Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'What it Is' new favorite teaching book is what it is

This is a page from cartoonist Lynda Barry's new book What It Is. I fell in love with the collages in this book, each of which is focused around an idea for a writing exercise. The book itself is equal parts graphic novel, memoir and writing workbook; I love the way it approaches writing in a non-linear and creative manner.

I used one of her exercises in a creative writing class the other day, and asked the kids to journal on her page "what and where is your imagination?" The page itself is full of images, words and sub-thoughts, all colorfully crashing into each other. At first, it seemed to overwhelm some of the students, most of whom were used to more direct prompts-some needed a little guidance to figure out what they were "supposed" to write about. But I think her books include the kind of exercises where you look at her images and each time find something new to think about. You can repeat her prompt, and find yourself answering a different question.

I'm trying to push the edges of what these kids are used to encountering in a creative writing class, and I like using her book as a jumping off point. Like all things, creativity takes practice, and I think the kids will get there...

More info on Lynda Barry can be found here.


74red said...

That book looks very cool. I'll have to check it out. I've been using for my own personal writing prompts. Sometimes the prompts are cool, sometimes not so much. On one hand it's a good way to get motivated to write, on the other hand it's a huge time waster :] I always used to hate prompts in my creative writing classes, but now I'll take inspiration wherever I can get it.

Wandering Alice said...

I'll check plinky out. A lot of the time I make up my own prompts for the kids, or have them make them up, but it's nice to explore what else is out there. I like using prompts as idea starters-I've had a lot of stories come out of prompts and those moments when it's ok to just let your brain wander off into strange little corners and see what's there. One of my favorite prompts to give the kids (and myself) is "Ask yourself an interesting question and try to answer it." I got that one from an Eric Maisel book, and can't believe how well the kids have responded to it--such great questions! And it's a challenge for each person to define what an interesting question is.