Slice of Life Story Challenge March 2 -Writers Must Be Risk Takers

Writers Must Be Risk Takers


My current writer's notebook

For as long as I can recall, I have been urging young writers and their teachers to embrace the notion of becoming brave writers. Writers, who are not afraid to venture into new territories with their writing, -willing to experiment and engage in some risk taking. I want developing student writers to be willing to try new and unfamiliar words in their writing. I encourage them to explore different genres and styles. I want them to walk with the literary giants they so admire.  

For this reason, I too, must demonstrate all that I advocate. I must be brave and fearless as a writer. If I want others to be brave, then I too must venture beyond the safe zone and occasionally lose sight of the harbour. 

Listing things Dad's say when they get angry

Last week, I was sharing the contents of my latest writer’s notebook with a group of young writers (Grade 3 and 4 students) at Sorrento Primary School. I have history with these students. We have shared writing stories for the past couple of years.

A poem that asks questions
A poem based on a taxi driver I once met



I was explaining that this current notebook contained evidence of me trying something new. Trying something which, throughout my writing life, I have been less confident about doing. If you were to peruse my notebooks across the 34 years I have been compiling them, you would find a somewhat spasmodic and rudimentary commitment to drawing and illustrating.   ‘I am confident with words.’ I told them. ‘But I have never been as confident with illustrating, so I am trying to include more drawing into my writing.’

Food news, fake news poem

I explained how I had actually gone out and bought some special pens and pencils in order to support my efforts to try this new idea. I told them I was beginning to make discoveries and enjoy this new feature to my writing. Mostly, I have been linking these drawings to my poetry. I have no pretensions to becoming an illustrator, but I am less sweaty palmed about it as a result. I now feel I am walking the walk with respect to being brave and fearless. That’s a great feeling.
Obediah Dodd whose eating habits were odd

‘Just like you, I am trying to be a brave writer.’  They were gentle with me. Appreciating my humble efforts. This has emboldened me to continue with this new challenge. Hopefully, they too will be emboldened to step outside their respective comfort zones. 

Thoughts on the notion of bad hair days

Fish facts


Illustration to accompany writing about silence.






Comments

  1. Not only were your brave enough to share with children, now you've bravely shared with us! How brave to push yourself to be a draw-er (as I love hearing kinders say) and step into the disequilibrium that I think students experience every day. I love how your silence picture is soooo silent. Keep drawing, Alan!

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    1. Thank you Lisa. Your kind remarks and observations provide the kind of emotional sustenance to persist. We try, we learn, we grow.

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  2. I loved peeking into your notebook and experiencing your writing and illustrations together. I remember your poem "Food News" from a past post and so enjoyed seeing your accompanying drawing now. Thanks for modeling bravery. Perhaps I'll try tucking some drawings into my notebook this month...

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    1. Good for you Molly. Tuck in those illustrative efforts. glad you enjoyed the Food News poem with the extension of the drawing.

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  3. ‘Just like you, I am trying to be a brave writer.’ How powerful those words are for young writers to hear! We foster bravery when we practice it, don't you think? Yes, I agree with Lisa - keep drawing, Alan!

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    1. As you so correctly state Tara, we foster bravery when we practice it ourselves.

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  4. I love how you share the pages with the students to encourage them to live a writerly life! Stretching yourself in places where you are uncomfortable is such a perfect illustration on how to become a better writer/illustrator. Beautiful words and beautiful illustrations. Keep going!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Michelle. As we know, writing is about problem solving. Allowing young writers to see how you go about the various tasks that come with being a writer gives them the confidence to try new things.

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  5. You really walk the walk and I love the line ‘Just like you, I am trying to be a brave writer.’ Many of my third graders are slicing alongside me and it really does help to build credibility by sharing my own struggles as a writer. We are starting a poetry unit next week and I wonder if you would be available to Skype with us?

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    1. Sharing your own struggles as a writer demonstrates clearly exactly what it means to be a writer. We make learning visible and more attainable for them. I am happy to participate in your poetry unit via Skype if something can be arranged and times can be co-ordinated. There are gaps in my week except for Wednesday and Friday. Let me know what you envisage.

