Friday, April 24, 2020

Those Unexpected Kodak Moments…courtesy of COVID-19.

While quarantined and sheltering in place,

April writes poetry, celebrating just being.
Mary Ann likes and links, connecting online.                           
Bobbi celebrates our communities of writers.
I collect Unexpected Kodak Moments.

FYI:  in case you weren’t around in the 80’s, I’m referring to any happenings worthy of being memorialized with a photograph, originally captured using George Eastman’s Kodak camera.

COVID-19 has dramatically darkened our world as we once knew it.
The challenges for many of us are indeed overwhelming, and on a whole host of levels.
Even a “Non-stop finder of Life’s Silver Linings” such as I,
a Cubs Fan,
indeed, someone who responds, “Hopeful and grateful!” when asked how she is,
must admit: our world is askew.
This sadly unchanging view from my window says it all: the American flag atop Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, lowered to half-mast, honoring the now more-than-1400 Illinois citizens felled by the Coronavirus.

Tears? Yes.
Fears? Absolutely.

But just as Mr. Rogers advised us to look for the Helpers, I remind myself to look for those Unexpected Kodak Moments.
I know first-hand: a well-planned Plotline can suddenly twist where we’d expected it to turn, forcing us to travel unknown paths set against unimagined backgrounds, with who-knows-what-and-who waiting around the bend.
But I also know, after considerable schooling in the above: while traveling those new obstacle-strewn roads Life’s redirected Plotlines offered us, every now and then, surprise, surprise! We come upon a happening that not only brings us a dollop of Joy. It demands a revisiting so we can see how we got through.

Here are but a few of the Unexpected Kodak Moments I’ve gratefully captured these past five weeks while doing my best to shelter in place. Hopefully one or two will bring you a smile and get you on your way to finding yours.

With apologies to Mr. Eastman, this is my Logitech C270 HD Webcam Moment… ….because of course on Tuesday, March 31, in the middle of ZOOMING everyone in my personal and professional worlds, my Lenova’s camera died.  Who knew laptop cameras were more precious than toilet paper? BUT I FOUND ONE – in Hong Kong - after 2 ½ hours online! And for an additional fee, and an elevated price, Tak Yuet International delivered it to me as promised in 9 days! And even better, even though I’m a Luddite, I attached it to my laptop and it worked!*
(My screensaver’s crocus blooming amidst snow and ice is there to remind me of Albert Camus’ brilliant line: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Fingers crossed.)

The above video, though 19 minutes in length, still qualifies as a Kodak Moment, and an Unexpected one at that. Its availability brought hundreds of guests to SCBWI-Illinois’ first-ever April 15 Virtual Book Launch Party celebrating debut author Amy Alznauer and her eloquently-written picture book THE BOY WHO DREAMED OF INFINITY: A TALE OF THE GENIUS RAMANUJAN, gorgeously illustrated by Daniel Miyares and published by Candlewick. Amy’s originally-planned Book Launch was to be tomorrow Saturday at Anderson’s in Naperville, Illinois.
That “asterisk” beside the mention of my new spiffy camera above? Well, and of course, my logitech270’s Mic didn’t work once we began taping so I was forced to ZOOM in via my iPhone, thus explaining my non-static intro and wind-up, for which I apologize. However, I’m certain my love for Amy came through loud and clear. In 2015 my chapter gifted me with the opportunity to mentor “a picture book writer ready to cross the publishing threshold” via the Laura Crawford Memorial Mentorship. Both the winner Amy and her manuscript’s subject Ramanujan immediately claimed my heart.
Be sure to read my May 15 TeachingAuthors interview with Amy. We’ll be raffling a copy of THE BOY WHO DREAMED OF INFINITY.)

Thank goodness I didn’t discard my Illinois K-8 Teacher Certificate because I’m teaching once again, this time at VOVO SCHOOL!
(“Vovo,” by the way, is what my Brazilian-born 10-year-old grandson Gabe calls me.)
Gabe lives and breathes reptiles, spends hours “herping” (looking for reptiles beneath rocks, inside trees, affixed to the walls of his Sonoran Desert home) and dreams of being a herpetologist one day. Naturally, All-Things-Reptile lie at the heart of our daily lessons.
Science. Geography. Math. Writing concrete poems in the shape of lizards. Learning reptilian idioms. Taking virtual tours of Reptile Houses in zoos around the world. There are online reptile stores to explore - and - Reptile Shows to virtually attend.
All sorts of learning opportunities continue to snake through my mind, keeping Gabe learning ‘til his school district reopens in August, and best of all, the two of us connecting in fun ways.
I highly recommend educator Emily’s Snake Discovery channel.

