You Know You’re a Writer When…

Many people who write are hesitant to call themselves “writers.” There are various reasons for this. “I haven’t been published;” “I just write for myself;” “I write, but I’m not good at it;” “I’ve never written a book;” “I can’t write poetry” are just a few. I almost titled this post “You Might be a Writer If…,” but the fact is, if you write, you are a writer, much like if you read, you are a reader and if you run, you are a runner. You wouldn’t say of yourself, “Oh, no. I am not a real reader. I only read a couple books a year.” There is no set amount of books one must have read in order to be classified as a reader. You just have to read. There is not a certain number of miles one must have run to be a runner. You just have to run. Similarly, there is no true criteria to qualify as a writer–other than, of course the obvious: You write. There are, of course, various degrees of writers, readers, and runners, but they are all safe under their parent label.

Still, in the interest of closet-writers everywhere, I have composed the list below. If you can relate to any of them, you are probably a writer, despite your best efforts to shirk the label.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

10. you narrate others’ lives for them as they happen. For example, one of my students might come into the classroom and say, “We don’t have a test today, do we?” Instead of a simple yes or no, my response might be, “He says as he stares at the board in horror, noting where his teacher has scrawled ‘Test Today’ in red marker across the white board.”

9. you wanted a Master’s degree in writing just so you would have a reason to write. Okay, I admit it: I stole this from a meme I saw on Facebook. But it’s true. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I myself hold a Master’s of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing. I realized I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to. What better motivation to carve out the time to write than a writing prompt that costs over $2000 a semester? (Plus, it’s pretty cool to have a Master’s in creative writing!)

8. you have a constant narration running through your mind to help you make sense of the world. Admit it. You experience your day-to-day life as a story in your mind. You are constantly thinking in dialog, poetry, or narration.

7. you keep a pad of paper and pen(cil) near you at all times. And when you for some reason find yourself without these most basic of writerly tools, you text yourself your ideas–bringing us to number six…

6. your phone is full of texts you sent to yourself about things to write down because you somehow did not have your paper and pen(cil) with you

5. you dream poems and stories–and usually can’t remember them when you wake up…

4. your own story ideas keep you up at night

3. you agonize over the nuance of one word in a line of poetry or a sentence

2. you read books with a pen or pencil in hand–always–to jot down notes in the margin and improve your own craft

Lastly, most importantly, you know you’re a writer when…

  1. You write.

Word of the Week: Lachrymose

Though I have experienced the condition many times, I first encountered the word “lachrymose” in the same graphic dictionary that led me to last week’s Word of the Week, “kalopsia.”

Said graphic dictionary defines it as “tearful or given to weeping.” Merriam-Webster, which places the word in the bottom 50% of popularity when compared to other words, defines it as “tending to cause tears” or “tending to cry often.”

I found it interesting that the word could indicate something that may lead to tears, such as a funeral or a poignant movie, as well as someone who is prone to shedding tears.

I also found interesting the fact that thought I have myself been lachrymose, I didn’t know there was such a specific term for this state, beyond the more commonly encountered “moody,” “depressed,” or “tearful,” none of which are quite as precise as “lachrymose.”

You have been linguistically empowered!

Recent Words of the Week:

perse

toady

bibulous

vespertine

kalopsia

Lesson Plan: Recipe Poetry

The school year is winding down, and my students (and I!) are feeling a bit squirrely. We just took our last test of the school year on Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and there are a mere six regular school days left before final exams. So what do we do with this odd in-between that doesn’t allow enough time for another full unit, but is certainly too much time to descend into the pit of meaningless movie-watching day after day? The answer is: We write.

Now, tell that to most students, and they cringe. But I’m not talking about five-page-research-paper-in-the-MLA-format writing. I’m talking about fun writing. I know, I know. If my students remember what an oxymoron is, they’d apply it to the term “fun writing.” And of course, as a writer, I’m a bit biased; I think almost all writing is fun.

But I think my students did have fun writing today. Here is what we did:

Recipe Poetry

Time:

60-70 minutes

Objective:

Students will: analyze nonfiction writing; analyze authentic texts; review and identify verbs; write using strong, specific verbs; write creatively, informally, and for enjoyment; analyze the structure and elements of an authentic, nonfiction text; work cooperatively; engage in the creative process; think critically, creatively, and abstractly; share their written work aloud

Materials:

several sheets of notebook paper, composition book, or spiral notebook for every student

writing utensil for each student

several copies of cooking magazines or various copies of different recipes

Steps:

  1. Put students into groups of three or four.
  2. Pass out magazines or recipes, so that each group has two or three magazines, or at least six to ten individual recipes.
  3. Give students five minutes in their groups to look through the recipes together, and instruct them to write down all the strong, specific cooking  verbs they come across.
    IMG_6608-1
    Some of the verbs my students pulled from the recipes they used for inspiration

    Each student should keep his or her own list.

  4. After five minutes, ask the students to call out the verbs they wrote down, and write them on the board for the class to see.
  5. Next, give students five minutes to start a new list. This time, they should write down all the units of measurement they see in the different ingredients lists.
  6. After five minutes, ask the students to call out the units they wrote down, and write them on the board for the class to see.

    IMG_6609
    Some of the units of measurement my students noticed in the recipes they read. Note the more unique ones, like “sprig” and “stalk.”
  7. Next, give students three minutes to examine the structure and format of the recipes together. They should write down elements they notice most or all of the recipes share. This should include items such as: prep time, cooking time, ingredients list, steps/process/procedure, servings, etc.
  8. After three minutes, ask students what elements a recipe should have, and write the elements on the board for the class to see.
  9. Explain to students that in a few minutes, they will write a recipe poem. A recipe poem is a poem that explains how to “cook” something abstract, such as a certain type of person, a certain emotion, or an experience. Give them some examples: a recipe for success, a recipe for a best friend, a recipe for the worst day ever, etc.
  10. Give students five minutes to brainstorm together in their groups. They should write down experiences, types of people, and emotions they think they might want to describe by way of a recipe poem.
  11. After five minutes, ask students to call their ideas out, and write them on the board for the class to see.

    IMG_6607
    A few of the topics students volunteered to share with the class, about which they planned to write their recipe poems. I myself found “superhero” and “patriot” particularly intriguing.
  12. Remind students that their recipe poem should include all the elements of a recipe, and be formatted like a recipe. Instruct them to pick a topic, but not to tell anyone else in the class what their topic is.
  13. Give students about 15 minutes to write their recipe poem, allotting more time if needed.
  14. Once everyone has finished (or mostly finished) a recipe poem, instruct students to go around in their groups and read their recipe poems aloud to their group members, still withholding the subject. After each student reads, his group members should try to guess what his recipe is for. After each group member has guessed, the poet can reveal what his topic was.
  15. After each person in each group has had a chance to share her poem with her group, ask willing students to share their recipe poems aloud with the class.

My students really seemed to enjoy this activity–so much so, that we actually have to finish tomorrow because so many students were so eager to share their poems with the class. We ran out of time!