Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shorts & Sweets:

Teaching a writer’s workshop at a Leland Street Elementary School Career Day recently, I presented the students with a rather unorthodox writing approach. The style encourages them to put their thoughts on paper as quickly as possible so they can learn to enjoy writing.
This time, after giving them a beginning sentence, I asked them to put their pens to paper for five to ten minutes without thinking about it too hard. They are not allowed to lift their pens off the paper. They must write, write, write.
I am always happy seeing what churns out, and I find out what I usually discover at any school – loads and loads of raw talent that take so many shapes and form. Here’s just one kids approach to a “writer’s warm-up.” They had the choice on this day to write starting from “I am a wolf…or “I am a shark” just to see where their pens will take them.

Here is what one child wrote in five minutes:


I am a wolf. I am slick and fast. I love to run fast around the woods
hunting my prey. I have sharp teeth. I always howl at the moon every
night. Some people fear me and some don't. They love to hunt me for my
warm fur. Still, no one can catch me. I love being a wolf.

By: Mark Gonzales
Age: 10
Grade: 5th
School: Leland Street


The other day at the Starbucks in Von’s on 25th Street, I was standing in line when I heard two high schoolers talking about reading the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Since I wrote probably a dozen stories for those books, my ears perked up.
But alas, the discussion was more about the pre-teen books – which I never wrote for. So I quit eavesdropping and went back to paying attention to my order.
“I was reading this story Firmer Ground,” one of the girls said and I believe she added that it was a good story. I swung around as though I just won the jackpot lotto and yelped: “That’s my story!”
“Wow, it’s so nice to meet a writer,” one of the girls said and we began to discuss writing. I later found out their names – Hannah Cortez and Marlene Espinoza, both 14.
I babbled on to the girls and the charming younger brother they had in tow and went on for several minutes. By the time I was through, they were ready to get out of there. They ran home and told one of their mothers!
The mother, Shari Cortez, thought she knew me. We know each other through our volunteer work. (That’s so San Pedro).
Of all the people who read the stories I wrote for Chicken Soup, the biggest fans were teenagers. They still call me. They write me and I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel – especially when they read a story like Firmer Ground about one of my high school friends who dealt drugs and died at 16.
His death was what stopped me from experimenting with drugs – and that’s why I wrote that story for teenagers – the glimmer of hope that maybe it will give them the courage to do what they want to do – not what their friends want them do. And drugs are often on that list.