My dad has a passionate hatred of olives on, in, or even in the general vicinity of his food. He’s convinced their mere presence contaminates anything else on his plate. So when he eats at his favorite small-town diner, he’s always careful to tell the server that he wants his dinner salad without the black […]
I think that what we mean when we talk about “writer’s voice” is a writer’s personality showing up on the page. It emerges through many diverse writing choices, ranging from word usage to tone to rhythm.
I’d heard my mom talk about “duck and cover”: hiding under her school desk from a potential nuclear attack. And I’d participated myself in tornado drills during my own school days, lining up in a basement hallway with our arms covering our heads. None of that prepared me for a lockdown drill. I was on […]
The only argument I’ve ever witnessed between Teenage Nephew 1 and Longtime Girl-friend was a doozy. And I couldn’t help chortling with glee because the basis of their disagreement was so close to my heart: What makes for the best possible story? Actually, the way they put it was, “What’s better, ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Harry […]
I was planning a road trip to Northern Minnesota to teach at a Young Author’s Conference and decided to include a small detour to my past: the town of Bemidji, where we lived when I was in 2nd through 5th grades. So after the conference wrapped, I spent a couple of happy days traveling down […]
You get a different view of the road behind you depending on which of your car’s mirrors you look into. And writers can direct readers to a different outlook on their story depending on which point of view they use as the “mirror” for the events that take place. I’ve found that point of view […]
A few years ago, I remember Teenage Nephew 2 pointed out (from his newly gathered storehouse of driver’s ed wisdom) that I put my hands in the wrong positions on the steering wheel. The new placement, he told me, is either 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 on the clock face, to avoid breaking […]
As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to offer you a downloadable version of one of the activities I created for my day in the Alphabet Forest: ”Make Your Own ‘Story Wheel.’” The Story Wheel I brought for my day featured State Fair elements to fit my usual suggested story-starter mix of characters, […]
Giving kids the gift of words and story is like handing them the magic key to life.
Traffic signals don’t require a single word to send a clear message. Even small children can learn how to “read” them. Red reads “stop.” Green reads “go.” Yellow reads either “slow down” or “speed up,” depending on the “character” of the driver. Even young students can also “read” wordless picture books. Because the artwork reveals […]
Story dialogue is charged with the large task of helping to tell the story: it reveals characterization, advances the plot, and provides action.
Sometimes just a town’s name is enough to entice you. Who could drive past the exit for Last Chance, Idaho—or Hell, Michigan—or Happyland, Oklahoma—without at least contemplating how your life might be changed if you took that unexpected detour? All on their own, names tell a story. That’s why I often do an online search […]
During one of my visits to see my Alabama brother’s family, we took a road trip to the Ave Maria Grotto. That’s where a Benedictine Monk named Brother Joseph Zoettl built over 125 Mini-Me versions of some of the greatest buildings of the world. Artists are often inspired by someone else’s masterpieces. But in working […]
Riding along with my dad was like going on a Midwestern safari. Even while driving, he had an amazing knack for spotting critters as they peeked out from behind trees, perched on phone poles, or slid along the roadside. He didn’t seem to pay any attention to the makes of other cars, or billboard messages, […]
A while back I was at my parents’ lake cabin with my extended family. My brother’s teenagers had all brought along friends, and on Saturday we packed everyone who fell into the “thirteen to fifteen” age range off to the late movie. As the resident night owl, I volunteered to pick up the kids when […]