Multiple Kodak Moments continue to fill my days as long-heard-from students, writers and fellow children’s book creators both near and far away email to query, “Are you doin’ okay?” 
No matter the possible link to warnings to remember “the elderly in hi-rises in densely-populated urban areas.” 😊
To be so thoughtfully remembered at such a time as this does wonders for the soul.
The Good News these folks share becomes my Good News.
For instance, here’s the cover of Claudia Friddell’s long-awaited picture book biography of Joseph Pulitzer, SAVING LADY LIBERTY: JOSEPH PULITZER’S FIGHT FOR THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, beautifully illustrated by Stacy Innerst and published this March by Calkins Creek.
You might remember Claudia and her first picture book GOLIATH from my January, 2010 Student Success Story.

I was so missing my Nia classes and 3-miles-per-day walks, so discovering Jenny Ford’s YouTube Marching Workout was a Kodak Moment for me.

Fortunately, my daily Marching Workouts more than readied me to walk 7 city blocks to and from my local Whole Foods for the 7 am Senior Shopping Time to discover this week’s Unexpected – and delicious - Kodak Moment. Not one but TWO pints on an otherwise empty freezer shelf.

Each day I receive a Gratitude quote. This Monday I read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words.
         “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”

I agree. An unexpected dollop of Joy can go a very long way, especially when sheltering in place during a quarantine.

May you need a stack of photo albums to store your Unexpected Kodak Moments these coming months and after!

Esther Hershenhorn
Thanks to Christie Wyman at WonderingsandWanderings for hosting this week’s Poetry Friday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Our 11th Blogiversary!

Hard to believe that today marks ELEVEN years since we started this blog. Happy blogiversary to us!

Last year we did a series of ten posts to celebrate our tenth blogiversary, with contributions from all ten of the marvelous TeachingAuthors who had contributed to this blog over the years. Given the difficult times we're currently experiencing, I think a quieter celebration is in order this year. But rather than let the date go by unmarked, I thought I'd repeat the terrific Thanku poem Esther shared in her post for our tenth anniversary:

           THANKU TO YOU!

     Here’s to our Readers!
     Fans, Feeders, Fuelers all.
     True storied treasures.

poem (c) 2019 Esther Hershenhorn. All rights reserved.

We wouldn't still be doing this if not for you, our wonderful readers. Whether you're a new follower or you've been here from the beginning, we appreciate each and every one of you!

And don't forget to always Write with Joy!

Friday, April 17, 2020


Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! (My poem and the PF link is below)

The topic we TeachingAuthors are exploring in this round is Creativity in the Time of the Coronavirus, a take-off on the title, Love in the Time of Cholera. It's funny--I've been thinking about the title of that book a lot lately, though I've never read it. I wonder if you've thought of that title, too.

And as much as I appreciate and am in awe of the shower of resources, inspirations and suggested activities raining down around us,
can I be totally honest here and say that simply reading the title of each link tires me out?

Eli, after looking at too many Instagram posts

In suggesting this topic, our Blog's Founder and Queen Mother, Carmela, sent us this link to Cynthia Leitich Smith's Twitter thread on March 22nd. (I've condensed it--it was 10 separate tweets on the same day):

Dear Children's-YA Author/Illustrator,
  • It’s okay if you can’t get any writing and/or artwork done today.
  • It’s okay if you need your writing and/or artwork more than ever.
  • It’s okay if you’re upset that your new book isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
  • It’s okay if you’re struggling to do online events.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have a single idea for a video lesson or activity.
  • It’s okay if you’re opting out of online events.
  • It’s okay if you owe people messages.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have the money to purchase or donate.
  • It’s okay if you can’t focus on anything beyond your family/household.
  • You take care. Wash your hands. Do what you need to do. Really, it’s okay.
I love all those okays. This list is so forgiving. So comforting.

Have you looked at your calendar lately after canceling event after event, and secretly breathed a sigh of relief?

