Please bring to class as much of your story as you have. Try, try, try to write all the way to the end. It's good even to have lousy copy to throw away...
Please write an author ID. You can look on SafeKidsStories.com--yes, finally, the simpler URL, phew--to see examples. Whimsy is OK, but can easily veer toward the self-indulgent. Start with facts, please.
If you have not yet seen me for your individual consult, this is the week to do it. Tuesday, from 10-3; Thursday, from 10-3. Email me your time, on the half hour. Thanks.
Please note that I've amended the Requirements Page to reflect changes we discussed.
In class: First, let me say: Great job with the workshops!
Many, many, many transactions this term. I've never had a class to do more, and with as much graciousness and effect. I've been learning the while, and our partner students certainly have been, partner teachers report epiphanies, and some of you, too. Tokens, Uber black and Uber X; early Saturday morning videotaping. Plus stories and stories and stories.
To follow up on the writing of our partners, we'll meet in our split shift again, to read, edit, and rough-sketch curate the work from Cristo Rey, Kensington Biz, and Adaire. Kimmel Youth Jazz ensemble will be working on their own revisions.
Except this time each group will go for three hours. You'll still start at one and end at six, but this time, the groups will be doing their work separately and overlap.
Location: Fisher-Bennett faculty Lounge
Working regularly on your stories yet? Are they alive, so that you're not just dropping stuff in? Are you stuck, stuck, stuck, about to say bad things that rhyme with stuck?
Stop! Find the play again.
I know you're tired. I know your eyes are burning, and your wits are ragged. Can't move forward? Do an ABC book. When I started playing with this assignment, it turned into an angry black ABC book for grown-ups--I think it was all the Baldwin. Very therapeutic at the end-of-term.
If you don't need it or have no time, ignore.
If your story will be short-ish, and you'd like to do a blog based on something that happened to you in the workshops, dash off some non-fiction reflection. Most of you owe one, anyway.
Wanna talk to me about your story before Wednesday? I'll come in on Tuesday, 11am-2pm. Pick a time on the half hour and reserve via email. I'll also have extended hours the week of April 19th, in case you're not ready yet, or find yourself in a chemistry crunch.
John Lavin and his delightful 12th grade AP English students were not able journey to us again from Kensington to share with us their experience reading and writing about "A Talk to Teachers," by James Baldwin, 1963.
So, we went there, carrying lunch with us. Metal detectors and magic. that's how it was. Plus haiku, which will make the SafeKids editor purse her lips. But we captured little glints of light; and made friends; and Chad has found his new literary form!
I invite you to re-read Baldwin's short, dense piece to see how it speaks to you--or characters in your story, or to your experience participating in workshops or editing ninth-graders' blogs as we'll be doing in a couple weeks.
More workshops, yet: Kimmel youth jazz and Adaire School's 8th graders. Plus, soon, reading and commenting on 9th grade blogs from Cristo Rey.
That's the work in class. That's the extrovert work, above the surface.
Underneath, you are writing now. The first half of the course is an invitation to find a story that you can fall in love with, as John Hough talked about, and once you love it, and love the characters, once it means something to you, then you are ready to rock climb through learning that you may not be able to articulate at first, but can feel. It's energy, obsession, perhaps, certainly a tiny little drive shaft in your imagination that propels the story forward into the lives of imaginary friends; real friends; the visualization of maps; competitions that matter; crazy school bus accidents; prickly frogs in trousers brought home from the pet store; cats on vacay, kids from across the Secret-Garden-style hedge who love boats and adventure; kids in high school teasing each other mercilessly and looking for friendship; a spunky, but scared girl trying to sort out mother love from mental illness. Like that.
I hope that you are scheduling your writing so that you will protect it.
Cristo Rey High School, 5218 N Broad Street | Philadelphia, PA 19141:
Kensington International Biz Hig School, 2051 E Cumberland St, Philadelphia, PA 19125/ FULL CLASS
Kimmel Youth Jazz Band, Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets/LA, CC, CP, MP,
Adaire Elementary School, 1300 E Palmer St, Philadelphia, PA 19125/LA,NF, LL, CM, AP, CP, JS
This is the pivot week, when we aim ourselves toward workshops with other schools and younger students across the city--and when I give you your last exercise to ask you to step outside your usual writing mode to find new stories. This week's prompt was meant to do that and to align our simple class ambition: to be of use, even modest use, to someone else's adventures in literacy.
