For this week’s writing road trip, I journey to the Alphabet Forest.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, the Alphabet Forest is the remarkable creation of author/illustrator/innovator Debra Frasier, who through pure passion and persistence, managed to carve out an oasis for words in the midst of the consumable craziness that is the Minnesota State Fair.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the State Fair. I just don’t think of it as a place to sit quietly and muse deeply. And yet, Debra’s love of fair lettering started her on a journey that led to creating this enchanted place: in the midst of sunburn, sore feet, and stomach aches, here is a corner where there’s shade and plenty of places to sit down and people who oﬀer you fun for free. But better yet, there are words enough to stuﬀ your imagination even more than those mini donuts have already stuffed your stomach.
One year, I watched as my niece ignored every other fair oﬀering (okay, with the exception of that giant brownie) as she obsessively ﬁlled out her Fabulous Fair Alphabet Game Card. Another year, I had the pleasure of serving as author-in-residence at the Alphabet Forest for a day. I worked with oodles of kids who settled in at my table and promptly became utterly absorbed in writing or drawing. It didn’t matter that the parade was passing them by (literally!) and that there were still corndogs and cotton candy to be eaten: when given the option, their number one priority was to lose themselves in the creative act.
It reminded me, all over again, why I do what I do: giving kids the gift of words and story is like handing them the magic key to life. Even kids who think they hate reading and writing can be won over easily once you ﬁnd the right key for them. A forest full of words can beat a clutch of corndogs any day.
If you’re near Minnesota, make sure to visit the fair and be inspired with ideas for how to create an Alphabet Forest in your own classroom or dining room. If not, there are a myriad of amazing downloadable resources to help you, starting at this link and moving on from there to Debra Frasier’s website.
You’ll be mighty glad you made the journey.