Friday, April 24, 2009

2 good children's resources for writing life history.

Fletcher, Ralph J. How to write your life story. Collins, New York, 2007.

This book is a great 102 pages on making your life into a good story. An engaging book in a very readable format. (Good for adults too.)

  • Myth#1 You have to be a famous celebrity
  • Myth#2 You must have an amazing life
  • Myth#3 You can't write your life story until you are old and gray
  • Myth#4 Nobody will read it so what is the point.

In answer to the above, Fletcher writes that interesting stories happen to everyone. What really is important is how well written the history is.

The book includes interviews with youth authors, Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, Kathi Appelt and how they turn life stories into books. It also includes good information about how to write well, including: finding a focus, thinking about form, the "so what?" factor, chronology, characterization, dealing with the hard stuff, and etc. Highly recommended.

Smith, Erica. Write it Down! A girls guide to keeping a journal. Rosen Central: New York, 1999.

This was a vibrant 48 page little book geared towards middle school aged girls extolling the virtues of keeping a journal. It suggests that journaling can help you keep your "brain sane" and help you look back and see how much you are learning. It can help you get through life's tough situations and give you something to confide in without being judged.

There are "Jump Start" ideas throughout the book giving hints about what to write about, such as:

  • Describe 5 great things about yourself
  • What is one memory you have from first grade?
  • Describe a typical school day.
  • Describe a typical day 15 years from now.
  • Who is your best friend?
  • What do you talk about when you are together?
  • Pick a person in your family and describe your feelings for him or her.
  • How did you view this person when you were little? How do you view him or her now?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?
  • Write about a special day you spent together with your bud.
  • If you could take a trip anywhere with your friends, where would you go? Why?
  • Describe a time when someone was really there for you. What did this person say or do that helped you?
  • Describe a time when you were disappointed by a person. Did you express your disappointment? If not, how would you do it now?
  • How are you similar to each of your parents? How are you different?
  • When was the last time you tried something new? What was it? How did it go? Would you do it again?

The book had a large focus on keeping your journal private and how to deal with it if someone invades that privacy. I also appreciated it's recommendation to talk to a real person if you needed help with certain situations such as depression, drug use, physical violence, etc.--not just bury all your feelings in a journal.

The book also recommended using your journal as a vehicle for self discovery in other ways, once you have entries to go back and read. For example:

  • Read what you wrote 6 months ago and look for some clarity about who you are and where you are going.
  • Have a friend or family write in your journal, or choose a section to read to them.
  • Re-write a story from your journal into a short story, a play or a song
  • Try explaining what you want to in pictures only, no words.
  • Jot down ideas on any topic, just random.
There were several website resources listed in the back, but I wasn't really impressed--certainly couldn't recommend them here. The booklist looked much more promising. I'll let you know when I try them out. Other than the questionable websites, this was a great book for budding teenagers. Hopefully it will help in getting a few interested in their own personal histories.

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