Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In Praise of a Superlative (New) School Year!

I’m just back from Duncan Creek Elementary School in Hoschton, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, singing the praises of the 185 Young Writers who participated in the 7th Annual Mill Creek Young Writers Literacy Institute.

What heart-walloping fun I had, first, sharing the A to Z of my jarringly-good Writer’s life and bone-delicious process with the grades 1-8 all-star students in the morning,
then, workshopping the afternoon with their fifty-carat teachers, putting forth ways to keep their bang brilliant Young Writers fed!
The teachers LOVED my newest Writer’s Bookshelf Recommendation:  Arthur Plotnik’s Better Than Great – A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives (Viva Editions, 2011) 

Author and editor Plotnik believes: “Praise can be greater than amazing.”
And he should know.
He combed through thesauruses, lexicons and countless compendiums to compile 6,000 (!) alternatives to used-up superlatives.
You read that right – 6,000!
And that number doesn’t include the 50 text-friendly synonyms (1drfl), relevant quotes and foreign phrases (mockered up) he thoughtfully added.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins labels the collection “amen-astonishing.”
Donna Seaman of Booklist describes the book as “high-fiveable hot sauce for the brain.”

Understandably, Plotnik’s collection has drawn nothing but praise.
An especially acclaimable feature? 
Plotnik makes the collection especially user-friendly by categorizing the plenitude of possible fine-hair distinctions, from Great (postcard-perfect) and Sublime (all-knowing) and Physically Affecting (eye-misting) to Cool (cookin’), Wicked Cool (stompin’) and Forceful (bionically buff), in between offering Beautiful (bellafatima), Joy-giving (embraceable), Large (continental-shelf-sized)  and Exceptional (giga awesome), as well as Intense (pincering), Delicious (plate-licking good), Mentally, Emotionally or Spiritually Affecting (nutso-making) and Trendy (out-front).

Better Than Great is just that - a true landfall of bliss for any lover of words.

                 180 school days in a year,
                 6,000 ways to say “amazing” –
                         first, written on the blackboard,
                         next, copied into a Writer’s Notebook,
                        then, spoken in conversation,
                        finally, chosen for a story.
Amen-astonishing, indeed.
What a superlative way to begin a superlative (new) School Year.

Happy Back-to-Schooling!

Esther Hershenhorn
I am off to LA, to the pinnacular, jaw-slacking, joy-spreading, worldwide, all-eclipsing, boot-in-the-face intense, gulp-worthy, fabulosa, outta sight 40th Anniversary SCBWI Conference!
Why not attend too - vicariously - by clicking on Team Blog  or tweeting with the #11LASCBWI hash tag?!

Writer’s Workout:  Name That Superlative!

An eponym is a person, real or imagined, from whom something, as a tribe, nation, or place, takes or is said to take its name.   Name-based terms, are called “eponymous.”  Think: Amelia Jenks Bloomer of “bloomers”;  innkeeper Cesar Ritz of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”; Midas touch; Mickey Mouse.

Many eponyms form adjectives.
Think: Christian, ritzy, Lincolnesque, Dickensian, Jordanesque.

To create your own eponymous superlative, follow Arthur Plotnik’s advice:
(1)   Start with a name recognized by your audience and having the desired positive association
(2)   Add endings such as –an, -ian, -seque, -ic, -ish, - al.

Note: if name ends with a consonant, add “ian” or “esque.”
                       if name ends in e or i, add “an
                       if name ends in a, o, or  y – add “n”, "ninan,” “esque,” “ ist,” or “nic.”
What eponymous superlatives might students create - using their names, the first day of school - to introduce themselves to their fellow classmates and use throughout the year?

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