I had to stop attending my beloved critique group when I was ill and have yet to reconnect. I couldn't drive across Los Angeles for an hour when I was sick. Once I let that go, I realized something: that drive is not healthy for me even when I'm well

And thus I eliminated several things I'd done regularly for years.

Am I an agoraphobic in an audacious person's clothing?

On March 24th (So long ago, right?  Where have all my days gone?), I was feeling "teacherly" and emailed a friend, who seemed as lost as I feel now:

Dear Janey,

I think you're asking for survival tips. 

Yesterday my survival tip was to label what I feel. I feel lethargic. Just finding that one right word for how I was feeling helped me. And I stopped yelling at myself for not being as productive as I imagine everyone else is. I just let little April be lethargic. 

Today I made a point of meditating before having breakfast. (What? Delay my breakfast????). Because it's easy to not meditate as my day speeds off on its own. This helped.
And I hiked with my dog and my two grand dogs (I call myself their Dogma) on a beautiful, muddy trail. Drenching myself in 
green always moves my meter closer to happy.

Note that this upbeat, helpful email was written when my son and his fiancee were hunkered down with us. I loved having them and their dogs fill our house. (Bonus: he bakes bread every day. That smell is house perfume.)  But they drove off to New Mexico two weeks ago, where he'll starts his residency in emergency medicine soon. (I know--yay, Son, and also, oh, dear...).

So now I'm alone most of the day, which is VERY different. I am not gardening. I am not making ratatouille. I am not decluttering. I am not even cutting my bangs.

But how am I surviving creatively?

I write a poem every day and send it to my friend, author Bruce Balan, who sends me a poem each day, too.

Want an example?

On April 7th, I wrote in my journal:
LA County is asking everyone to refrain from even shopping for food this week. We're bracing for a big wave of COVID-19...unless we all lay low. This is kind of like when you're in the ocean and you've miscalculated and that huge wave, which you'd thought you could swim over, is about to crash on top of you and you dive deep, hoping to avoid being in the washing-machine of the wave.

from Pixabay
And here's my April 7, 2020 poem (I immediately want to tell you that it's just a draft and I know it needs cutting and lots of other things are wrong with it, but I refrain from telling you this):

by April Halprin Wayland

Remember when Daddy took your hand
after you were thrashed
in a watery washing-machine of a wave
and you both walked slowly, so slowly
into the summery ocean
as that big wave came closer

and you could barely breathe
but he was gentle
he was calm
he held your hand
until you rose above the roar
as it pounded sand

and when the next one—the very next one
came growling at both of you
he showed you how to dive deep,
deeper then you thought you could go
below the wave's grasp
so it rumbled it rumbled

and all waves
the rest of that day
were just plain old nothing-to-be-afraid-of waves
you could fly
you could breathe
you were somewhere glorious and far away
all day

poem and drawing of the child in the rain © 2020 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

So...for today, I stand back and watch the world spin. And I forgive myself. It's okay.

Thank you, Molly, at Nix The Comfort Zone for hosting Poetry Friday!

Posted with gratitude by April Halprin Wayland with help from Eli and our teeny tiny newborn pond turtle:

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday Writing Workout: WORD BOWL POEMS!

What could be better during National Poetry Month than a Wednesday Writing Workout that teaches us how to create our very own Word Bowl Poems?
So, thank you award-winning children’s poet and language arts teacher Michelle Schaub, my SCBWI-Illinois kin, for creating today’s original and fun WWW!

Michelle’s newest book, DREAM BIG, LITTLE SCIENTISTS, published by Charlesbridge, is a bedtime book in verse…

Dream big, little scientists,
close your sleepy eyes.
The sun has tucked itself in bed,
the moon is on the rise.

…with a scientific twist! 
The twelve kiddos pictured within the story ready for bed in rooms that show their love for eleven different branches of science!  All dream BIG, from astronomy to physics to chemistry to geology. Posters of representative scientists and all sorts of scientific tools add to the illustrations.

I love the book’s tag line: “Twelve kids. A dozen bedtimes. Endless sweet ways to say goodnight with science!”
Kirkus was right to declare Michelle’s latest “a clever and inclusive bedtime book about science and possibility.” London-based Alice Potter’s illustrations are perfect.

Today’s WWW is one Michelle shares while presenting to students her 2019 Charlesbridge offering FINDING TREASURE: A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS, a story told in poems.

