SOLSC #6: Power of Words

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Oh my goodness, I don’t know where to begin…today, the sixth grade Humanities classes had the opportunity to work more closely with Newbery Award winning author, Jack Gantos.

A plethora of writing advice was shared with the overarching message that we are all writers “full of really good stories.” For too long, Gantos believed writing had to be profound and found himself paralyzed trying to write something of significance.

This confession resonated with me personally as I am often plagued with the notion that my writing needs to be worthy of attention, thus I fret over every word and question my choices, often getting nowhere.

Self-doubt,
Whispers in my ear
Shrouded in insecurity 
Trampling my confidence and obstructing forward progress.

Gantos impressed upon the students that they can battle such insecurities with good writing practices:

  • Buy and keep a journal. This is your narcissistic tool as it wields the power of YOU. YOU are the main character. YOU are the hero. YOU win all the arguments. It is all about YOU!
  • Create a MAP. This map should reflect your house or neighborhood and the surrounding perimeter. The drawing causes the stories to float around in your mind, nourishing ideas.
  • Engage in DISCIPLINED WRITING. Write every day for 10-15 minutes. Write to capture the story – a little blast every day. Don’t worry about getting messy at this stage. Gantos reassures us it is a good mess.
  • Engage in FOCUSED REWRITES. This is where you, the writer, focus on making a good story, better.
    • Reread your story and add a layer of EMOTION.
    • Reread your story and make sure all the ELEMENTS OF WRITING have been included:
      • CHARACTERS: Add dialogue to bring the characters center stage. Be sure the main character changes from beginning to end.
      • SETTING: Bring the place the story happens to life. Help the reader visualize the where.
      • PROBLEM/SITUATION: Be sure you have stated the problem.
      • ACTION/PLOT: Start with the smallest problem and build to the largest issue. Think of your plot as a set of stairs.
      • CRISIS: Magnify this moment – slow it down and expand it. Let the reader experience the crisis alongside the character.
      • RESOLUTION: How was the problem solved?
      • PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL END: What happened and what was the lesson learned?
    • TIGHTEN LANGUAGE: Focus on strong verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Your language needs to be precise and evoke emotion.

Gantos’ final gift to his young audience…

“Good writing practices lead to good writing. Good writing leads to confidence, and confidence feeds motivation.”

A small confession…

At the end of the lesson, I asked Mr. Gantos’ permission to take a photo of his journal. As I snapped the photos, I found myself overwhelmed with awe. Writing is so powerful. Words have the ability to change lives, and here I was intruding on the words of a Newbery Award winning author.

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As I grappled with my emotions, the school librarian asked if I would like my photo taken with Mr. Jack Gantos. I readily accepted (this is atypical, as I usually dodge photos at all costs) and was overcome with the opportunity to share a moment with an honored author.  I was indeed starstruck. 

What a fabulous day! I look forward to watching my students become authors.

Brace yourself kids, I am excited, and you know what that means!

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SOLSC #4: Dear Students

Jack Gantos

Dearest Students,

This morning a generous gift was presented to you. Newbery Award winning author, Jack Gantos, spoke to you about the power of language.

As budding authors, my hope is that you received this gift with gentle hands and gratitude and will handle it with care – appreciating its value until it is worn well with love and care.

Please allow me to open your gift and reveal the splendor of the wise words (paraphrased to a degree) of Jack Gantos…

“READ! As a reader you become 50% of the text. You become the fabric of the book.”

“Reading creates flexibility – you become elastic as you experience the text alongside the characters – it readies you for writing.”

“Language is elastic, manipulate it, twist and stretch it, use it like a yo-yo.”

“You know how you become tired of your writing after 3-4 drafts? Forget about a few drafts, you’re going to revise over a 100 times (This is my personal favorite.)!”

“Focus on the rewrites, they are one of the great joys of writing. You should be able to close your eyes and see the entire story play out in your mind.”

“There are only three things you need to know about writing: content, structure and rewrites. What are you writing about? How are you going to organize your thoughts? How can you make it better?”

“Use dialogue to bring your characters center stage. Dialogue gives your story a 3D effect.”

Accept Mr. Gantos’s gift of wisdom and use it wisely in your writing. I look forward to enveloping myself in the fabric of your writing.

Yours in words,

Mrs. P 🙂