What writers do: Obsess, recall, wonder, question, and record (an example)

I once lost a journal, left it behind at a breakfast diner in the heart of Boston... I didn’t sleep for two full days worrying about it. ...Had it been noticed or unwittingly swept into the trash? ...did anyone read it? Did they laugh? In the good way? Or cry? Did they see any potential? Did they like it? Boston is a literary city, after all, so there was a lot at stake for me.

Notebook entry about trip to hair salon

I have lived (and write about it)

I am honored to be a contributor to a blog that I love, Sharing Our Notebooks curated by children's author and teacher Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. I have given writing teachers a quick peek inside my notebooks in the past, but with Amy's blog as inspiration, this time I am really putting myself out there, baring entries that fed the works closest to my heart.

Teaching point: writers don’t rely on punctuation to convey emotion

Good narrative writers (fiction and some types of nonfiction) don’t rely on punctuation to convey emotion. Good writers know that characters convey emotion. Their body language, their actions, and their speech reveal what they feel. This is something I often teach: a string of exclamation points in your text is an invitation to go back to your writer’s notebook...It’s an invitation to excavate or dig deeper.

Endings: What Can You Teach?

...The artist in me wants to say that writers grapple with many complicated questions when deciding on an ending. We do more than just decide what shape we want the story arc to take. The work is bigger than that. To me, endings are all about the take-away. What do you want readers to know, feel, do, think or wonder about after they finish reading your story? You can't write an ending until you decide that.

Hold Readers at a Climax

When I first read stories with students and ask them to identify the climax, they tend to point to a small amount of text, often two sentences or less. This is one of a handful of common phenomena that still baffles me -- where did so many of us get the idea that climaxes are small? More accurately, the climax is often the most important part of the story, and, consequently, it gets the most space.

Beginnings: 3 Examples (and Why They Work)

After my post about "Beginnings, Middles and Ends" a few weeks ago, a teacher-friend reached out to me. "When I tell students I want them to work on 'the beginning,' I don't mean all that rising action you mentioned," she said. "I am talking about much simpler stuff. I just want them to write an … Continue reading Beginnings: 3 Examples (and Why They Work)