Sunday, March 18, 2012

Anne Lamott's Back Pocket

There are so many reasons I heart Anne Lamott.   Inspirational. Conspiratorial. Practical. Comical. Spiritual. Commiserational.   Is that last one a real word?  Well, you know what I mean.

Bird  by Bird by Anne Lamott

All of her books are worth your time, but I want to focus on one chapter from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.   "Index cards."

Isn't it fun to find out how particular writers practice their craft?   Ms. L. uses index cards to capture ideas from everyday life that sometimes evaporate if you don't have a pen and scrap of paper with which to capture them.   She keeps index cards in a flock all around her house and her car, but it's the one in her back pocket that interests me most as a writing teacher.

For those moments that you take your students to a band or chorus concert, a speaker, a play, a field trip or even to the cafeteria, the index card in the back pocket can be a fun way to capture writing outside your classroom.

In my dreams, especially now that I am teaching inside a trailer, I can hitch my classroom to a truck and drive my writers to a creative hot spot, teeming with the energy of everyday life.  

In reality, the closest place full of vibrant, teen power is the cafeteria.   The index card provides a great tool for quick, observational writing without intruding too much into their free time.   I have a class that is split by lunch, so it's a great opportunity to try out this technique.   The assignment was to create a two-sentence observation of a food item...using the old show, don't tell technique.  And no one complained.   Hmm.   A few crafty souls even worked in some figurative language into their work.   It was fun to display their work after lunch and get such a thorough, varied report from a familiar location.

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