When you recalled some, one, event that made a lasting impression on your education, your examples often had to do with simple actions made within important relationships with teachers: one who sat a crying first grader on her lap until the girl gained enough confidence to join the class; one who started a "girls club" after-school club that taught crucial life lessons to the daughter of a woman with mental illness; another who gave a Thesaurus to a second-grader, encouraging her to write more. What we discovered were that these are memories that can provide the structure and spine for children's stories. One line in an assembly stuck with Sam; and the self-righteousness of another assembly so divided the students that classes had to be cancelled to deal with the tumult. One student discovered the specialness of his ability to remember maps, and we discussed what one amazing skill can do in an otherwise fragile or threatened childhood. We added to this list stories that we remembered or thought remarkable--stories we wanted to read (or steal and write!) Now it is time to choose one that you've already begun to play with or dig one out of your internal story landscape and start writing. You are to bring a draft (on Docs or on paper) to Week 10 class.
[Maurice Sendak] said he was profoundly influenced by the deaths of some of his extended family members in the Holocaust. "I can't say exactly why....But I am still trying to filter through all that business in my life and turn it into art."
Barbara Gilbert, the curator of fine arts for the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles, where an exhibit about Sendak's work was held, said that Sendak moved the children's book genre beyond amusing pictures.
"Children's books were always very pretty," Gilbert said. "But Sendak wanted them to be honest."
Excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor
Week 8: Spring Break!
Week 7: March 2
Meet in groups: Boss of Lunch and Tea Time .
Room 333 Fisher-Bennett Hall. Not CPCW.
Bring your plots!
Week 6: February 24
In pairs: read each others' stories. Create a plot outline or graph. Present story to the class: For what age? Brief description of characters, plot, setting, point of view.
Workshops: scheduling. Cristo Rey, Saul, Treehouse books.
Class Doodle with available times in two- or three-hour blocks.
Types of plot
From: RhymeWeaver.com, Writer's Digest, Adventures in YA Publishing
Write five one-page story plots, including character descriptions. At least one of the stories must be for elementary, one for middle-school, and one for YA, readers.
If the one of the plots insists on your writing it, then do. Or maybe something you've been messing around with will worm its way into this assignment. Fine. Time to start bundling with your stories. Go out to the barn. Roll around with one of them, where no one can see you. You like?
Artist's date: Visit Van Pelt Library, section PZ. Schedule 45 minutes to browse, and 15 to write about the browsing, reading experience.
Week 1: January 20
In class: Building an intentional community
Who are you as a writer? What are you filtering through your life and turning into art?
Also logistics: 1/2-class times; workshop periods
Week 2: January 27
What's a story? How is a story different from an incident? Aristotle for littles. Action points. What's the problem? How does the character try to solve it? Is this a correct story for you to write? Does it matter to you? Is a child's book the only or best form in which to tell it? Why?
Out in the world: at partner organization Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut Street on Friday, January 29th, 6:30-8:30pm, meet the young photographer of A Beautiful Ghetto: A visual story by Devin Allen about Freddie Gray's Baltimore and the rise of the New Activist.
Week 3: February 3
Field trip: Slought/"A Beautiful Ghetto" with host, Dr. Aaron Levy
"Reading in the Dark"
Stories speed dating: What's the best thing about this story: Setting, idea, character, event/plot? Write it on author's sheet.
Week 4: February 10
Investigation of our individual aesthetic and obsessions. What do you NEED to write? Where do you start?
Irwin: Is there a formula for good writing?
Penn Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology: To let the art of centuries from across the globe lodge in our imaginations.
Preview of workshops with younger students; beginning scheduling and preferences. We'll figure out more on email.
Let the object form a story around itself. Play with it. Look online to find its specs or its history, if that interests you. Or go back and enjoy it some more. Then write.
Watch your process; respect it. Don't wait for Tuesday night. Tuesday night is not your friend.
After class, my friend, Hannibal Lokumbe, a composer, called, and I told him about our assignment, how I wanted to make this class an oasis for creation. His response" "Well, the great thing about creation is that you always learn." Even or especially when the project fails.
I'm intrigued by How Not to Write a Novel. Have ordered. You might be reading it soon.
Week 5: February 17
In class: Read from object lessons. Discuss process. How does this story connect with last week’s question: what do you need to write?
Read “Girl,” by Jamaica Kinkaid, and discuss the strategy of direct address.
Hmk: Re-read “Girl." Without trying to imitate her style, but noting the strength of this strategy, write a direct address story. Know your speaker and voice.
Decide to whom this story is directed.
Begin reading John Hough’s Craft of Dialogue
Let's talk about: Leo Tolstoy, The Hedgehog and Fox, John Gardiner, The Art of Fiction