How You Can Take the Pressure off Emerging and Reluctant Writers
Karen Benke | The Children’s Book Review | September 15, 2017
What Can You Write With?
I wrote RiP tHe PaGe! AdVeNtUrEs In CrEAtIvE wRiTiNg (Roost Books/ Shambhala Publications, translated into Russian and soon Korean) to take the pressure off emerging and reluctant writers. I wanted the kids I write with at The Writers Nest and, for over 20 years, in the California Poets in the Schools program, to experience themselves as authorities of their own lives. I didn’t just want to tell them that there are as many different ways to write creatively as there are people holding pens, I wanted to show them.
So I went in search of just the right book that combined wacky and wild writing experiments (“lessons” sounded too strict) and fun ways to play on and off the page with images, metaphors, similes, personification, onomatopoeia, voice, and original detail…. There’s no reason that learning to write has to be oh so series, no reason why I couldn’t play right along with a group of eight, nine, ten year-olds, exploring down the page, swinging wide the gates of poems and stories. (Note to teachers and parents: kids LOVE it when you write your own poem, story blast, or memoir sketch right along with them.) But I couldn’t find this book. I complained to my pal Norman one afternoon who finally said, “Well, I guess you’re just going to have to write it then.” So I did.
RiP tHe PaGe! allows those who interact with it a place to fool around with words, hide and seek with the alphabet, and flip nouns and verbs on their sides to see what spills out. It’s a book to practice trusting the dreaming doodling part of your brain, the depth and width of your boundless heart, a place to turn your imaginations inside out. RiP tHe PaGe! offers kids, young and older, a creative writing key in a way, to unlock made up and true life fantastic facts, using a trove of tricks and playful prompts and, yes, many ripped pages. Poet Jane Hirshfield, once a Poet in the Schools in Northern California, and one of my creative writing teachers, taught me how to spring my imagination into freedom and curiosity, so I pass this teaching forward with RTP! When I asked author of Return to Sender and the Tia Lolo Stories, Julia Alvarez, what she discovered from RiP tHe PaGe!, she said it’s “a great resource for writers of all ages—and for teachers of creative writing—who want to put the zing back in their writing.”
I adore that verb zing. So in celebration of the zing, here’s a quick writing idea any aged writer can do on the spot: start five sentences the exact same way: “I can write with….” Now pile on nouns and original detail. Allow for best-guess spelling. Keep the punctuation police faaaar. You can write with anything today, not just the usual suspects of pens, pencils, paint, chalk, Sharper markers, and purple crayons. You get to write with the sticky threads of spider webs, with spinning planets, with fast- moving clouds, with whispers and barks that are too loud, with the trill of crickets, the rumble of thunder, tunnels you crawl down, all the way under. You get the picture. You get to put anything into one sentence, rhyming or not. You decide how you want to combine what you can write with today. The sky is not the limit. Keep writing until you think you can’t write one more word, and then write one more word.
Rip, rip, rip down the page, stuff it in an envelope, and send it to a friend, asking him to tell you what he can write with today.
A RiP A-L-L tHe PAgEs Journal will be published by Roost Books/Shambhala Publications in 2018. Stay tuned. Other books in the series:
Leap Write In! Adventures to Stretch & Surprise Your One-Of-A-Kind Mind (YA) and Write Back Soon! Adventures in Letter Writing (Mass Market/Common Core approved). If you’d like a RiP tHe PaGe! play-shop to happen at your school or library, visit me at karenbenke.com Or visit my books at roostbooks.com (or internationally through Penguin Random House).
Written by Karen Benke
Publisher’s Synopsis: Here are the ideas, experiments, and inspiration to unfold your imagination and get your writing to flow off the page! This is the everything-you-need guide to spark new poems and unstick old stories, including lists of big, small, gross-out, and favorite words; adventurous and zany prompts to leap from; dares and double dares to help you mash up truths and lies into outrageous paragraphs; and letters of encouragement written directly to you from famous authors, including: Annie Barrows, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lemony Snicket, C. M. Mayo, Elizabeth Singer Hunt, Moira Egan, Gary Soto, Lucille Clifton, Avi, Betsy Franco, Carol Edgarian, Karen Cushman, Patricia Polacco, Prartho Sereno, Lewis Buzbee, and C. B. Follett.
This is your journal for inward-bound adventures—use it to write, brainstorm, explore, imagine—and even rip!
Ages 8-101+ | Publisher: Roost Books| 2010 | ISBN-13: 978-1590308127
About the Author
Karen Benke has inspired children—and even a few adults—in the art of creative writing for over twenty years as a Poet in the Schools, writing coach, and visiting author. She specializes in leading on-the-spot creative writing workshops and has been known to get even the most reluctant writer to reach for a pen. Her poetry has appeared in many anthologies and national literary journals (Ploughshares, Rattle, Hawaii Pacific Review, Poetry Daily) and her books have been featured in FamilyFun magazine, The San Francisco Book Review, Kids’ Book Review (Australia) and elsewhere. The recipient of two teaching grants from Poets & Writers and residencies from Djerassi Resident Artists Program and Hedgebrook, she runs The Writers Nest and lives north of the Golden Gate Bridge with her teenage son, magic cat Clive, and rescue dog Rasco Roon. Visit her virtually at www.karenbenke.com.
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Age Range: 8-101+
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Karen Benke, author of RiP tHe PaGe! AdVeNtUrEs In CrEAtIvE wRiTiNg, wrote What Can You Write With? (How You Can Take the Pressure off Emerging and Reluctant Writers). Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Creative Writing, Karen Benke, and Writing Tips.