Slice of Life Story- Spiders Spin A Web for The Writer Within

A conversation with some young writers prompted memories of spiders. They were sharing spider stories and deciding how they might choose to write about these fascinating creatures. I told them, ‘You have got me thinking now. You know, that’s why writers need to have conversations such as this.’  It was true. My mind was  alive with possibilities. I could not wait to explore the topic of spiders in my notebook and I shared this simple truth.

Today I began to think about the common Australian Huntsman Spiders and their particular characteristics. I listed what I already knew about them in my notebook. My list included:
  • They move very quickly
  • The female lays up to 200 eggs
  • They don’t build webs
  • They have eight large, long hairy legs and flattened bodies ideal for living in narrow spaces
  • They are crab like and grow up to 15 cms. from leg to leg
  • People often refer to them as ‘tarantulas’
  • They have no qualms about entering houses and cars. They often announce their presence by scurrying across the windscreen or dashboard or just suddenly dropping from the sun visor.
  • They look scarier than they really are.
I was curious to know more before I wrote. So I began reading/researching about them. I discovered they often take over burrows discarded by cicadas. They also shed their skin. Huntsman Spiders are not aggressive and a bite usually causes inconvenience that can be treated with an ice pack, -so their physical appearance is misleading. I moved onto other spiders I knew something about and began investigating such species as the Garden Orb Weaver and the deadly Red Back Spider, both common to Australia.
By now my mind was galloping with possibilities…
The result of all this mind activity is a draft narrative about a spider called Harriet the Huntsman. We’ll see where this leads. I am indebted to the conversation I had with those young writers last week. A spark has been ignited and I am drawn to it.


  1. Thank you, thank you! My students are just embarking on a non-fiction study. They are plowing through non=fiction animal books looking for something that interests them. When they find it, they will do a bit of research and produce their own non-fiction book. Your example of spider fact listing is a wonderful example for me to share with them. Your enthusiasm will be great to share as well. Sometimes I think they get tired of my enthusiasm.

  2. Thanks for the validation that conversation is critical to developing a writing piece. My experience with many teachers shows me that they think writing starts in the head of the writer, then pen to paper. I may use a portion of your post to demonstrate the power of talk.

  3. What a powerful lesson for teachers and students! This is what blogging is all about, too--writers coming together. I get many of my ideas from other bloggers!! Thanks for reminding me of informational possibilities.

  4. Dear Alan,
    I am struck by the quality of your language. Phrases such as "[they] have no qualms about entering houses," and "they announce their presence" reveal not only a passion for the Huntsman Spiders, but also a kind of relationship. Your words humanize the Huntsman. It doesn't surprise me that your thinking led to a narrative.

    I look forward to hearing more about Harriet.

  5. Sowing the writing seeds - conversation is so vital!

  6. How are you? I've missed you since last year--so good to make you (re)acquaintance. I follow several quilt blogs from Australia, so have kept touch with all the flood news (I trust you were not impacted).

    And spiders--I try to stay away from them, but the way you chose to engage with your students was delightful reading. And personification--another approach to humanize another world.


  7. I was intrigued by both the writing and the drawing. Why do we leave the illustrative part of writing when we get past grade school? Your web of words are a perfect parallel to the ideas you are building around that spider.


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