July 19, 2016
Assignment Three has been submitted! It took nearly a month to get right. What I’m learning about writing is that good writing includes time spent thinking, wandering, reading, researching, mimicking, and also writing. Words don’t spill onto the page. Rather, they are planted, but not before looking at where the sun hits that spot in the garden throughout the day. Each word is buried carefully as a seed; if given enough space around it, it may thrive on its own. As the words grow into sentences, they need to work together. This is where the pruning and transplanting takes place. I have been moving words around, deleting words, and rearranging whole sentences to make things sound the way I intend. I’ve been trying to make random plants look like a well-planned garden, but I’m far from a master gardener at this point. There is still much to learn.
One of the mini-lessons for this assignment is to practice being clear and concise by writing how-to paragraphs for children. This got me thinking about how many things I’d like to have my children do around the house. Since I don’t feel like telling them one hundred times how to do it, I put my new skills to use by creating index cards with how-tos printed right on them. I slipped the index cards in Ziplock sandwich bags and taped them to the area where a kid might need instruction.
How To Clear The Dishwasher
Make sure the dishes are clean. Move the locking bar to the left to unlock. Open the dishwasher door. Pull out the bottom rack slowly so the wheels don’t fall off––our dishwasher is old. Remove the blue dinner plates by grasping their edges. Put them above the stove in the empty plate slots. Remove all other dishes from bottom rack and put them where they belong. Hold the handle of the silverware basket and gently jiggle it to wiggle it out. Open the silverware drawer, put each item in the spots where similar ones sit. Put the basket back in the bottom rack of the dishwasher and push the rack back. Pull the top rack out. Sometimes it sticks, but pulling it firmly can help. Take each glass out and put where the similar ones are in the cabinet next to the fridge. If there are any other bowls or dishes in top rack, find their home as well. Close the top rack and push the dishwasher door shut. You did it!
I also wrote how to instructions for washing clothes, tidying rooms, mowing lawns, stacking wood, and making breakfast. I thought the kids were going to think I was crazy, but they loved it. Each time they asked me a question about one of the instructions, I took it down to revise it with the added or clarified direction necessary. I learned a lot about how people think when they are doing something and what kinds of instructions make the doing easier.
Another part of Assignment Three was to write about a place I remember from my childhood. Library rooms, bookstores, parks, and classrooms filled my mind as I considered what I would write about. I felt like I wasn’t digging deep enough to find something I’d never written about that mattered in my life.
This course is about stretching yourself and not about getting the assignments complete. It’s nice to accomplish each assignment, but I need to know I’m learning as I go. I did some research to see just how important memories are to the building of self. In the Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky’s character Alyosha claims, “you must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If one carries many such memories into life, one is safe to the end of one’s days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may be the means of saving us. (1880)”
This quote moved me. I read it and reread it. I wrote it in my pink writing notebook. I wanted to choose a childhood memory of a place that was undeniably mine. In the end, I chose the first time I was allowed to go down to the 86th Street Subway Station by myself. I remembered it more like a circus than a transportation stop. So I wrote about it that way. I loved how it turned out and it started me thinking that writing non-fiction might be something I could do more often. When I wrote a letter to my instructor this time, I told him I wanted to consider writing some nonfiction pieces for magazines.
Writing for Magazines
As I considered magazines I’d like to write for, I reached for one of many resources provided through the Institute of Children’s Literature course. The 400-some-odd pages of the Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers 2016 is unbelievably comprehensive. It explains that writing for children is not a get-rich-quick scheme. That said, there is money to be made in writing for magazines. It’s a huge market and the more you are interested in the world and want to share it with children, the better you will be at writing nonfiction articles. I happen to have a lot of Muse magazines around my house because my mother got a subscription for our ten-year-old son. I have an idea I’ve been kicking around for quite a while and wanted to see if it would fit in Muse magazine. The more I read them, the more intrigued I got about writing articles for this magazine. It’s a lot like exploring the missing pieces of your own childhood. I wondered all the time as a kid, but I didn’t always have the tools I needed to find out real answers to my questions.
Now, as an adult writer, with the same curiosity, I can find those answers and write about them in ways that make sense for kids. This discovery about writing nonfiction is just like gardening. You can read and gather facts about gardening to learn more, but it’s in the actual gardening where you have to make sense of the sunlight, soil, and water in your particular garden.
Kimberley Moran's site
Kimberley Moran is a gifted and talented teacher and freelance writer who lives in Hampden, Maine. She has two children and one very nice husband. Kimberley would like her bio to make her sound brilliant, witty, and kind because she knows that when you write and read you get to be anyone you want to be.