Margin Notes

CRAFT STUDIO: YOU’D BE HOME NOW

Jan
13

What I was reading:

Kathleen Glasgow’s You’d Be Home Now is a beautiful story told through the eyes of Emory Ward, whose brother is addicted to drugs. The story explores a variety of topics connected to youth today, specifically addiction and identity. Interspersed throughout the story is Instagram posts called Mis_Educated. These posts become another character of the story. Here are some examples:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Moves I Noticed the Author Making:

  • through these posts, the reader also gets the chance to hear from other students in the town of Mill Haven (in the comment section) about what’s really happening and how they feel about their lives and all the messiness that comes with being a teenager.
  • These posts broaden the story from that of just the main characters
  • Posts are written as poems
  • How the hashtags used set a tone, for example #nightmare in one post and #itgetsbetter in another post
  • How the comments are not always connected to the post or to other comments, but reveal a great deal about the youth culture in Mill Haven

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Read these posts as a writer and notice the craft moves inside each post
  • Read these posts as a reader. Write about your thoughts on what you are reading.
  • Write an Instagram post that would fit with the novel you are currently reading. Add in the hashtags and comments
  • Choose one Instagram post/poem and follow the format of the writing
  • Find a poem and write the comment section to depict the youth culture in your life
  • These posts discuss notable people in Mill Haven. Write about the notable people in your city/town/community.

CRAFT STUDIO: PRIVILEGED BY KYLE KORVER

Nov
04

What I Was Reading:

In 2019 Kyle Korver wrote a first-person essay called Privileged that was published by the Player’s Tribune. In it, he describes two racialized incidents involving his teammates that led him to recognize his white privilege:

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color…I’m still in this conversation from the privilege of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice—I’m granted that privilege—based on the color of my skin.

Later in the text, Korver reflects on his responsibility to take action:

How can I—as a white man, part of this systemic problem—become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?

I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America.

I have to listen. I’ll say it again because it’s that important. I have to listen.

I have to support leaders who see racial justice as fundamental—as something that’s at the heart of nearly every major issue in our country today. And I have to support policies that do the same.

I have to do my best to recognize when to get out of the way—in order to amplify the voices of marginalized groups that so often get lost.

But maybe more than anything?

We all have to hold each other accountable.

And I think we all have to be accountable—period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Korver uses an ask-and-answer technique to introduce this section of the text. It marks a turning point between his recognition of his white privilege and his responsibility to take action.
  • He builds on his first question with two short follow-up questions that mirror the wording of the first: “…in my workplace? In my community? In this country?”. This use of repetition highlights the way each question builds on the previous one.
  • The answer to the question is organized into a list of actions. Again, Korver uses a repeated structure: “I have to…”.
  • This pattern shifts within the list from “I have to…” to we have to…”.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Read this text as a writer to notice and name other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.
  • Try the the ask-and-answer move to create a shift or introduce a new idea in your writing.
  • Find a place in your writing where you can incorporate a list of short sentences instead of a paragraph.
  • Experiment with repetition for effect in your own writing. You might also make a slight change in the pattern to draw your reader’s attention as Korver did by shifting from I to we.

Craft Studio: Letter to Someone Living Fifty Years from Now

Oct
21

What I Was Reading:

Matthew Olzmann’s poem, Letter to Someone Living Fifty Years from Now serves as a warning for everyone living on earth now. It offers a glimpse into our future, showing us the harsh realities we will face if we don’t become better stewards of our environment.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • In typical letter form, this poem addresses the imagined audience directly us “you.”
  • Phrases such as “most likely you think,” it must seem,” and “you probably doubt” give the poem an air of “I know it looks bad but…” This is an effective way of saying, without saying, that we are convincing ourselves that we’re doing ok but we’re not. As in, we may tell ourselves that we love elephants and whales, but we aren’t doing enough to protect them.
  • The repetition of “back then” is powerful because it describes our current reality—we have stars, forests, lakes, and bees—and we are taking it for granted. Olzmann is giving us a vision of where we are headed if we don’t change our ways. The final one-line stanzas makes it clear: “And then the bees were dead.”

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Read this text as a writer to notice and name other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.
  • Think of a topic and audience for your own letter to the future.
  • Explore similar texts such as this Letter to My Younger Self by Olympian Anna Cockrell or this Letter to My Future Self by skateboarder Alexis Sablone.

