First of all, I want to thank Jen and Kellee for hosting What Are You Reading at their blog, Teachmentortexts.com. I have gotten so many great recommendations from them and from participants. This week, a special shout-out to Jen for her review of Stephen King's On Writing. I have been reading this book as I have been working on my own book this week and it has helped me as a writer.
Jen has many quotes in her review that I also highlighted and marked but there is so much wisdom about writing packed into this book and, I have to say, it's not a hard book to read. I was surprised by how funny Steven King, given his penchant for horror. I loved his statement that writing is telepathy. He emphasizes that writers transmit messages and images and readers receive them. I'm looking forward to sharing the way that he describes this process with students.
Stephen King writes about a toolbox that writers must have. I especially loved how he addresses writing in the active voice. Again, I can't wait to share some of the passages (although we will have to omit a part or two because King did not write this book for elementary students, although it's funny!) to show students the difference between active and passive voice.
As a writer, Stephen King made me question how I think about plot. He writes that "Plot is, I think, the good writer's last resort and the dullard's first choice" (p. 164) and that he puts a "group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one) into some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work their way free, or manipulate them to safety." (p. 164) These ideas of creating situation and characters aren't new to me but I have to admit, as a teacher of writing, I have emphasized that students should know the resolution before they start their narratives. As a writer, I love the freedom of letting the characters figure things out and evolve but as a teacher of writing, I'm not sure about how it would look in the classroom. I think it has great potential for notebook entries, though--situations, characters, and working their way toward a solution. Hmmm.
I also read Small Like an Elephant by Jennifer Jacobson and I think it has many places for teaching students about sharing the details of place or sending telepathic messages to readers about where you are, thank you Steven King. Jacobson does an amazing job of weaving the plot into the sense of place throughout this book.
Otis and Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long are great picture books for units on imaginative fiction. Thinking a la Steven King, what if there was a tractor who had feelings and a bigger tractor came along and took over all of his work... I'm liking the "what if" concept for potentially reaching blocked writers.
I have a lot of books on my stack for the last few weeks of summer. Thank you to all of you who share your reading lives!