Is the age-old adage of ‘Write what you know’ really the best advice to give to new writers? Author and editor Siobhán Parkinson shares her thoughts. Let’s say your name is Amy and you have lived in a three-bedroomed semi-detached house in a nice estate on the outskirts of a medium-sized town in the Continue Reading →
“YOUR BOOK is an interesting perspective on China […] but just a Western perspective. You can never understand the Chinese.” The man in the audience was Chinese, in his mid-40s, and in a polite, non-confrontational manner, had just dismissed my recently published novel, The Incarnations. I...
(Tip: Get a free copy of Jim Magwood’s So You’ve Written a Book. Now What? Your coupon code is at the end of this article.) Jim Magwood spoke at the Writers of Kern meeting in Bakersfield, Saturday. His topic? How to craft suspenseful plots from news headlines. Magwood is the self-published author of suspense novels: Nightmare, Sanction, …
How to Teach a Poetry Workshop Recently, grants have been available for Community Arts Learning. This is a wonderful opportunity for artists/writers and members of the community to develop their skills. The key to successful arts workshops is a lesson plan. Lesson plans are simple, but they will help the artist stay focused and organize the time so that the experience is productive. The younger and larger the group, the more essential is structured time.
Here is a sample lesson plan for poetry workshops for children. This can be adapted for adult learners as well. Children who are 4th grade and younger developmentally may not grasp the metaphor but they can learn to use sound patterns and the five senses.
The Lesson Plan for a Children's Poetry Workshop
Age: grade 4-6 (often it's been about 20+ students) Time: 1 hour (and it could be 1:15 min) Goal: Students will practice poetry and learn to use the 5 senses in description and use figurative language.
Materials: the workshop leader should bring good example poems. The writing prompts that you plan should relate to these examples. It's helpful (preferred but not absolutely necessary) to have another adult in the classroom if you have a large group. This person can assist with some students' needs (esp if there are special needs kids)--a little one to one coaching. Students should have paper and pencils
Introduction to Poetry:
I begin by asking students to tell me what poetry is. They have interesting answers. Praise any interesting observations. I will talk about 5 minutes about what poems are: they create a picture and sound for the reader. They can be a story, a list, a letter, a blessing, or a memory.
I'll read an example poem and ask the students to tell me what they noticed about it...to reinforce the definition of a poem. We will also notice sound elements: rhyme, alliteration, rhythm, etc. I point out figurative language and define the word metaphor.
The goal is to teach students to use the five senses when they write description and to use figurative language. I approach the project lightly to make it fun. I give them rules: 1. write fast, 2. don't worry about spelling or punctuation 3. write about what is important to you and 4. be specific. Students are writing first drafts. I tell them not to expect it to be perfect. We are just going to play with words. (These rules of flow writing are adapted from Natalie Goldberg's book about generating new material, Writing Down the Bones)
Writing Prompts are then used in the classroom. Each writing exercise is given about 5 minutes for students to write.
Prompt 1. Metaphor: Students will hear an example of a persona poem. (I'll read them a poem I have by John Haines). They will then be asked to choose an animal and write at least 3 descriptive phrases related using as many of the 5 senses as possible. Next step: write the poem. Begins with "I am....." The students will be asked to pretend that they are the animal. They will use the phrases to help them build the poem. We are looking for a poem of at least 8-10 lines.
Prompt 2. Learning how to use specific details. Students will be asked to write a list of short phrases, specific details, about the area around where they live. In can be a backyard or a place that they frequently go to play. Next, students will hear an example of an autobiographical poem called "I Am From" by George Ella Lyon. This poem is a list poem. It begins, "I am from clothespins/ from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride./ I am from the dirt under the back porch./ I am from the forsythia bush/ the Dutch elm/ whol long gone limbs I remember/ as if they were my own." Students will then use their own details to write an autobiographical list poem of their own.
Prompt 3. Students will use their imagination to write a poem that begins with one of these prompts: (often I decide the prompt during class when I learn about their interests or other classroom projects). I ask them to use a sound element--either rhyme or alliteration. a journey poem that starts with "If my arms had wings..." OR a list poem of excuses or reasons that starts "Because" (they are asked to use the word because at least 3 times) OR a letter poem that is written from a pet or from a favorite object.
Reading Out Loud:
After students do 3 writing exercises. I like to offer them an opportunity to read the new poem to the class. These are all rough drafts, so nobody should expect polished work. It's "work in progress." I give some short instructions about posture and breath for the best projection. Students enjoy sharing their work. I don't force anybody to read. It should always be volunteered.
Whenever a student reads, observe the strengths that they have. "That poem has wonderful vowel sounds," for example. "That poem uses alliteration. That poem is a vivid picture. That poem has a strong beginning or a strong metaphor." This is essential. Avoid negative feedback in a short workshop, it will dampen enthusiasm and cause self consciousness. Avoid laughing at the efforts. If participants feed judged or self-conscious, they will withdraw their willingness to read rough drafts.
Reading the work is a fun closure for the poetry workshop. I help the students read if they need that, and I remind them how to be good listeners. I often get amazing and great poems from the kids.
Feel free to use or adapt my lesson plan to your own needs. Each writer/artist should teach from their own strengths.
Rejections bring writers together. We trade stories of abysmally long response times, boilerplate replies addressed Dear writer, and the requisite practice of pinning rejection slips to walls. F. Scott Fitzgerald covered his bedroom with the 122 rejections he received in the spring of 1919 alone. Stephen King “pounded a nail” into the wall to “impale” his rejections. Rebecca Skloot displays her rejections for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as a constant reminder of editorial subjectivity.
Is this appropriate for children? Am I doom mongering? Today, the sun is shining in a bright blue sky. There are birds in the garden, and bees beginning to visit the flowers. Food, water and air are all readily available. I don’t want to give any younger readers sleepless nights about tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow. But the likelihood is that climate change will reach crisis point in your lifetimes.
An interesting exploration of the connection between handwriting and academic success. Yes, it does seem that kids who hand write do better in school, overall.
It makes me wonder how many people like the "feel" of handwriting in their journal, as opposed to simply typing out a journal. I, myself, still like the feeling of writing out my emotional state. What about you?
Writers who are serious about improving and developing their craft should write short stories and get editorial feedback on them, even if they are never planning on publishing these short stories. Short stories are one of the best ways to hone your craft as a writer.
Visual journaling is a way to record life's experiences, feelings, emotional reactions, or one's own inner experiences. Sometimes words alone fail to describe what we feel inside. Keeping a visual journal is a creative way to respond to an internal, very personal situation verbally and visually in a sketchbook, while exploring the connection between image and words. Through visual journaling we can also become capable of articulating connnections between our own personal art-making experiences and the works of master and contemporary artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Edvard Munch, Eric Fischl, and Celebrity Artist Michael Bell. Go inside their sketchbooks and see how these artists make connections between their sketchbook visual journals and their large format paintings on canvas at VisualJournaling.com.
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