The rain poured from the clouds, puddling everywhere I walked and leaving a chill. I ducked from car door to store awning as I gathered the last of my required supplies, pulling my raincoat tighter around me in the cold, damp air. Normally, I might complain about such weather, but Saturday it was perfect. Perfect because I was going to be inside writing with eight other writers, curled up in the warmth and comfort of The Gathering Place with our journals, writing our stories.
Eight students from Northside Intermediate School sat down with mentors and teachers around the tables at The Gathering Place to tell their stories. Outside, the chill rain pelted the windows, but inside the air was warm—electrified by the ideas and enthusiasm of this years’ group of young authors. We started the day talking about writing and how authors can paint pictures in a reader’s mind simply by using the right verbs and nouns.
Then we talked about writing for the senses. We looked at The Old Man and the Sea for inspiration on helping our readers taste, feel and smell the story. And we talked about plot, and played a game of guess the story from the plot. What famous story do you know about a friend talking another into trying a new food?
One mentor completed a writing exercise about her grandmother’s kitchen, and suddenly the room filled with the aroma of baking bread. Another mentor took the point of view of a pencil, and wrote about the pencil sharpener—the taste of lead and the smell of the wood shavings. One student wrote about her house and being able to smell her mom cooking dinner. Another talked about going on a picnic and the feel of sticky peanut butter on the roof of her mouth. One student wrote about the backyard and the not-so-great aroma of her wet dog. One writer gave us the image of a nose pressing against a screen.
We wrote about characters—from sisters and brothers to pencils to pets. We covered every kind of character, thinking about what it sounds like, what it loves, and what it is scared of. One student was even brave enough to write about herself. The pencil was “scratchy”; it loved to write, but it was scared of the pencil sharpener. By the end of our session, I think everybody empathized with the pencil. One canine character friend was scared of raccoons, and indeed there was a story behind that. Another canine friend loved to catch balls.
Our authors met their high school artist, and within minutes, the stories of these young writers began appear on the pages of the sketch books. The mentors stood back and let the high school students draw out the stories of these young authors, literally and figuratively, and it was amazing.
This group will gather again next week and characters will begin to interact in writing and in pictures. Places will become real and recognizable. The stories will begin to get a coat of polish—grammar and spelling corrected, paragraphs organized and page breaks set. In four Saturdays these students and student artists will have created illustrated books that will be published, printed and cataloged in the local libraries. No simple feat, for anyone, but a great thing to do on a rainy day.
© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.