Wow! Can You Imagine??

April 4, 2008

We have had some writing submissions to our blog! Mrs. McKissack recently wrapped up a videoconference series with Howitt Middle School in Farmingdale, New York, on Historical Fiction/ Biography Writing.  Several students have submitted some of their writing to the post entitled “pics to post, question to answer.” Boy, are they answering the question!  Thanks for sharing. . . 

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One Response to “Wow! Can You Imagine??”

  1. Pat McKissack said

    Dear Howitt Students,
    I am back home after a trip to Chicago, and I’ve had a chance to read your diary entries. Thank you for your kind comments about our video-session, but more than that, thanks for sharing your work with me. I see so much potential here and a lot of creative energy and imagination at work in your writing. Keep up the good work. I am proud of your efforts and I encourage you all to keep on writing.

    Here are a few more comments.

    MATT, for example, used strong sensory words to take his reader to Nazi Germany. I felt his character’s fear and hoped he might find safety. A real page-turner, Matt. STEVEN’s use of colloquial language added color to his Civil War entry. CECELIA’s Depression entries about a baby-sitting position were on target. Check your facts, because in 1929 the average fee for baby-sitting was more like $1.50 per week! ALEX you’ve done a good job of adding details to the Jackie Robinson entry, and same with you DAVID. Your Iwo Jima and Robinson vignettes were up close and personal. Readers like to feel like they are in the middle of the action. I felt the tension of the community in the Robinson entry. Nice use of verbs, David–action words.

    CONNER, same with your Vietnam entry. I like your details, which indicated to me, as a reader, that you had done some extensive research. Right? MELISSA, I felt the suspense on that ladder when Kristi was being pulled down–captured, and the horror of begging for her Pa’s help although it meant she was telling the enemy where her family was hiding. I am still worried about Kristi and her family. The gunshot? I’m hoping she’ll be okay–in the end, maybe? Maybe not? NIAMH you wrote a fine entry on the possibility of an escape, and JASMINE you did the same with your entry on Bangladesh. Setting up the action is a very important part of every story. You need to set up what “might be” coming next. You wrote your set-up very well.

    KYLE, your hippie response to the Vietnamese War and DEREK’s protest were similar but written from different points of view. All history is retold from a perspective. For example, a Southerner might tell about a Civil War battle in a different way than a Northern soldier who was at the same place and at the same time. Two stories with different points-of-view. The two retellings are not the same because people bring to their new experiences old ones–beliefs, ideas, habits, etc.

    JEN was one of several students who wrote about the Holocaust, but her entries about Annie and her two brothers is not like MATT’s or MILISSA’s entries, also about WW II. The point-of-views are different, so are the settings, and so is the drama surroundung each of the main characters. The one constant in all of them is the fear of the Nazis. CURTIS you did a good job of using description and setting to bring the reader into the story and so did you TOM. Be careful that you don’t give away too much information at one time, and pay close attention to the sequence of your action. For example, TOM, in one sentence you write about “digging in” to shoot at the enemy, but in the next sentence you write about “running in sand being difficult.” Now, in my opinion, you need to either dig in or run . Or if you do run, give the reader a transition. Your teacher will explain that more. STEVEN, the entry about the Beatles’s making of their Sgt. Pepper album is very well done. I lived during this time, but I learned something, too. That’s what historical fiction is about–giving life to history. You gave life to Laurence Matthews, TIMMY, and I was with that young man during the invasion of Normandy. The same applies to you, MINHAL, at the Alamo.

    A good writer has to address characters, setting, action, and idea. All of you have strengths and weaknesses in presenting your stories. But if you keep writing and sharing your work with each other, you’ll get better and better. Writers write. They don’t talk about what they’re getting ready to write. They get on with it. That is my advice to you. Keep writing. Good luck and best wishes.

    Patricia C. McKissack
    St. Louis, Missouri

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