much space” is eloquent in its spareness. We want to know! You might want to ponder adding one or two details to anchor the reader firmly in the scene in a physical sense; that’s just a question that you can feel free to drop-kick! Thanks for sharing your writing — aloha!

      1. Thank-you!
        It’s amazing to me how much I learn about my character and what really matters to her each time I do one of these prompts. It’s those “little” activities and questions about what she wants, what she loves, and where she wants to be that help me shape all the scenes in the story. Even if I don’t use this passage, the ideas are now there – floating. The best part? I am really getting to know her!

        1. I agree, Kimberly! I am learning more about the character by trying these writing tasks. Even if I don’t use any of the answers in my actual WIP, I’m really understanding more about everything that makes up the main character. Good point!

  5. I dropped out @ the end of week 3 because I was so afraid of what I would write. Thank you, Lynda & Margo, for your pieces. I wrote almost 600 words the other night, scary but wonderful.