Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mystery Guest Wednesday Writing Workout: Exercising Your Imagination!

Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes to you courtesy of a TeachingAuthor I so admire and respect, an award-winning picture book author, poet and UCLA instructor whose hands-on text Writing Picture Books (Hint! Hint!) I recommend at least once a week to writers and students.  She could truly be M.B. Goffstein’s “writer,” seated on her living room couch, cutting, pruning, shaping and planning the words she wishes to set upon paper.  Her picture books include Word Builder (Simon & Schuster) and Tortuga in Trouble (Holiday House).

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 The Wednesday Writing Workout: Exercising Your Imagination!

 One of the challenges of a writer is to create something new—a story, poem, an essay—that hasn’t been done before. That sounds like a tall order, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Putting yourself into an inanimate object is a fun and easy way to write uniquely.

Have you ever wondered how a book feels if you close it before the end?
Have you ever pondered how a tree endures a thunderstorm?
Can you guess what a snowman’s last words might be?

This exercise will give you an opportunity to answer those questions.

To show you how, let’s take a pencil. Imagine that you are the pencil. What might you say to the person holding it? Then write without stopping or revising.

For example, here’s what I wrote:

“You think you have complete control of me. It’s true you do and I hate it. I have to write what you insist, but if I could write my own story, if I could swirl my words across the paper, here’s what I’d say. Inside me lurk words more beautiful than you could ever express. I long to spill my soul, to stand up and shout gray silver words. Then you would know that I too, have thoughts. And I am sure, then, that you would never chew on me. . . how I hate the way you bite down my eraser and your saliva slivers down my yellow. You wouldn’t like it if I did that to you. How I hate the way you fling me into box with other pencils, not knowing, not caring how special I am.”

Okay, a rambling paragraph of unedited raw spillage, but rereading, I was surprised by several things here. The phrases “shout gray silver words” and “how I hate the way you bite down on my eraser” and “your saliva slivers down my yellow,” they gave me a niggle that I took as a sign to explore them further. I thought and thought about those phrases and after much revising came up with this poem in the form of a cinquain.

Don’t bite
My eraser. Don’t
Gnaw my stub. Treat me right
Or I will refuse to record
Your words.

So here’s your writing workout for this week: Go up to those questions I asked earlier. Then be a book, a tree or a snowman, or all three if you’re feeling ambitious, and let your words flow.
I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself.
You may not get a story, a poem or an essay out of it, but you’ll be exercising your imagination, something all writers need to do regularly.

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So, did you guess our Mystery Guest Author, Ann Whitford Paul?

You might recall the Thumbs Up review I gave Writing Picture Books when our TeachingAuthors blog began.

For more Writer Tips from Ann, click here.

Ann Whitford Paul gets - and loves - the picture book.
Even better,

Ann Whitford Paul gets - and loves – writers and writing.

Thanks, Ann, for keeping my writing muscles, and those of our TeachingAuthors readers, burning.
Esther Hershenhorn


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for the imagination exercise! Here's what I ended up with:


isn't everything.
What about
the value
of a good

Carmela Martino said...

Great Workout, Ann. And Andrea, thanks for sharing your response to it. I'll have to try it myself!

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

We love Ann and this is a wonderful exercise.

jan godown annino said...

Ohh thank you for bringing this stellar talent to us.
Energizing exercise!

Just pulled down ALL by HERSELF from the shelf. Since I enjoy presenting on biography, it's one of my favorites.
Especially this poem excerpt about Golda Mabovitch :

"But some friends lived in poverty
and buying books was out of reach
Though just a student in fourth grade,
Golda ran a book crusade"...

The entire poem by Ann Whitford Paul should be read but these lines so lyrically channel the spirit of the future prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir.

more thanks to TA for this surprise visit!