"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Recent Reads: Writing Radar by Jack Gantos

I often think of my grown children when reading books for my students, my Schneider Family Book Award work, or for this blog, and I find myself lamenting that the books have come too late for them to enjoy. Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos is one of those books. It actually made me puff out my cheeks in frustration that it was not published fifteen years earlier so that my children could have benefited from it. 

Writing Radar is a tour-de-force of writing advice from a master of writing. Stories, interspersed with advice, make Writing Radar an engaging and informative reading experience. The art of storytelling is clearly something Jack learned at an early age: 
To help readers hone in on Jack's great advice, boxes with his writing tips are paired with his illustrations to produce perfect nuggets of knowledge for writers.
Here's Jack giving a sneak peak:
Writing is obviously something Jack himself enjoys and in his hands it becomes an energetic and interactive experience. Just look that these chapter headings.
Students will thoroughly enjoy Jack's own journal examples and be eager to get journaling themselves. 

Sometimes a picture IS worth a thousand words. Practical knowledge comes is layer cake form!
And a little insight into Jack:

To get aspiring writers started, Jack overs a few writing exercises at the end of the book.
During the early launch of the book, I was invited to a dinner with Jack. We share a history of living in the same area of Boston, in fact Jack lived next door to my childhood home at one point. We shared stories of the neighborhood and when I lamented having to say goodbye to the home I had known for fifty years, Jack encouraged me to begin writing those stories down. 
While talking about Writing Radar, it became apparent that I could use this book to both model its value for my students AND begin my own writing journey. With this inspiration I traveled with Writing radar for the remainder of the summer. 

I brought the book out to the Boston Harbor Islands with me and focused on the sights and sounds and smells.

I read it on the T and let snippets of conversation seep into my subconscious, the conversational lilt becoming a soundtrack for my journey.

When I was in Switzerland, I used my writing radar to look and listen and to savor the stories happening around me.

I came home, finished book in hand, and started to cautiously write in the notebook. I started slowly with a list of stories that came to mind.

I tentatively sketched part of a story to remind myself why I wanted to tell it and how important the physical surroundings are to the story.
I opened my laptop and began to write in a few quick memories, broad brushstrokes to return to at a later time. There was the time that I fell down the stairs so many times, the workers threatened to quit working on the house. My mother says I was about two and a half or three.

Fast forward fifteen years, and I am across the street at my friend's house and need to let my parents know where I am. I call home hoping that Mr. Wheeler will answer the phone and leave a note for my parents. Two things to note here, first, there were no answering machines in those days. Second, Mr. Wheeler came with the house, a package deal, it was like getting a built in grandfather, but that's another story...

I plan to share all of this with my students to show them that we all have stories, we just have to snoop them out...to listen to our lives. 

This is one for the bookshelves.
Get your students writing with Writing Radar

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