Monday, November 29, 2010

Teaching Books for Teaching Authors

     This is part one to a question posed awhile back by reader Sandra Stiles. Sandra's question was so thorough it will take more than post to answer.
     Sandra has a one hour after school writing class, and basically wanted to know how to keep the mojo going, for both herself and her students. Sandra didn't mention how old her students are, but the answer is the same whether they are eight or eighteen. Those of you have been reading this blog awhile already know what I'm going to say; read, read, read!

    There is an endless selection of books on writing and teaching writing, some better than others. Here is my "go to" list (in no particular order).

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamotte.  This book is for me and definitely not the students. This is what gets my mojo going. Anne reminds me (in no uncertain, and sometimes very blunt language) that writing is a process, that it's OK to write lousy drafts and that some days (lots of days) the magic just doesn't happen.

What's Your Story?:  A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction  by Marion Dane Bauer
The title pretty much tells you want this book is--how to write both long and short fiction--from the ground up. Although written for middle school age students, this was my bible when writing Yankee Girl.  That this book has been in print for nearly 20 years makes it a classic in my opinion.

Paper Lightening:  Prewriting Activities that Spark Creativity and Help Students Write Effectively by Darcy Pattison
Aimed at teachers of writing for elementary and middle school teachers, this book makes a terrific companion for Bauer's book. Where Bauer lays our the blueprint for writing, Pattison's backs up that blueprint with dozens of writing activities to jump start the writer's brain and to write in more colorful and creative ways. This book was published in 2008, and I forsee it still in print in 2008.

Anything written by Ralph Fletcher. Fletcher has a series of short (under 125 pages) of how-to-books written for students, each on a different aspect of writing. These include How to Write Your Life Story, A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You, Live Writing:  Breathing Life Into Your Words, How Writer's Work:  Finding a Process that Works for You, Poetry Matters:  Writing a Poem from the Inside Out.  Craft Lessons is a virtual encyclopedia of specialized exercises for every age group for kindergarden and up.
As I was re-checking these titles on Amazon, I found that Fletcher has a new book our this past spring,
Pyrotechnics on the Page. I'm ordering my copy as soon as i finish writing this blog!

Although I am not a poet, I am working on a verse novel, which means I am reading a lot of poetry how-to's. Poemcrazy by Pam Woolridge is written for adults, but easily understood by the middle grade poet.
I'm also reading books by Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver, however the techniques here are best distilled through the teacher.

OK, fellow writers, back to the verse novel. I had a big breakthrough over the holidays and I don't want to lose my big 'mo.

Part two to Sandra's question next time.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Beth MacKinney said...

Thanks for sharing that great list. I'm always on the lookout for writing books that inspire myself and my kids.

Sandra Stiles said...

Thanks. As of now I only have one student officially writing. I gave all of them last year a set of Fletcher's books and a book called Spilling Ink. I've had many coming to me sent by our media specialist for writing recommendations or to read their material. I appreciate all of the help and hope next semester I'll have a larger group.

jan godown annino said...

These ideas are excellent.

Lola Haskins is a poet who is a treasure to read & to listen to reading her poetry & to workshop with.
You may get the kind of boost I did, from reading

Not Quite Feathers Yet: A Beginner’s Guide to the Poetic Life by Lola Haskins

Carmela Martino said...

Beth, thank you for taking time to comment. I hope to provide more inspiration in my post tomorrow.
Mary Ann, thanks for mentioning Darcy Pattison's book; I hadn't heard of it. And thank you, too, Jan for another resource I wasn't familiar with.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Ralph Fletcher's newest book, Mary Ann.
I recommend Fletcher's books to all Young Writers.
And, here's another useful resource for overworked teachers, created by the International Reading Association -
May I (self-promotingly) recommend the Young Writer Extras that accompany - my - book, S is for STory: A Writer's Alphabet? :)
They're available on my website -
Good luck!

Carmela Martino said...

Just so you know: I planned to blog about both readwritethink and your book's Teacher's Guide before I saw your comment.