Monday, August 31, 2009

MENTOR MONDAY: Back to School, Back to WORK!

The summer’s winding down and families are beginning to get back into the school year routine. Even those of us who don’t have children, or no longer have children at home, can find the fall comforting in its predictability. We can say goodbye to the distractions “de l’été.” No more summer vacations, summer chores, or summer weddings taking us away from our writing time. Now, all we need is…inspiration! I have a suggestion that might help in more than one way.

Writers for children are constantly told is: read what you want to write. If you want to produce good stories for children, read good stories written for children. Look at the way the author has created characters, movement, tension, and resolution. Cut unnecessary words. Revise, revise, revise.

We all know this stuff. Still, it’s nice to have a reminder of what constitutes a good story. I’ve got a fun way to both read and study craft. Two-time Newbery Medal winner, Lois Lowry has written a series of short books staring Gooney Bird Greene. The little red-haired girl shows up at Watertower Elementary Schools in October. The second graders in Mrs. Pidgeon’s class have never met anyone quite like her.

Lowry uses Gooney Bird to illustrate the techniques of good writing. Gooney Bird Greene is a story-teller. She claims to only tell “absolutely true” stories but it’s hard to believe that she drove to Watertower from China, flew on a magic carpet, and got her huge diamond earrings from a palace.

As Gooney Bird tells the other children her stories, she explains about creating interesting characters, adding excitement to stories, when to add just enough detail, and how to use interesting vocabulary.

Gooney Bird may be the one explaining, but Lois Lowry is showing all of us the skills good writers need. So my suggestion is, if you want a great fall warm-up for getting back into your writing schedule, grab some of the Gooney Bird stories. If you really want a treat, listen to Lee Adams bring Gooney Bird and the other children to life in the recorded book version. When you’re finished, you’ll want to work on your own “absolutely true” stories.


Jet said...

Great post, Mur! I'm heading to the library today to check it out . . .



I hadn't met Gooney Bird before, but I found out we have the Gooney Bird collection on audio. Since I'm taking a vacation way, way up north in a few weeks, I'll bring the audio along for the trip! Thanks for introducing me to her.