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Reviewing The Role of My Writer's Notebook

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I feel a compelling need to revisit notions of what it means to use a writer’s notebook as a writing tool. Firstly, I understand, not every writer has a notebook in the traditional sense, but many do. I am one of the many. My relationship with writer’s notebooks winds all the way back to September, 1983. Across the intervening years, my notebooks have been various. I have an extensive collections of notebooks. Notebooks documenting my journey as a writer across more than three decades provide a rich paper trail from which I am able to mine some writing wisdom.


Mu notebooks have evolved over time with respect to shape, form, and content. However, there are elements of that notebook/writer relationship which have remained consistently unchanged. Each notebook has been sturdy in its design. All my notebooks have had strong spines and hardy covers. Most have had ruled lines, but occasionally I have consciously chosen a new notebook with totally blank pages. I enjoy the variety such decisio…

Helping Young Writers Understand The Significance of Details

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When I ask young writers what they understand by the term 'add details' they frequently respond with, 'We have to add more describing words.'

Some actually tell me that it means they need to add some adjectives. Such misconceptions sell the role of 'detail' so short. As a consequence, this becomes the only strategy these developing writers have to address the important issue of detail. The result is often a piece of writing drowning in flowery, somewhat clunky adjectives.  A kind of adjective pile up. Adjectives are like fat. We need to learn to consume them sparingly!

Irecall how my teachers frequently glided by as we were engaged in writing and following a cursory glance at our assembled words uttered the phrase - ‘You need to add more detail.’ These words were delivered while waving a floppy finger above the page. They would then move onto the next writer before there was any chance to ask a follow up question. We were left to ponder the deeper meaning of ‘det…

Writing A Flash Draft

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Flash Drafts Sometimes writing becomes complicated when inexperienced writers are asked to over plan, or over think their writing. Frequently they end up overwhelmed by the imposed requirements.
On other occasions teachers may note that the volume of writing a student produces is minimal. This is where the strategy of Flash drafts may assist the inexperienced writer to deal with such issues.
Let's face it, sometimes the writer just need to 'write.' There exists within them an overwhelming urge to get their words and ideas onto paper before they fly away. Overplanning can kill the urgency to write dead in its tracks. Insistence on the use of graphic organizers can also kill the joy. Flash drafts get young writers closer to the act of writing -and it gets them there much quicker. 
The Flash draft enables the writer to have a greater sense of control over the writing elements, as it involves one specific character and one particular event and it all the action takes place in a si…

Helping Kids Write Reflective Memoir Pieces

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During my recent visit to Adelaide I had some planning conversations with teachers around writing memoir as opposed to autobiography. Those conversations prompted this post...

Here are some thoughts and ideas I hope will support those writers interested in delving into writing memoir pieces.


What is a MEMOIR?  Memories just may be the most important possession any writer has.  They shape what we write. When we write from our own experience it often provides the writing with greater authority and accuracy. We want more than tedious recounts of trivial events. Memoir involves exploration of memories whether recent or older. it is at the intersection of heart and mind. It should help the writer discover more about themselves.

 You need to connect yourself with your own unique history.  When you explore memories in your writing, pay attention to the feelings connected to it.  Exploring a memory includes looking into not only what happened but also how it affected you then, and how it affects …

Writing In The Territory

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For the last two weeks I have been working with schools in Australia’s Northern Territory. I have had the pleasure of meeting enthusiastic young writers and their equally enthusiastic teachers.

 From Darwin I have been able to visit schools close to the city such as Wagaman Primary School where I worked to 23 teachers from a collection of schools. Pre-briefing sessions were followed by classroom demonstrations and then debriefings. A day of rich writing conversations.

When it comes to writer's notebooks in the classroom, teachers and kids need to reach an agreed understanding - the notebook requires regular feeding in order to remain healthy. The writer must collect a large quantity of material and it needs to be varied in nature.
From the city of Darwin I travelled east to join over four hundred young writers at Taminmin College, Humpty Do for the ‘Big Writing Day Out’ where I had the pleasure of launching their quest for writing ideas and discussing potential ideas in this large op…

Slice of Life Tuesday- Teachers,Tell Your Stories

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In recent days I have been pondering the art of storytelling...

A continuing narrative of my work in schools is to promote the idea of writers as storytellers. I have always been a person who has enjoyed sharing stories and jokes, whether from first hand experience, or relating stories gifted across a lifetime.

I always encourage developing writers to tell their stories too. It is a rehearsal tool for the inexperienced writer. Telling their stories before they write not only eliminates the notion of cold starts' it frequently results in a much enhanced end product.

Often a writer's story may be told many times before it emerges as written words. I often tell my stories many times before I commit them to the pages of my notebook.  It is in the telling that the story and the words are refined. The reader benefits from the repeated tellings. Each of us has stories unique to our experience. It is folly not to see value in sharing them.

I once had a student comment about a story her cl…

Book Making With Our Youngest Writers

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In recent weeks I have been working with a group of young writers and their teachers at Crib Point Primary School. Writers in their first year of primary school in fact. They are taking important first steps on a long and hopefully, fulfilling journey as writers. 



These young writers choose their own ideas, decide what will go on each page, make changes, reread the text and ultimately decides when the writing is finished and is ready for sharing. They are making books that look and sound like the books teachers are reading to them every day. Books written by trusted authors. The multiple pages created during writing workshop help these inexperienced writer build stamina for the act of writing. How good is that?

It has been most instructive to watch them embrace this learning opportunity. Their boundless enthusiasm for the task of creating their own books has been a revelation not just for me, but more importantly, their teachers.

Each visit they greet me with news of their creative outpu…

Slice of Life Tuesday: Confronting The Blank Page

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I have been hearing a lot about writer's block and the challenge of the blank page in my recent discussions in schools and it set me to thinking...

Writers, experienced and inexperienced all face the challenge of the blank page. So let's approach the writing we choose to do with a can-do attitude. The blank page is the very reason the rehearsal of our 'first' or opening words is so vitally important. 
When we rehearse those initial words, we turn up to the party bearing gifts! We bring with us a string of words to launch our writing. Words ready to splash across the page. Words to get things going. These rehearsed words provide momentum. 
I very much enjoy rehearsing my words. There exists in my head a rich world of words and ideas. They entertain me and prepare me for the writing that follows. This is pre-writing. This is the build up. I consider this a vital part of  the writing process; something to share with student writers, so they can prepare their words too.
To hel…