CRAFT STUDIO GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD

Oct
14

What I was reading:

Good Girl, Bad Blood is Holly Jackson’s much anticipated sequel to her bestseller A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. While the first book is investigating a cold case, this title works to solve a current missing person’s profile, in real time. The different text forms presented in this book make the reader feel like they are looking through a case file, not simply reading a novel. The pictures, text messages, audio clips and case notes draw the reader in, and creates a sense that  we are solving the case together.

Here are some clips of the varying text forms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What moves I noticed the author making:

  • Details like a voice being inaudible on a podcast bring a realistic element that makes the reader feel like it is a true crime story.
  • The titles of file names are matter-of-fact and end in the type of file – picture, audio etc.
  • The case notes are written to herself and include incomplete sentences to mimic quickly jotting down notes to oneself.
  • The text messages showing a series of texts left unanswered give a visual of desperation that simply narrating the scene would not have provided.

Possibilities for writers:

  • Using a floor plan, annotate events to tell a story. Give it a matter-of-fact title.
  • Create case notes for yourself on an observation – maybe one you’re making right now in class. Mimic the structure here of some short and incomplete sentences to get your point across or jump into the detail.
  • Write about how you would respond if you were sending messages without a response until you say you’d do anything and the person replies “anything?” Where does your mind go?
  • We engage in so many text forms daily. Our narratives are composed of all of these. Create a story using multiple text forms – an image, a floorplan, text messages, notes to yourself, dialogue etc.
  • As always, take your writing where it goes.

CRAFT STUDIO: ON ONE-ON-ONE

May
06

What I Was Reading:

I was excited to discover that essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib has a new column with the Paris Review called Notes on Hoops where he reflects on “the golden age of basketball movies.” Abdurraqib’s writing is always a poetic combination of personal reflection, commentary, insight, and analysis. In On One-On-One he writes about the 2000 movie Love & Basketball. He opens by addressing the reader directly:

Before any of this unfolds, I must first be honest. Before I can talk romantically about the way a basketball hoop, ornamented by a clean net, glows even as a starless nighttime empties its dark pockets over a cracked court. Before I can talk about the way when a well-worn ball begins to lose its grip it spins wildly in your palm, but is still the ball you have known and therefore you must care for, as you would an elder who whispers the secrets of past and future worlds into your ear. Before that, it must be said that you, reading this now, from whatever cavern you are riding out this ongoing symphony of storms, could beat me in a game of one-on-one if the opportunity arose.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Abdurraqib gets my attention right away. When he says, “Before any of this unfolds…” I know there is something he needs to say before he gets into his reflection on Love & Basketball, and now I’m curious.
  • By making it known that anyone reading his column could beat him in a game of one-on-one, he is being clear that, although he loves basketball, one-on-one is not his strength. Later in this paragraph Abdurraqib goes on to admit, “It is not my game and never has been, though it isn’t for lack of trying.” He wants us to know from the very beginning the experience he brings to the discussion.
  • The repetition of “Before” at the beginning of the first four sentences creates a cohesion between them—each one progresses to the next, culminating with what it is that must be said: that one-on-one isn’t his game.
  • On the way to the fourth sentence, he uses “Before I can talk about…” to give some clues about what he is eventually going to discuss. These two sentences are filled with such beautiful imagery, they can only have been written for someone who loves the game and has played it enough to develop an intimate knowledge.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Read this text as a writer to notice and name other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.
  • Use the same structure as a model for your own writing:

Before any of this __________

Before I can talk about __________

Before I can talk about __________

Before that, it must be said __________

  • Experiment with the technique of addressing the audience directly in your introduction.
  • Try out a similar form of repetition for effect.

Here’s my version:

Before any of this unfolds, I must first be honest. Before I can talk romantically about the way a cat, snuggled into a lap, purrs musically as the peaceful hush of evening takes over a busy household. Before I can talk about the way when the gentle pawing begins, even though it is an hour before your alarm is set to go off, you must still rise and fill the dishes before the meowing begins and wakes everyone. Before that, it must be said that I was once a dog person.

