Slice of Life Story Challenge Day 8 -Saved By A Fellow Writer

In my work assisting schools to further enhance their writing programs, I sometimes encounter problems involving young writers who are battling with how to start a piece of writing. They may have an ‘idea’ but are unsure how to begin- what words to begin with. They are looking for a way; a place to begin.
Today I found myself talking to a group of enthusiastic grade two students who were keen to commence their writing pieces. As they stood up from the floor to return to their seats to commence their writing, I realized that the spark of imagination that would fire my own writing ideas had suddenly snuffed out. The students all seemed fired up and ready to create the miracle of meaningful marks on paper.  I felt completely blank and could not conjure up a single thing to write about. I was trying to will my brain into action. Writer’s block had thrown its blanket over me.

A boy standing beside me at this critical moment said, “I’m going to write about the first time I went fishing which was Saturday with my Dad”

“Oh thank you” I said and uttered a huge sigh of relief.

The bemused child looked at me unsure what he had done.

'You just gave me a wonderful idea for my writing this morning. Like you, I’m going to write about the very first time I went fishing. Maybe we can share our stories at the end of this writing session?'
'Okay,' he said and wandered away to begin his writing piece.
Our exchange was as simple as that, but suddenly I was visited by such a strong visual image of that first fishing adventure with my uncle at Blackburn Lake and the associated thrill of catching three redfin.  I was back there again reliving the moment.

That brief exchange with a fellow writer underscored the critical nature of talking to other writers. - The free exchange of ideas. My fellow writer’s words had sparked an idea for my writing at a time when I was desperately seeking inspiration.


  1. I bet you surprised him. Kids think teachers always have the answers. It is nice to let them know, we experience the same ups and downs as writers as them.

  2. Alan, as I eat breakfast and get ready to go teach first grade, I thank you for reminding me of the importance of conversation in the writing classroom. Thanks for the booster shot.

  3. I enjoy your writing and love how you connect it to teaching. Thank you for opening my mind to new possibilities.

  4. Kids are always so surprised to find out that teachers have trouble coming with ideas also. I've begun talking through my writing process in my creative writing classroom...especially with the March challenge. They are getting used to me saying--I don't know what to write about.

    1. Deb, when we admit our fallibility we humanize ourselves in the eyes of our students. We are after all problem solvers just like them.

  5. I was just telling my husband that doing the slices, reading the slices, puts us in the mode for looking for stories all around us. I think talking is the best way to do that. So...we better arrange our classrooms where we have that conversation with each other...'I'm just sayin'

  6. I think this is why I read posts before I start writing for the day. I have a list of ideas, but that's not always what is on my mind for the moment. You never know when that one post, one phrase, one word, one idea will spark another spark. Maybe you'll share your fishing story with us.

  7. It's incredible how we can be just as inspired from kids as they are from us.

    BTW: There's a great quote from Don Murray that I often cite when I speak on the topic of conferring. I thought you might appreciate it.

    [Conferences] are not mini-lectures but the working talk of fellow writers sharing their experience with the writing process. At times, of course, they will be teacher and student, master and apprentice, if you want, but most of the time they will be remarkably close to peers, because each writer, no matter how experienced, begins again with each draft (Murray, 2004, 148).

    1. Stacey, thank you for this. It succinctly encapsulates the essence of this vital exchange between two writers.

  8. You gave that young writer such a gift, teacher to student, that the frustrations and thoughts of writers cross the barriers so that all can work together for a common goal, to write for someone. I feel so strongly that we writers are all in this together, & when we write with students, we need to share our writerly feelings with them so they will know we understand. What you described is "it"! Thanks Alan!

  9. Already today, my 2nd graders reminded me of the importance of talking. (I even sliced about it tonight.) And now this reminder that - through simply talking - we can and should be inspired by our students. I'd love to know what this kid was thinking when he wandered off to write. :)


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