Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WordSmithery Week 10: Writing About Self

Welcome back to the WordSmithery! If you are brand new here, I recommend that you go back and start at the beginning. My goal with the WordSmithery is to make creative writing exciting for writers of all ages. Here's what we've covered so far:

As always, this lesson is loosely scripted. You might eliminate some things or add others as you go. As you know if you are a regular here, I try to put the "speaking" parts in regular type and the answers in italics. And remember: parents/teacher: you should be doing the assignments, too! Go back and read the first couple of lessons to find out why. Here we go! (This lesson is rather long. I'd recommend doing it in a couple of days rather than all at once.)

Week 10: Writing About Self

Up until now we have mostly been writing poetry and learning how to make exciting sentences and descriptions. Now we are going to talk about another kind of creative writing: nonfiction. What does nonfiction mean? (something that is true)

What are some types of nonfiction? (biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, newspaper articles, research papers, etc.) What about advertising? Is that a kind of writing? Would you call that fiction or nonfiction? (wait for answers and discuss)

When we think of non-fiction, we often think of writing that deals with facts, sometimes with almost nothing besides the facts. Nonfiction doesn't have to be only facts, however. You can be as creative in writing nonfiction as you are in writing fiction or poetry. In fact, writers have come up with a special category for this kind of non-fiction: creative non-fiction. You are mostly going to write about yourself, actually.

What are the first things that we need when we write? (words) Over the next few weeks I want you to be really good observers. I want to you to really look at people and places and try to form descriptive phrases in your head.

This week you are going to do a self-portrait. Back in Week 4, you wrote a poem called Self-Portrait.

You are going to really observe yourself this week, and you are going to describe yourself in writing. You are going to write more than just FACTS about yourself. More than just: my hair is black, my eyes are blue. Instead, you are going to write a creative self-portrait.

Listen to the difference between these two:

I am 12 years old. I have black hair and brown eyes. I am 5 feet tall. I like to read and hike. I like to eat pasta. My am wearing blue. My name is Kelly.

What does that tell you? (Facts about this person.)

Now listen to this.

Everyone says I look like my mother, except my mother, who says I look like my father. I suppose like most people I am a blend of both my parents, a little of my mother in the eyes (those hers are blue and mine brown) and face, and some of my father in the mouth and nose. I like to wear jeans, a sweatshirt and my hiking boots. My wear my long hair in braids. I always wear a gold cross necklace. My grandparents gave me the necklace when I was five-year-old when I visited them, and it's one of my prized possessions. My favorite meal is my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, with garlic bread and broccoli. I’d top off that meal with a creamy cheesecake and chocolate sauce.

Do you get the idea? Instead of just reporting the facts, we add interesting bits of information when we write creative nonfiction. We tell a story while we tell the facts.

Let's do a little exercise to help you get to know yourself better. You are going to work on comparing yourself today with your “old” self. Think about what you used to look like, or what you used to like to do, hobbies, beliefs, fears, preferences, etc.

Then write in this form:

I used to be…

But now I am…

I used to be…

But now I am…

For instance

I used wear glassesbut now I wear contacts.

I used to wear braces… but now my teeth are straight

I used to ride a bike… but now I drive a car.

I used to sleep with 22 stuffed animals…But now I just sleep with my bear.

(Do these until they can't think of any more.)

We’re going to do another exercise here to get you started. Here is a portrait of a person. This is a self portrait by the artist Pablo Picasso. Let’s look at this person and describe him:

Look at his hair: What does it look like? What color is it? How is it combed? Is it curly, straight? Does it look as if it needs washing? (Write as they say it)




Shape of face:

So what can you tell about this man from his face? Does he look happy? Is he scared of something? Is he mad? I think his eyes hold great sadness. (Let them talk about this for awhile.)

I’m going to give you all your writing assignment now for next week. Try to write at least 5 sentences, but write as much as you can! (Have students work on this all week.)

Nonfiction Self-Portrait Assignment, Week 10

Describe yourself in writing.

Remember to write more than just the facts. Try to use metaphors and/or similes. You might describe how you look, your favorite clothes, how you feel today, your favorite activity, etc. Try looking at yourself in a mirror while you do this assignment!

Example: My eyes are as brown as an M&M. My hair is the color of straw and feels soft as cat’s fur. My forehead is creased because I have a headache, and my eyebrows look kind of mad. When I laugh, my cheeks bunch up like crabapples or plums. I am wearing a pair of jeans that is too stiff, but my sweater is warm as an afghan. When I awoke this morning, I found that the dog had eaten my whole pack of Juicy Fruit gum, and this has made me cranky. I live in a brick house that has room for many.

Week 10 Journal Assignment: Observing Details

Day 1: Describe what you see when you look out your bedroom window. Use at least one complete sentence.

(Example: The leaves are brown and falling off the trees. The neighbor, dressed in a sweatsuit and slippers, is getting his newspaper.)

Day 2: Describe what you are wearing right now. Are you comfortable or uncomfortable? Is there an article of clothing you wish you could change?

(Example: I am wearing my oldest sweats: an old blue sweatshirt and my paint-stained gray sweatpants. The only problem is that my socks have bumps in the toes. I wish I could find the perfect pair of socks!)

Day 3: Describe your mother or father in a few short sentences.

(Example: My mother is tired this evening. She has been busy all day, packing to go on a trip. I can see by her heavy-lidded eyes that she wants nothing more than to crawl into bed.)

Day 4: Describe your dream vacation in a few short sentences.

(Example: My dream vacation would be a summertime tour through the UK and Germany. I’d like to visit castles, cathedrals, and every famous building. I would want a lot of money and my whole family with me.)

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah

    I absolutely loved your creative ideas class. It is very generous of you to share them with us all. You have inspired me to be more creative.Thanks. Looking forward to more.


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