Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Watermelon and Seed

I must credit Lucy Culkins with the title of this entry. Her books on teaching writing to children delve beautifully into the writing process. I have learned much to apply to my own process by the explicit modeling and examination of writing in which I engage with my students, thanks in part to Ms. Culkins' work (THE ART OF TEACHING WRITING is one I recommend - I think that's the title). "Watermelon and Seed" refers to the notion of choosing small ideas to focus in on, rather than trying to eat the whole watermelon. Of course, the metaphor breaks down a bit, since I don't want to eat the seeds, but you get the idea. A variation on this comes in the form of word limits. I recently submitted a short children's mystery to a contest. The word limit was 800 words. I found it a real challenge to maintain a sense of the mystery genre within such a short space, but it forced me to zoom in on the seed instead of the watermelon and give my story a lot more focus. Ultimately, not only did it improve the story, but I now find I have other "seed" ideas with the same character.

What are some seeds or watermelons you've encountered? Wrestling any watermelons you need help whittling to a more manageable size?

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