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  6. Oh, my... well, maybe. If we started Slice of Life and didn't believe we were writers, but now we do, maybe, just maybe, we could add on drawing until we could say, I am an illustrator... Maybe

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    1. Ah Diane, you are beginning to dream and speculate and wonder. All such wonderful things to do. How illustrative is that of a curious learner?

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  7. I am still not able to say aloud "I am a teacher and a writer" in the same sentence. But, I'm trying to do a better job at living into my writing identity. I have been collecting journals for about 12 years now, using my summers to write daily for hours at a time. Still, I consider myself a teacher first. I know it is silly to think I can't be both. But the courage it takes to say it out loud and do it daily is my goal. Thanks for writing about your illustrator identity today. I know our brains can always continue to grow and change with push and persistence. Go Allen!

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    1. It is imperative they grow ourselves and encourage others to grow their writing identities. From what you have told me here you are clearly a teacher who writes. We can assume more than one identity, just as we can also combine them at times. They say if you are a teacher who writes, it is easier to be a writer who teaches. May you continue to grow in both orbits of your life.

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  8. I love what you've accomplished, and know that your students will now be empowered to do their own kind of drawing. We often sketch-journaled with our writing, and to keep doing that practice helped each improve, just like the practice with words. I'm glad you shared!

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    1. Thank you for your supportive response Linda. It is certainly about empowerment as you have noted. - of ourselves and those with whom we work and teach.

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  9. You are an artist! And you are brave! I bet those students think of your lessons and notebooks when they begin to tackle something new.

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    1. Thanks Elsie. I hope they do think. so much of the work we do is about the gentle nudging we do in order to encourage a vision of possibilities.

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  10. >to embrace the notion of becoming brave writers.<

    I love this mindset! We actually talked in an assembly today about being brave and taking chances, exactly what we'd expect our writers to do! Yesterday, I changed my mind, wanting all my students to blog during the challenge! I quickly lost the "favorite teacher" status because, "I hate writing". But the challenge is still there, and many, the second day, have embraced that challenge, which is exactly what we want them to do! I showed them my blog and saw a few faces say, "If he can do this, I certainly can!"


    We just keep pushing, modeling, and eventually, they'll follow! :)

    Thanks for sharing and happy writing!

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    1. Thank you Darin for your reflective comments. You're right, we are joining them on a learning journey and constantly providing gentle urging and encouragement to try new and different things, Things we must also try.

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  11. I am trying to be a brave notebooker by doing my best to keep one and share this month in a few slices. Hoping it will hold me accountable! But I do not draw - I wish I could.

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    1. This month long challenge certainly makes each of us accountable and provides an implied discipline to our writing Leigh Anne. More power to you as you strive to be a brave notebooker. A most admirable objective.

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  12. Brave indeed! I love your drawings - I have wanted to do this but have not taken the step. I have a drawing notebook and my writing journals. At least for now they are two separate items. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Joanne. I appreciate your encouragement for my humble illustrating efforts. Maybe in time you will be able to blur the lines between your various notebooks and journals.

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  13. Love it, Alan! I've been venturing into sketching off and on... time seems to be my biggest problem. I find myself thinking in the same ways to illustrate as I do to write. Thanks for pushing me to do more with your post.

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    1. Thanks Alice. Must admit I have been able to take additional time this year having dramatically scaled back my work in schools. Hope you arrive at a suitable merging of possibilities for your writing and illustrating in the not too distant future- time permitting of course.

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  14. Thanks for walking the walk. It inspires me as a writer and a teacher to see a peek insides your notebook--and after having written my first post yesterday about lists and writing identities, I was delighted to see lists included in your notebook. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Maybe I'll be brave enough to share my notebook too.

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    1. Hope the sharing of your notebook becomes a reality Meghan. Sometimes we gain a little of the necessary push to take us to a new place of discovery. If my sharing does this, I will be well pleased.

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