CRAFT STUDIO: KEEP MOVING

Apr
29

What I Was Reading: 

When poet Maggie Smith’s marriage ended after nearly 19 years, she found herself struggling to write poetry. In her words: 

When I write a poem, I don’t begin with an idea and then seek the language for it; I begin with the language and follow it where it leads me. But now I had ideas to work through, stories to tell, and I knew I would need a different kind of writing, a different container for my thoughts. (p. 3) 

She started writing a daily “note to self” and posting it on Twitter. Keep Moving is a combination of these affirmations and short, reflective personal stories. It is filled with hope, inspiration, and encouragement. 

Many of the entries are tweet-sized poems and, as I read, I couldn’t help but admire Smith’s use of punctuation, especially her use of colons. Here are 3 examples: 

  1. Instead of struggling at every roadblock, make a new way entirely. Keep and open mind: even the destination may change. (p. 50) 
  1. Think of the moon, how solitary it looks, and know that’s just a trick of perspective: the moon is not alone and neither are you. Remember how vast and star-filled your universe is, and how it continues to expand. Shine on. (p. 91) 
  1. Let go of the narratives you’ve dragged around for years: you are not who you were as a child, or in year X or on day Y—at least, not only. You do not have to fit yourself into those old, cramped stories. Be yourself, here and now. (p. 148) 

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making: 

  • Instead of using the colon to introduce a list, I like how Smith uses the colon to introduce an additional complete sentence. Unlike the semi-colon used as a connector between two closely related sentences, these colons signal that what follows is directly linked to the first sentence.  
  • In each case, the sentence following the colon builds on what preceded it, by adding further explanation and detail or by completing the thought. 

Possibilities for Writers: 

  • Read these sentences as a writer to notice other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader. 
  • Reflect on the similarities and differences between the three examples. 
  • Use one of the sentences as a model and write an example of your own. 
  • Revise a sentence in your writer’s notebook or work-in-progress by using this move to link two shorter sentences. 
  • Look for similar examples of this and other unique punctuation choices in your reading. 

Here’s my example: 

Instead of setting out to write a masterpiece, start by getting your ideas down on the page. Write with an open heart: the act of writing will lead you to what you want to say. 

CRAFT STUDIO: SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT

Mar
30

 

What I Was Reading:

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, written by Samin Nosrat and illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton, is informative, readable, and beautiful. I appreciate Nosrat’s ability to be incredibly knowledgeable and accessible at the same time and MacNaughton’s gorgeous images bring the book to life.

As I read, I noticed a number of places where Nosrat inserts an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence (yes, the middle!) as opposed to at the end. Here are three examples:

  1. If something shifts and you sense the zing!, then go ahead and add salt to the entire batch. (28)
  2. Compare this to what happens when you heat or freeze mayonnaise—it’ll break quickly!—and the magic of butter will become clear. (83)
  3. At an age when my primary goal in baking was to eat something—anything!—sweet, this was a minor problem: my brothers and I gobbled up whatever came out of the oven. (97)

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • Inserting an exclamation point into the sentence delivers energy and emphasis to the word or phrase. It adds voice by making it clear the writer is passionate about cooking and food but doesn’t take herself too seriously.
  • In sentence 1 I can practically feel and taste that “zing!” from the added salt. The use of italics makes the word seem like a sound (taste?) effect.
  • In sentence 2 the exclamation point used with the phrase “it’ll break quickly!” feels like a caution. If I try heating or freezing mayonnaise, I know what will happen, and I won’t be able to say I wasn’t warned.
  • In sentence 3 the “anything!” following “eat something” demonstrates that in her early baking days, she would have eaten bad baking rather than no baking. Anything sweet was “gobbled up.”

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Read these sentences as a writer to notice other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.
  • Reflect on the similarities and differences between the three examples. What patterns do you notice?
  • Use one of the sentences as a model and write an example of your own.
  • Revise a sentence in your writer’s notebook or work in progress by using this move to add emphasis.
  • Look for similar examples of this and other unique punctuation choices in your reading.

Here’s my example:

Imagine my surprise when I opened the front door and found my cat, Charlie—an indoor cat!—on the outside: the wrong side of the door for an indoor cat.

CRAFT STUDIO: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT IS A SPORTS DRAMA

Feb
18

What I Was Reading

In “The Queen’s Gambit” Is a Sports Drama, Manuel Betancourt draws parallels between the story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon’s triumph over the trauma of her childhood to become a world-class chess champion to sports dramas like Rocky and Friday Night Lights:

Visually, the drama finds new ways of making chess (yes, chess!) as exciting a spectator sport as anything else. Her match with Harry Beltik (Harry Melling) in that first tournament of hers is shot almost like a fencing duel, each move a calculated strike; a later speed chess matchup feels as dynamic as a squash game; while her later games in Moscow, against the best from the best from the Soviet Union, lean heavily on the pageantry of it as a spectator sport, like a soccer match being watched in hushed silence.

