Category Archives: Writing

The Many Hats of a Writer

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Raising a Writer

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago for the Utah Children’s Writers Blog:

I just got home from a ladies social where the theme for the night was vintage fashion and the girls put on a fashion show. There were vintage era dresses and hats from the late 1800’s to present day. I have never seen so many outlandish hats and froofy dresses in one room all at one time!

It made me think about all of the many hats we wear . . . just today I have been a business woman doing outreach for my agency at a charity breakfast, an office assistant, a mom cooking vegetable beef stew and checking homework, a friend, a fashion consultant for my 14 year old daughter, a napkin for my 3 year old, and now I am attempting to put on my writer’s hat, while at the same time serving as a bean bag chair for a child who will not go to bed.

With life sometimes spinning out of my control, I often feel at a loss when trying to fit in time for writing, and yet on those days that I barely have time to think, it is in the quiet moments after the kids have gone to bed (and sometimes after I have finally gotten comfortable) that the ideas start coming in like waves. It can be really irritating. Of course I never have a pen and paper handy, so while I lay there all comfy in my blankets with my pillow just so, staring at the ceiling and knowing that if I go to sleep the idea will be gone in the morning . . .

With my eclectic web of life experiences, it seems like there are always a wide variety of crazy stories bouncing around my head, from pirates on a picnic (inspired by my 5 year old) and tales from the little farm I lived on as a child to the more serious stuff of family dysfunction and teen angst, divorce, and moving to the city.

Even now as I sit here typing, Brie has pulled off one of my shoes and socks, and is asking for a glass of milk. As I get up to accommodate her, I notice that she now smells strongly of perfume and is wearing gray-blue eyeshadow on her eyebrows and lips — how long was she gone? My foot is cold and she is finally falling asleep in my lap . . .

The Story Bag – Writing Fun for all Ages

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Raising a Writer

I went to a writing workshop a long time ago when I was teaching High School English. I don’t remember who it was that presented now (it was over ten years ago!) but there is one fun activity that I have used over and over again, with myself, my kids, the writing club that I was the advisor for, my writing group . . . it turns out to be a very useful tool to get over writers block, and for brainstorming new story ideas. I have modified the activity a little over the years, but the idea is still the same. All you really need is a small notepad and a pen, or a computer, if you prefer. But you can make it even more fun with a little bag and a small object to represent each story. Here is how you do it — Get out your steno pad and your favorite number two pencil and make ten lists:

  1. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had.
  2. Make a list of all of the teachers you have ever had who were not at school or who did not carry the official title of “teacher.”
  3. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had that are animals.
  4. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had that are objects or things.
  5. Make a list of all of the strange or unusual people that you have known.
  6. Make a list of any strange or interesting creatures that you have met or seen.
  7. Make a list of all of the places where you learned something important.
  8. Make a list of all of the interesting or unusual places you have been.
  9. Make a list of any interesting problems you have faced, or any weird or uncomfortable situations you have ever found yourself in.
  10. Make a list of any interesting, quirky, accidental, brilliant, or just plain stupid ways that you or other people you know have solved problems.

Now publish list 9 to the internet with your name, address, and a photo of yourself. (Ha ha, just kidding)

If you like, you can add illustrations in the margins (this is a great excuse to doodle) Obviously some lists will be much longer than others, and some of these lists may be quite short, but each item on these lists is a story all by itself. It can get really interesting though if you choose a few from different lists, for example choose a setting from list 7; characters from lists 1, 5, and 6; a problem from list 9, and so forth.

Now, here is the next step, which is optional: get a small drawstring bag and choose a small object — a unique stone, a really small toy, a coin, a marble, slips of paper color coded for character, plot, and setting, etc. — to represent each item from these lists. Put all of these in the bag and then when you are having writers block, or just want to give yourself a fun writing experience, pull one out and write the story that goes with it. Or you can randomly pull out a few and mix it up a bit.