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When Writers Go Word Gathering

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I once told a class of eager young writers that it was important to learn to eavesdrop and gather snippets of conversation and potential writing ideas.

One boy began to frown before telling me how his parents had informed him that listening to other people's conversation was not something he should not be doing. "My parents said it was bad manners to listen to other people's conversations.' 

I pondered his words before offering a response,' Well, your parents have given you very sound advice, however writers have a special license enabling them to listen.' -It was all I had at that precise moment. I wanted him to be assured that I was not advocating eavesdropping for any kind of nefarious reason, rather it was for a very good purpose- improving our writing. He remained unconvinced it seemed.

Eavesdropping can prove a life source for any writer. Ah yes, a word whispered here, an utterance there, and all within the reach of alert ears and a pen poised to write. As …

Helping The Inexperienced Writer Harvest Ideas

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The most challenging part of writing for developing writers is often finding something to write about. This occurs because they are not practiced at harvesting ideas. They under value their thoughts, experiences and observations as potential writing fodder. As teachers we can nudge their thinking in ways that assist the inexperienced writer to place greater value on such experiences as fodder for writing.

It is therefore critical to show them how to think and act like writers. In this way they will develop behaviours that will assist them to be more watchful and aware of their world. If this happens they will be more likely to adopt writing ideas springing from their interactions.





Connect With The World - Look, Listen, Learn!

Essentially, writers need to keep their eyes open. They need to look, listen and be ready to learn. Sometimes a subject finds you. You may just happen to be walking down the street when something quite extraordinary takes place. – like the time I was travelling on t…

Teaching Student Writers To Be Keen Observers

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Writers As Observers




Writers need to develop a keen sense of observation. They learn to notice things. Teaching students to be keen observers is not only critical to their writing development, but has implications for developing their world  view; their world knowledge. A large part of writing is related to close observation of the immediate world in which the writer operates. Writers react to this world and the events that occur within it. They stand out from the rest of the population because they choose to capture and record these reactions and observations. 

If we want students to notice their world we must teach into it. We must assist them to grow as discriminating viewers. Developing a writer’s keen eye for observation will serve them well beyond just writing The more we notice, the more we chip away at our individual ignorance. The more we have to call upon when solving problems. 

Observation works best if the observer is not pre-occupied with other matters. Sometimes it requires…

Rereading Writer's Notebooks To Extract New Ideas

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I am forever rereading writing pieces from my notebooks. It is amazing how often such rereading assists me to dig up a new idea to feed my writing addiction. Virginia Woolf defines rereading as a chance to find diamonds in the dust-heap. I am definitely covered in dust and constantly looking for precious gems.

My numerous notebooks are a critical part of my reading library. The role they play in my writing life changes upon completion, but the influence is sustained. 

I am acutely aware that rereading is vitally important to me as a writer. Apart from the possibility of finding a new writing thread, I am also reliving the moment in time when I first captured a particular entry. What a buzz.

On some occasions rereading connects me with previously overlooked memories or ideas. So, apart from reading to revise or proofread, rereading for the express purpose of excavating fresh ideas is important too. This rereading is akin to rummaging through a toy box as a child and discovering a lost tre…

Slice of Life Tuesday - Coffee and The Silver Foiled Alien

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Foiled Again
Today I was sitting in my favourite coffee haunt, the Filling Station Café enjoying (not surprisingly) a coffee and some notebook jottings, amid quiet contemplation time. Two women sat opposite me having a rather public discussion about a private family matter concerning a marriage break up and child custody. An elderly man read the day’s news as he awaited salvation in the form of a cappuccino to go.


I gaze out the café window and encounter a woman leaving the hairdresser’s shop adjacent to where I am sitting. She has a towel draped across her shoulders and what appears to be a large solar panel on her head. She is a vision splendid in silver foil. Her silver-ness gleams in the feint Autumn sunlight of this somewhat cool morning.

She narrows the distance between the two shops in a flash, before opening the door and entering the coffee shop. She is an alien apparition among the coffee crowd. She orders a take-away latte then waits beside the counter, her silver headgear all …

Share Time -Critical To the Development of Student Writers

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It goes by several names. That brief few minutes at the end of the writing workshop. Sometimes it’s called ‘share time’. Some people refer to  it as ‘share out’ or simply 'share.' It’s that time at the conclusion of a lesson that all too often gets squeezed out, This is a tragedy given it represents a critical stage in the lesson. The integrity of the writing program is diminished if these important writing matters are not reviewed.

We should never underestimate the intrinsic value of ‘sharing’ writing. It remains an incredibly valuable teaching and learning opportunity. It should be protected within the workshop structure, as one would protect anything of value. For the teacher, it provides an invaluable opportunity to provide feedback on elements of the lesson just concluded. It is also an opportunity to link that day's workshop to future action the writer might consider.

Sometimes, it’s a chance to celebrate a discovery, a breakthrough, a special moment where the developi…

Post Number 700 ! -Some Beliefs About Writing Gathered Along The Way

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700th Post

This is officially my 700th post!
I launched this blog in 2008, not knowing where it would actually go. Naturally, I wanted it to provide support for teachers of writing, but it has also served to provide additional meaning and reflection around my own writing life. 

I am most pleased that it has continued to fulfill its original aim. 

As this is post number 700, I went in search of some factoids involving the number in question.

I actually love trivia, so I did it for myself as much as for my readers.

Unfortunately, 700 doesn't seem to figure largely in history, although I did uncover a couple of mathematical links. I share them with you for what they are worth.

700 is the sum of four consecutive prime numbers (167 + 173 + 179 + 181).
700 is a Harshad number which means it is divisible by the sum of its digits.

So, on this milestone occasion, I humbly share some thoughts and understandings gathered along this writing and learning journey.




These things I now know to be true about…