Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Writing With A Fire In My Hands

One of the challenges of writing a story is to be able to zone in on a small moment. And then from there to choose not just a small moment but a meaningful moment.

Writers use mentor texts to gather up ideas and to think about how to take those ideas and turn them into published pieces.

A Fire In My Hands is a collection of poetry written by Gary Soto. His poem Oranges is the most anthologized poem in contemporary literature. How's that for a fun fact?

To get students brainstorming, first show students four images: oranges, a bench, a football, a clock. Model how to make a list of ideas for each of them and give them time to write their own ideas that come to mind. 

Then read Oranges, Some Words About Time, and Manuel and the Football Scrubs and show students how one small moment can be a poem. Ask them to notice what stands out to them and then have them try some of these techniques and craft moves in their own writing. They might even have more ideas for stories to write after reading what Gary Soto wrote about in his poems.

Of course, I tried this myself and suggest you try it too! I decided to use the first few lines of Oranges to get myself started.

The Clock Tower

The first time I saw the Clock Tower
with my friend Mike, I was 18? 19?
We took off driving
rolling down the windows and turning up the music.
College kids with nothing to do, 
meandering through cornfields in my white Suzuki Sidekick.
Eventually we found ourselves in Rockford,
stopping to get gas at a station next to the Clock Tower.

I wrote about this with my 8th graders 
the morning of the attack on the Capitol.
It was January 6th, 2021.
I taught my 7th graders about the Bill of Rights that afternoon.
The next day I thought about how to show up for my students.
How to talk to them about freedom in America. 
How to talk to them about injustice and how to speak out against it.

I decided we'd write and we'd talk
and I'd give them space and hopefully hold them up.
I reminded them to enjoy the moments
to cherish the times
when they can be themselves
hang out with a friend
roll down the windows
turn up the music
go for a drive
through cornfield after cornfield
and end up at the Clock Tower in Rockford. 

Because it's moments like that
two friends
happy and spontaneous
not a care in the world
young and free
that remind us what we are fighting for 
in moments like this.

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