Elkhart County brought the best to their Young Authors’ Conference when my children were in elementary school. It was always held on a Saturday and parents attended with their children. The young authors would share their books and stories they had written during workshop, although it was not called that then. The authors would hold a session for the young writers and their parents. Looking back I saw some great authors especially for a mostly unknown northern Indiana county. Tomie DePaoli, Steven Kellogg, Gail Gibbons, and Johanna Hurwitz were a few author celebrities that enchanted their audience. I still pass on their stories and writing tips to students in classes that I’m in. I realize that I have been influenced by what I gained from their hour session over 22 years ago.
Johanna Hurwitz shared how she watched life around her and recorded anything she thought was interesting but often ordinary in a notebook. Johanna told the story of walking into a restroom and noticing a woman getting ready to wash her hands. The woman had a sparkling and probably expensive ring on her finger. The woman carefully slid her ring off and put it between her front teeth with the stone facing out. She then proceeded to wash her hands throughly with soap and water. The hands were then dried for what seemed a long time. She reached up and grabbed the ring from her teeth and carefully slid it on her finger. Carefully the woman adjusted the ring on her finger, took a look to see if the stone was facing out. I suspect the woman admired the light reflecting off the stone. Johanna didn’t know how she would use this in a story but she had never seen anyone do that. It was interesting enough to make it to her writer’s notebook. Later as she was writing one of the sequels to Class Clown she came across her entry in her notebook. One of her main characters was a girl, Cricket Kauffman. Cricket was a model student who usually had no problem pleasing her classroom teacher. She didn’t get into too much mischief at home. These characteristics annoyed her fellow classmate, Lucas Cott, who always seemed to be in some kind of mischief at home and school. Cricket was wanting a rather expensive birthstone ring from her parents. After convincing her parents that she would be very responsible her parents finally bought her the ring. Oh Cricket was proud of that ring and I sure she enjoyed looking at it glisten on her finger. One day Cricket was in the restroom. She carefully took her ring off and put it in between her teeth so she wouldn’t damage the ring with the harsh soap. As she was washing her hands…gulp…uh-oh…Cricket accidently swallowed her ring. OH NO! That is how Johanna uses her collection of interesting observations from her notebook in a story. It took me a long time but I do now write down interesting observations and conversations I notice. Sometimes my observations are on a back of a receipt, envelope or stray paper that is found in the corners of my purse. I’m making progress in this writing world word by word.
Johanna also kept her writing notebook on her night stand in case she would awaken in the wee hours of a morning with a writing idea. She was afraid she would “lose” the idea if she didn’t get it down on paper before falling asleep again.
Possibly tomorrow: Some samples of my collecting