Thursday, November 30, 2006

Live Writing

Normally on Fridays I share a piece of literature that I have used as a mentor text to work in developing student writing. What I want to share today is a book that can be used as a mentor text, but is also something that every writer should own. Ralph Fletcher's Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words.

I was introduced to the work of Mr. Fletcher via a listserv of "RealWriting Teachers" and it is because of him that I now keep my own writer's notebook. But this book is particularly special because it follows the philosophy that I have that words are powerful tools. In Live Writing the focus is on the craft of writing and how to choose words that lift off the page (as opposed to YAWN! most textbooks). What follows are some tips that I love:

  • "Here's the good news: most of us are not born writers. We were not born with a pencil in our tiny fingers. And very rarely do the words flow clear and sparkling the first time we try to write them down. Most of us have to work at our writing."
Imagine how powerful that would be to share with our students - that writing is work!! That it is OK to revise and revise and revise. And that WE (teachers) struggle with it too!! And imagine if we showed them that by sharing our own writing!!

  • READ like a writer!!If you want to improve your writing, you have to apprentice yourself to the best writers you can find - writers that you can learn from......and reread the writing to find out how the writer pulled off the effect!
How many times have you heard me say this about mentor texts!! It has ruined some of my reading - as I am always looking to see how someone said something or the details they used to paint the picture I drew in my head. But I think it has helped me understand the craft of writing better - and more importantly what I want my writing to be like.
  • "Write low on the food chain...Most people, adults as well as kids, tend to write too high on the food chain. They write about big ideas - jealousy, love, nuclear war - instead of seeking out small details to suggest the larger issue." (p. 100)
Details, details, details. I've even noticed this when people talk - they speak about lofty ideas but when you press them for examples or to provide more details they can't give you anything!! Do they really know what they are talking about? Have they thought about it? Could you communicate your big ideas in writing?

I don't think that this book is intended to be read alone - meaning that someone should be writing along with reading it. The tips and strategies for the craft of writing, if just read, are meaningless. If you are going to read about being a writer, you better be writing as well. If you need a "textbook" to make better writers - I suggest this one!

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