Monday, January 17, 2011

Be the Change

"I wish I were famous," my 5-year-old daughter announced yesterday.  When I asked why, she explained reasonably, "Because then everyone would like me." 

Her enthusiasm seemed undampened when I explained that it didn't quite work that way.  I then asked her if she knew how to get famous, and she said, "Yes. You find what you're talented at and then work really hard to get good at it."  Followed immediately by, "I know what my talent is.  Hula hooping.  I'm working on being a great hula hooper." 

Wary of pinning all my hopes and dreams for her on her hula hooping future, I explained to Kate that there is one other way to become famous that has nothing to do with talent.  And that's just to be the best, kindest, most generous, most honorable, most principled person one can be.  I reminded her that we are celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday this weekend, and that he was famous for standing up for what was right and for helping other people. 

As writers, we have the opportunity to reach many people with our words.  As we all know, words matter deeply.  Words can wound, and words can inspire.  To aspiration and inspiration! --Jeanne Marie

Writing Workout
My college students write a research essay at the end of each semester.  The assignment I give asks them to contemplate the following question: "How do you plan to leave your mark on the world?"  I find this question an excellent jumping-off point for a research essay because it requires them to 1) write about something that matters to them 2) to contemplate a specific plan for both writing and living. 

This question is really the one I ask myself before I write anything.  I also like to ask my students on their other assignments, "Why are you writing this essay?"  If the answer is, "for a grade," I can pretty much guarantee that it won't be a very good one. :)


mmeforte496 said...

Jeanne, I just asked the same question of my 8th graders this week. We'd just finished reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" (the play) and had watched the documentary "Anne Frank Remembered" and they had to discuss whether, as she wished in the diary, she had gone on living even after her death. Consensus was yes. Then they had to answer the question for themselves: How can you do the same? Answers were too voluminous to go into here, but way more insightful than I'd expected from 13-year-olds. Upcoming: Fame vs. notoriety as we go into some biographical sketches and excerpts from memoirs. Should be interesting.

Pen and Ink said...

Hula hooping. Why didn't I think of that. I'll take up Hula hooping and be famous and makes lots of money, appear on Leno...HA HAH! O' tremble and despair. Gaze upon my works mighty and...

Hmm...maybe, I'll go back to writing.
Lupe F.

Pen and Ink said...

That was interesting - telling your daughter she could be famous for being nice...
I know where shes coming from. I used to want to be famous so people would like me. My character Tasha still wants to be famous for that same reason.
Well, I've met a lot of famous people. Now my dream is to produce and share excellent work.

Carmela Martino said...

What a wonderful conversation with Kate, JM. Thanks so much for sharing it, and for the Writing Workout.

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Mmforte, please come back and share your eighth graders' stories. Fame vs. Notoriety should be a very interesting discussion in light of Snooki et al.

Lupe, I'm thinking my daughter might have a shot at the Guinness Book of World Records someday. :)

Pen and Ink, I love your plan!

Amy LV said...

Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, "Famous," speaks to your wise post. I'd love to read some of your students' pieces too! I have also enjoyed having students write "This I Believe" essays, much like the ones from NPR. The books and online essays are wonderful. A.

MotherReader said...

I just hope you didn't kill that poor child's dream of fame and fortune in the glamourous world of hula-hooping. ;^)

I like your writing prompt question and am noting it in my own little notebook of thoughts.