     My teacher gave us homework
     that has me quite perplexed.
     He asked us all to bring to class
     something we collect.

Michelle is also the author of FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMER’S MARKET (Charlesbridge) and several of her original poems appear in THE POETRY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS (Pomelo Books). She also shares standards-aligned lessons and mentor texts to help educators weave poetry into their classroom on her blog POETRY BOOST.

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your poetic talents and smarts with our TeachingAuthors readers.

Happy Word Bowl Poem Creating!

And, Happy National Poetry Month!

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . . . . .


My poetry collection, FINDING TREASURE: A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS, is a story told through poems. In it, a little girl goes on a quest to discover her own unique collection of items to bring to school for show and tell. When I share this book with students, the most common question I’m asked is, “What do you collect?”  The answer: WORDS!

As a poet, I’m obsessed with words. To me, words have a sound, texture, color, and even flavor. Some words are smooth and supple. Meander. Others jagged and sour. Persnickety. When I come across a word that sparks my senses, I write it down and put it in my Word Bowl. I borrowed the idea for a word bowl from poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge who says “the great thing about collecting words is they’re free…Words are lightweight, unbreakable, portable, and they’re everywhere.” True, words are everywhere. And once you start collecting them, you begin to notice and savor them more and more.

As a teacher, I want my students to savor words as much as I do. I bring my Word Bowl with me to class and invite students to add their own imagination-tickling words. I encourage students to collect tangible nouns, verbs, and adjectives and avoid proper nouns. Midnight. Plink. Ruckus. These are some of the words my third graders have added to the bowl.  For fun, we also added a couple of plastic goldfish to the bowl and named them Syno and Nym. They enjoy swimming around in the pool of words.

What do I do with all of these words? Use them as a splash of inspiration to combat writer's block! One of my favorite writing exercises is to have students write Word Bowl Poems. Each student pulls five words from the bowl and tries using at least three of them in a poem. (Bonus points for using all five words!) I tell students not to worry about rhyme or logic, but just let the words take control and lead them to new places on the page.

Here is a Word Bowl Poem from one of my students. (The bolded words are the ones he pulled from the bowl.)

I saw fungus
disgusting and horrible
frosted like a snowball
or a cloud
caps like parachutes
a surge of disgust
white like a phantom

3rd Grade 

Another way to use Word Bowl Poems as a writing exercise is to have five different students pull one word each. Then challenge everyone in the class to write their own poems that include those five words. It’s fun to compare results and see how the same words can float writers down such different creative streams.

Word Bowl Poems free up your imagination and give you permission to play. The more words you collect, the more of a reservoir you have for those dry days when the words just don’t seem to flow on their own.

Friday, April 10, 2020

"Real" Life on Line

Today, April 10, makes 30th day of self-quarantine. March 26 was my birthday--my age now has at least one digit that's a 6. The above picture sums up that special day--my daughter sent me daisies, my husband went to Costco and scored toilet paper and...Well, the typewriter was my dad's, the one on which I wrote my first stories when I was in second grade. OK, it's symbolic. Writing is what I do. And when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing.

I've done a lot of thinking these past 30 days.

One day, you're bopping along, the embodiment of "Age is just a number." The next, the CDC has declared you officially "elderly" and "at risk" of the coronavirus. Who? What? Me? I felt extremely lucky to be sound in mind and body. Until the CDC told me,"We don't care what age you think you are. You're over 60 and we say you're in big trouble. And old."

So, why am I thinking and not writing?

I am a worrier by nature, even on the calmest of days. A world upended sends me spinning into outer space, like an astronaut who comes untethered during a space walk. (Think the movie Gravity, and that's me.)

Now, with my connection to the outside world is Face Time chats and texting, I need something more to keep me going. Biographies and memoirs are my favorite reading material. I'm especially fascinated by how people cope in impossible situations. Right now, I'm reading Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, about a family with twelve children, six of whom were diagnosed with  schizophrenia. Not applicable to writing, but helping to anchor me in my safe, if solitary existence.

Other people, other stories have arrived in my life, via my laptop (how else?)