 What Moves I Notice the Writer Making

  • This paragraph contains only two sentences: one short and one very long. The writer definitely did not use a hamburger paragraph graphic organizer for this one!
  • The addition of “(yes, chess!)” to the first sentence addresses the reader directly, making us aware that they know we may have a hard time believing what they are going to say, but they are confident they will convince us if we read on. This small interjection adds energy and voice.
  • The second sentence contains an incredible amount of detail, but it works because of the pattern of an example from the show + an example from the world of sport + a semi-colon. Each specific scene from the show the writer has chosen to support their point is paired with a spectator sport described in a way that a fan of the sport will completely relate to.

Possibilities for Writers

  • Use this paragraph as part of a punctuation inquiry. Ask yourself what you notice about the author’s punctuation choices, what conclusions you can make, and what patterns you see emerging.
  • Model a sentence of your own after this one by incorporating semi-colons and commas.
  • Experiment with addressing the audience directly to show you have anticipated what they might say about your ideas.
  • Read this passage as a writer to notice and name interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.

 

CRAFT STUDIO: ALL THIRTEEN: THE INCREDIBLE CAVE RESCUE OF THE THAI BOYS’ SOCCER TEAM BY CHRISTINIA SOONTORNVAT

Dec
01

What I Am Reading

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat tells the harrowing tale of what happened to the Wild Boars soccer team in Mae Sai, Thailand in June 2018. It is “a unique account of the amazing Thai cave rescue told in a heart-racing, you-are-there style that blends suspense, science, and cultural insight.” (amazon)

This is how the first chapter opens:

opening paragraphs of a book

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • The use of very short paragraphs
  • The use of onomatopoeia  (tap-tap, twee!, thump…)
  • A short title that captures the mood
  • The use of “the rule of three” – in this case, three sentences that start in a similar fashion.

Possibilities for Writers:

As a shared writing activity (or a quick write), invite students to emulate this author’s craft moves…

On the _______________________________ of ____________________, it sounds like a typical Saturday morning: 

The _________________of _________________________________________.

The _________________of _________________________________________. 

The _________________of _________________________________________. 

Here is a class’s shared writing version:

In the woods in the middle of nowhere, it sounds like a typical Saturday morning: 

The crunch of leaves under your feet. 

The crack of branches as you push your way through the underbrush. 

The sharp ring of the gunshot echoing through the woods. 

Try it out!

Craft Studio: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Sep
29

What I Was Reading

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk is YA realistic fiction that tells the story of the end of Cleo’s friendship with her best friend, Layla. It is organized into alternating narratives of then and now—before the incident that ultimately ended their friendship and after as Cleo develops a plan to create new memories to replace the ones that include Layla. This novel is about self-acceptance and forgiveness and recognizing that we can be more than the sum of our mistakes.

Woodfolk’s writing is detailed, specific, and colorful. For example, this passage when Cleo meets Dolly:

“Well ain’t you a cutie,” she says. “Where’d you get all them freckles?” She moves a few of the braids that are hanging over my eyes and tucks them behind my ear, and while the gesture feels like a “correction” when my mother does it, with Dolly it feels a little like love.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • I was drawn to this short passage because it communicates so much in only a few lines. It combines “small moment,” “show don’t tell,” and “compare-contrast” in just three sentences.
  • This brief paragraph combines dialogue and descriptive detail to introduce the character Dolly. The compliment followed by the intimate gesture of fixing Cleo’s hair gives the reader the opportunity to infer how comfortable and safe Cleo feels with Dolly. She has put Cleo immediately at ease.
  • The explicit contrast between how this small gesture feels with Dolly, “like love” as opposed to a “correction” from her mother, reveals important information about both women.
  • The dialogue embedded within a paragraph invites readers to examine punctuation choices.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Create a small moment that combines dialogue and touch (or another sensory detail) to communicate something important about a character.
  • Use contrast to reveal details about two characters by showing us who they are by showing us how they are unlike each other.
  • Revise a draft in your notebook by replacing a description of a character with a demonstration.
  • Experiment with incorporating dialogue.