Slice Of Life Story Challenge March 18 - Writing Under The Influence



Writing What You Read

I am acutely aware what I read influences what I write. With that thought at the front of my thoughts today, I find myself reflecting on my summer reading.

 It just so happens that during the summer I was fortunate enough to receive two poetry books as gifts and managed to find three more, I purchased myself. All in all it was a rather eclectic collection of poems, to say the least. That fact just added to the appeal.

The books were as follows:

Book of Longing, Leonard Cohen
Forever Words, Johny Cash
Jelly boots, Smelly Boots, Michael Rosen
The Everyday Poet, Edited by Deborah Alma
How To Write Poetry, Michael Rosen








Exposure to these books means poetry has been right up front in my thinking when I consider potential writing ideas. My current writer's notebook reflects this strong influence. 


American poet, Ted Kooser said,‘You should read at least one hundred poems before you write one.’ Kooser’s words are essentially about immersion. So, having spent the summer immersed in the reading of poetry, it is therefore not surprising to note my notebook is filling with lots of poetry. Even more than usual, i must admit.

This speaks volumes about the influence our reading has on our writing.

For quite some time now I have been encouraging teachers to nudge student writers to choose books that will influence the writing they have indicated they wish to do. If a young writers wishes to write memoir, it stands to reason that they are also reading memoir. Want to write poetry? - read lots of poetry. The reader must open up to possibility and hold themselves open to such influences.

Historically, a disconnect has existed in schools between what students are reading and what they are actually trying to write. In order for any literary genre to influence a writer, it must be in the frame of reference. It must stand front and centre. 

I therefore encourage young readers to consciously choose two books when considering their needs as readers. Choose one for purely recreational and interest needs, and choose a second book to inform the type of writing they wish to do right now.  This way we may succeed in narrowing the gap between intention and action. That's the plan.

Notebook Poetry  Example 1

Notebook Poetry Example 2



Comments

  1. You're right - immersion is the key... and only a true mentor text is one that emulates what you are trying to achieve. You are such a gifted writer. My favorite line this time - "...it must be in the frame of reference. It must stand front and centre." In case you aren't familiar, Heather Lattimar has a great book on this topic - Thinking Through Genre

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    1. Thank you for your kind remarks Laurie, and thank you for the reference. I shall endeavour to obtain it.

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  2. Visiting your blog is often like a mini-workshop. You share advice and titles. Your own posts are great mentor texts for bloggers. Thank you.

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    1. Terje, thank you yet again for your positive response. It is much appreciated. I'm always pleased when visitors/readers find something they feel is useful to them.

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  3. I agree with the statement about there being a disconnect between what students are reading and writing. There is some great thinking here about how to use immersion of a genre to support that writing.

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    1. Thank you Vanessa.Immersion is critical to engagement. For educators it is the part that ultimately determines a student's success. Feeling a sense of familiarity builds that essential confidence to try new things.

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  4. Curious about the Johnny Cash poetry book ...
    Kevin

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    1. An interesting book that shines a light on an aspect of his work that is sometimes lost in the discussion.
      'Clap your hands
      And shout about it
      Let the whole world hear it
      In a sweet,sweet melody.'
      Johny Cash, Let's Put It To Music

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  5. I love this post! I have heard the phrase "writing under the influence" at a conference...maybe it was Matt Glover who said it? I can't recall. But I wholeheartedly agree that what we read helps us be better writers. It's so important that we immerse our students in the genre we are asking them to write. Thanks for the reminder!
    https://aggiekesler.wordpress.com

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    1. I can't accurately recall where I first heard it, but it is such an apt phrase when talking about mentors. Interestingly I am working with Matt Glover in Adelaide in June. Looking forward to meeting him.

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  6. I have to be reminded of that myself. I don't read enough.

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    1. Self talk can be good if we listen and act upon the messages. Our reading lives are critical to the health of our writing lives. Keep feeding both Donna. I admire your honesty. There are times where we all wish we made more time for the things that matter. Quarantining a little time might be the answer. Best wishes on this.

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  7. I agree that there tends to be a disconnect in schools with what students are reading and writing.
    Good idea to have two books on hand.

    https://wordsmithing2017.wordpress.com

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    1. Thanks Heidi. I keep suggesting it to every group of teachers I meet in the hope that it may eventually impact on the writing lives of kids.

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  8. Thanks for the titles. I now have a longer "want to buy" list. If I could only choose one or two which would you recommend?
    ritadicarne.com

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    1. you have put me on the spot Rita. But I'll try to exercise my best poetry judgment and make a choice. Michael Rosen's 'What Is Poetry? because it is provides an excellent to both the reading and writing of poetry from someone who knows poetry so deeply and knows kids as well. My second choice would be 'The Everyday Poet' because it delivers such a diverse anthology of poems. Hope this helps.

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  9. I know that what you read affects how you speak and what words you are familiar with - however, I never really thought about it affecting my writing! But I suppose your vocabulary and style of speaking must come across in your writing. Thank you for bringing that into the forefront! I received David Sedaris' short stories for Christmas, and my writing has become more spunky.

    hannahshappenings.net

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    1. There you go Hannah. Spunky writing is the outflow of reading the spunky words of others. In this case, David Sedaris. May you continue feeding your writing through your reading. You are absolutely correct about vocabulary too. It's easy to pick up on the kids in class who are avid readers. You hear it in the word choices they make.

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  10. Your suggestion that book choices should includes a title for recreational reading and a title to use as a mentor text is a great recommendation. We definitely need to teach our kids how to look for those mentor texts and empower them to make those choices.

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    1. Mentor texts are meant to have an impact, otherwise they are not doing their intended job of influencing. We, as educators need to nudge learners and ourselves to use these texts and authors in ways that impact the quality of writing. Hopefully by more closely aligning our text choices to the writing we wish to do, we might just get to where we want to be with writing. Thanks for your kind comments in relation to this issue.

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  11. What a great title you have for your post, Alan. I found your blog on the poetry newspaper and thought this would be an interesting read. I was right. I have been reading constantly and it makes sense that if we want students to write that they read so they can emulate writers.

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  12. Thanks for the feedback Carol. Always appreciated. It is critical we assist young writers, poets to close the gap between intention and action.

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