From the Washington Post came this article by Sunny Fitzgerald (available only with subscription) about the guilt "of not working in the midst of crisis." Currently, my husband works from the kitchen table, solving "six impossible things before breakfast" and catching up on twenty years worth of home improvement jobs.  He gets exasperated with my inactivity. get exasperated with my inactivity.  If nothing else, this article stopped my negative inner chatter.

I discovered The Storytellers Project through my morning read of USA Today. As a child, there was nothing I enjoyed more than my parents and grandparents telling me stories of about their childhoods.  The Storytellers Project records everyday people, sharing their real, first person stories with an audience. They appear in USA Today every Thursday. This week's theme was "overcoming self-doubt, certainly helpful in a time where everything seems to be in doubt.

My friends are forever sending me writing links. This one from McSweeney's,  "I Am Using My Free Time Not to Write a Novel" by Scott Bolohan is a snarky look at all of us stalled-out writers.  It turned my current state into something not-so-serious, but with more than a hint of truth.

Finally, there is this episode of NPR's Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewing that Master of Writing-Every-Day-No-Matter-What, Stephen King.  Like a lot of us, he is stuck in the house with a WIP that's been stalled for years. I have a feeling King's problem is not being "stalled" so much as having too many simultaneous WIP's. I've always secretly thought that King turns on his computer, leaves the room, returns in a couple of days and finds a finished novel. (He's never said that's not the case.) I always enjoy his interviews, which reassure me that while he is incredibly productive, he sounds like the rest of us...watching Netflix, taking out the garbage.

We are living in an open-ended nightmare. There is no end date. When someone does conjecture a date, my first thought is "So soon! Will it be safe then? Who knows what safe is." I know the world I "return" to will be unlike the like the one I left March 12, 2020.

And when we re-emerge to our new reality, I know there will be my friends online, sending me links and personal advice, to cope with what is.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Ten Thousand Sorrows, Ten Thousand Joys

Like everyone else, I am sheltering in place. Because I have taught classes online for years, I have been fortunate to not experience much disruption in my classes. However, as a writer, it has been more challenging to make my art during this time of anxiety-producing calamity and deluge of bad news.

While staying informed is a necessity to surviving the crisis, it becomes all too easy to become overwhelmed by it. To be swept away by it. To be defeated by the despair of it.

“The arts are … a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
Ashley Wolff

The light still shining amid all the darkness, however, is the harboring community of writers and artists that share my space. Remember the Taoist principle, noted by Chuang Tzu, “When you open your heart, you get life’s ten thousand sorrows, and ten thousand joys.” 

Over these many weeks, with all the ten thousand sorrows we’ve experienced as a nation and world community, many artists – writers, illustrators, storytellers, musicians, editors, librarians, teachers, and more – have started to share their art in all its many forms. And in so doing, they became the ten thousand joys, the candles of light amid the dark night.

Illustrator Ashley Wolff and her incomparable Rufus reminded everyone in every state to Be Strong.

Storyteller Kevin O’Malley invited those in his Facebook sphere to send him ideas, whether about their favorite people or their favorite things, and he responded to making every wish come true!

Kevin O'Malley
Shevi Arnold created the Facebook public group, Social Distancing Society, now approaching 1.8 K members, all sharing laughs, music, arts, videos – all a reminder that we are in this together! Do check it out!

Book Riot offers a list of children authors posting videos of reading their books and offering activities for their young audiences. Mary Cadden at USA TODAY highlights Storyline Online, a children's literary website featuring videos of actors reading children’s books alongside produced illustrations. Each book has a recommended grade level and activity guides. Among the readers: Betty White reading “Harry the Dirty Dog,” author Jannell Cannon reading her book “Stellaluna” and Rose Byrne reading “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Betty White!!!

O! And look at this treat! Master Storyteller Eric Kimmel reads folktales from around the world!

There's more, it turns out. My FB friend Danny Alderman serenades a slew of us with oldies but goodies weekly.  Check out his Facebook page, Danny and Kim and Friends for more videos and activities.

As Nicole Fichera, in her article “Art in Times of Crisis,” reminds us that “When we shift our attention away from fear, art will be waiting for us.”

       “Art brings our mind into balance.” -- Nicole Fichera

Share your favorite videos and inspirations, whatever it may be. Let's add to the ten thousand joys that bring light in this time of darkness! 

