List #3 of writing by association

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I chose WEEDS from List #2 to start my List #3. Here it is.

List #3
WEEDS
nuisance
persistent
everywhere
green
tough
summertime
honeybees
gardening
spraying

From the 30 possible writing ideas on all three lists my favorite three are: honeybees, mud, and pond.

I can imagine writing about honeybees needing those blooming weeds we like to cut down for the nectar they need to stay alive. I know I could write a poem here. But I could also get into a nonfiction story (book?) about the honeybee. After all, it’s the most important insect humans encounter and the only one that produces food that we consume.

I can imagine writing about the many qualities and uses of mud: from pigs wallowing to riverbanks swarming with butterflies to women taking mud baths for their health. Hmm. Makes me think of the days when I lived on a farm and loved watching gigantic sows wallowing in mud, the air thick with flies and the gagging odors of uneaten slops. I might prefer those butterflies on the riverbank. Maybe a butterfly story.

But I can also imagine writing about a pond: bustling community on a summer day; covered with leaves in the fall; frozen over and skated on in winter; frog croaks of promise in spring. What about a story told by a pond describing its year? Or a 4-part poem? Or I could write a nonfiction story about the role ponds play on a farm. Or maybe get into the community that lives in, above, and around a pond. Wow!

What a decision! I just can’t decide right now. Give me another day. If you have been making your own lists, you may be struggling too. I promise to post my decision tomorrow. After that it’s going to take some time before I get back with you about what I wound up writing. If it’s a poem, I’ll post it here. Otherwise, the result will probably be between my agent and me.

Writing by association

Hi everyone,

For years in my talks I’ve described how to use a method of association to help kids find things to write about. Write a single word on a piece of paper and below it make a list of nine other words and phrases you associate with it.

Choose something from the list and use it to start a second list.

When you have ten or so items on your second list, choose one of them and start a third list.

At this point, and probably in only a few minutes, you should have about 30 potential ideas to get you started writing a poem, story, or perhaps a nonfiction narrative. And it starts with one word.

I’ve decided to put this method to work. I’m going to show you what I’m doing as I do it so we can all see where it goes. Then I intend to choose an item from the total and write something inspired by it.

Try it with me if you’d like to. Who knows what might spring from the exercise. The word I’m going to use is FROG. Tomorrow I’ll post the first list. You can use FROG to make up your own.

Got more stuff to do

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I had a manuscript turned down by an editor who called me a “lovely writer.” An hour later I got a nod from a different editor (on a different proposal) saying things look promising on that one. The new book is for teachers and I’m co-writing it with Laura Robb. My part is to provide reading texts including poetry and prose. We don’t have the green light yet but I take it as a good sign when the reviewers loved it and the editor calls it “a fabulous book.”

Also yesterday Mary Jo Fresch and I moved another step closer to completing the book we’ve been working on over these past several months. We’re waiting for input from more than a dozen classroom teachers and will plug those in as they arrive. We’re not there yet but it won’t be too much longer now.

Thanks to everyone who supported our family yesterday as we paused to remember my sister. I appreciated all your notes very much.