Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where do You Get Your Ideas: Options for the Writing Studio

In your writing studio, there are always going to be those days when (or those kids for whom) "I don't have anything to write about" is the song of the day.

Because I personally know how helpful it is choose a photo from my iPhoto as a writing prompt, I will have a basket full of pictures cut from magazines and catalogs for students to choose from if they need a visual prompt.

I will share the strategy of picking a random word from the dictionary as a way to get the writing ideas flowing.

And I will introduce these two resources:

StoryWorld: Quests and Adventures: Create-A-Story
by John and Caitlin Matthews
Templar Books (Candlewick Press), 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

This is one set of cards in a series that includes cards that help you write a story that has fairy magic, is a legend of the sea, or is set in a haunted house. There is also a basic storytelling box.

Each card has an illustration of a character, a setting, a creature, or a prop on the front. On the back is a bit of information about the front of the card, and some open-ended questions to get the writer or storyteller thinking and imagining. The set comes with an instruction booklet that emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to use the cards. They can be used by one person or a group; they can be used one at a time, or in combination; they can be used for acting, as well as for writing...the possibilities are endless.

The Scary Places Map Book: Seven Terrifying Tours
by B.G. Hennessy
illustrated by Erwin Madrid
Candlewick Press, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Each of the seven terrifying tours in this book (The Ghostly Galleon Cruise of the Seven Seas, Land of the Mythical Monsters, Roundup of the Western Terror-tories, Tour of the Wicked Woods and Witchfield Village, Trip Through Transylvania, Sleepwalking Tour of Nightmare House, and Museum of Haunted Objects) begins with some information about the setting and directions for the tour.

There is a labeled cut-away diagram of the Ghostly Galleon to go with the Ghostly Galleon Cruise, and the maps for the Sleepwalking Tour of Nightmare House and the Museum of Haunted Objects are labeled cut-aways of the house and museum. Every map is gridded with numbers and letters around the edges, and of course, they each have a map key, including a scale that matches the map (1/2 Hercules Strides for the Land of Mythical Monsters map). Here is a sample of the directions from the Land of Mythical Monsters:

  • Begin the tour at Athena's Temple (E3). Look for the peak of Mount Olympus to the west (G4, H4).
  • Follow the footpath from Athena's temple southwest for 3 Hercules strides to Heras Secret Garden (J3).
  • Then travel east 2 Hercules strides for a stop at the Stables of King Augeas, site of Hercules's big cleanup (G2). Then head southeast 1 1/2 Hercules strides to Nemea (E1). Watch for the famous lion.
Even if a writer did not want to tell the story of the tour in the book, each of the maps gives him/her a rich setting with which to begin a story...or a mentor text for their own imaginative maps and tours!

Hopefully these two resources will help some of our writers get "unstuck" this year!

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