--Bobbi Miller

About the photo: One of my favorite inspirations, Granddaughter decorates the front window with her favorite things, so if you walk by the house, you'll smile.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday Writing Workout: Six Brilliant Words

Today I'm happy to share a guest Wednesday Writing Workout from Illinois author Melanie Weiss that's perfect for National Poetry Month, which begins today.

Melanie and I connected last fall after attending an SCBWI-IL Food for Thought meeting. Melanie is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and worked as a journalist for newspapers and magazines for 20 years. She began writing her debut novel, Spoken, shortly after she became an “empty nester.”

Spoken received the Bronze Medal for Young Adult-Social Issues in the 2019 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Contest. Here's a one-sentence summary of the novel:
When high school freshman Roman Santi discovers the Spoken Word Club, it leads him on a journey of new friendships and finding the dad he never knew.
You can read more about Melanie at her website and follow her on Facebook.

Today, Melanie shares a Wednesday Writing Workout on using six-word stories/poems in the classroom, but the exercise is appropriate for writers of all ages.

Wednesday Writing Workout:
Six Brilliant Words

By Melanie Weiss

Flash fiction is a genre of fiction that involves telling a story using between 5 and 1,500 words. Today, we are going to focus on the smaller side of that scale, the six-word story:

Flat tire.
New job.
No job?

This example is just six short words but it says everything you need to know. Writing a six-word story can be fun for every age and makes an excellent creative writing assignment that encourages students to use precise, concise language. It's wonderful, isn't it, how six little words can be strung together to say something so much BIGGER?

Six-word stories are a great way to help students (and adult writers) get more comfortable with writing short stories and poems. Since April is National Poetry Month, this is the perfect time to work on six-word stories. They can be a starting point before moving into haikus and other forms of free verse poetry, such as spoken word poetry. Prompts for six-word stories are endless. You can find countless sources online, including these at Page Flutter and these art-themed prompts.

In the classroom, adding the six-word story to your curriculum offers students an interactive exercise in thinking creatively as they share these stories with their classmates. The stories are often goofy, usually fun, sometimes serious or head-scratching, but always entertaining.

I knew I had to work the six-word story into my young-adult novel, Spoken, because the novel takes place partly at a fictionalized version of Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois. Not only does the school have a robust Spoken Word Club, it's the high school Ernest Hemingway attended and graduated from in 1917. Hemingway has been credited with writing the first six-word story, though this is one of those myths that continues to live despite being debunked.

The weight of connecting six well-thought-out words cannot be denied. We ALL have it within us to unleash that power and create our own six-word masterpieces.

I thought it may be easiest to borrow from Spoken and allow the novel's Spoken Word Club Teacher Patrick Collins to explain:
     Mr. Collins walks in the room and strides up to the white board at the front of the classroom. He turns to us and bows slightly. “Today we will be writing flash fiction. Does anybody know what that means?”
     Mr. Collins points to a student in one of the front rows who has her hand straight up in the air.
     “It’s telling a story but with not a lot of words.”
     “Yes, that’s pretty much it, Gina,” says Mr. Collins.
     He turns to the whiteboard and writes:

     For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.
     “This has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway. One of the greatest writers of the 20th century. It’s an extreme example of a story packed into just six words.
     “Your mission today is to write just six brilliant words that tell a story. Think about the message you want to convey and what imagery you want to represent.”
. . .

     “Now let’s spend about ten minutes and I want each of you to write your own six-word story,” he says. “Make each of your six words shimmer, like a brilliant piece of art.”
     “No pressure, right Mr. Collins?” jokes Jordan.
     We bend over our desks, pens in hand, diving down into our thoughts. The room is pure silence except for the scribbling, the scratching out of phrases, a few toes taping.
     After the ten minutes, students start sharing their stories with Mr. Collins as he captures the musings on the whiteboard.
There are ways to stretch this assignment further. Students could illustrate their short stories. A student could pass the story to another classmate and that classmate could draw what the story is telling them. Take a look back on Carmela Martino's popular TeachingAuthors' post Getting to Know Me--Six-Word Memoirs, which offers students the opportunity to find a concise way to share who they are with their teacher and classmates.

The beauty of the six-word story is simple: One classroom, countless stories, students soar.

Thank you, Melanie, for today's Wednesday Writing Workout. Readers, I hope you'll try this exercise on your own or with your students. If you do, please let us know how it works for you.

Posted by Carmela