Slice of Life: Cultivating a Passion for Writing


A few weeks ago, on her superb blog, Vicki Vinton asked “What are you doing to cultivate passion in readers and writers in your rooms?”

One way I try to cultivate passion is to wear my love for reading and writing on my sleeve. Another is to hold Family Writing Nights. Last winter, inspired by Dana Murphy’s presentation at NCTE, I organized our first writing night, which you can read about here. It was a big success, and many people asked if we could have another FWN. I’d hoped to squeeze it in last spring, but the schedule filled up quickly and there were too many conflicts. So this year I decided to hold our first writing night in the fall, followed by another in February.


The turnout wasn’t quite as high as last year’s event, but we still had an enthusiastic crowd.

Ralph Fletcher says that “memories are like a fountain no writer can live without.” Hoping to spark some summer memories, I began the evening by reading Marla Frazee’s exciting Roller Coaster (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2006). This gem of a small moment story recalls a child’s first time on that amusement park ride that everyone loves or loves to hate. Either perspective makes a good story!

I also shared a tip I learned recently from Shanna Schwartz shared at a TCRWP Writing Units of Study workshop. She suggested encouraging writers to use their body as a kind of memory map. Shanna said to have kids (or adults) start at the top of their head and ask if they have a story about their hair. I know I have my share of  disastrous hairstyles! Maybe they have a story about a time they cut their hair, or a time they cut someone else’s hair. Moving down, is there a story about a loose tooth? What about that broken arm? Are they wearing a t-shirt they got on vacation or with the name of their favorite sport team? Once you start asking these questions, the list of possible stories is endless!

At the end of the evening, one dad came up to me to say how much he had enjoyed the evening. He told me he’d had a pretty stressful day, and that sitting down to write had relaxed him and relieved some of his stress. The next day, several students brought their notebooks to school to share what they’d written after they got home.

That’s the kind of enthusiasm we hope for in all of our students. It’s incredibly gratifying to help others find their voice as a writer. That’s why I’ll continue to organize Family Writing Nights, doing everything I can to encourage writers of all ages.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

7 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Cultivating a Passion for Writing

  1. I’ve had kids look at their body (for scars and related stories) before, but I’ve never had them do body mapping. What a great way to scan for stories.

    Congratulations on a successful night, Catherine!


  2. Catherine,
    Love how you “sourced” your reason why, your past history, and this year’s work all into the same post. Sometimes I forget the WHY that propels the work! (so critical)

    So awesome that I was also writing about Vicki today! ❤


  3. Just absolutely awesome, Catherine. I bet all the families loved it. How great that you take the time to do this. I’ve had parents and students write on our parent night, then had them send me the writing, which I’ve put together into a book & given each a copy. One year I had the kids write about their lives in the future, imagining what it was like at a parent’s age. And then had the parents write, going back, as if they were their kid’s age again. The topics were broad, some sad, some funny, but all so revealing to me about the families. I imagine you learned a lot from reading the writing, too.


  4. I love coming to your little space and learning something new. What a lovely evening when students write beside adults. I love the body memories for sparking Slices. My students are running low on ideas, so I plan to announce this one tomorrow. I think I’ll have them do a body sketch. Thanks for the inspiration


  5. I love using the body as a memory map! That is sure to resonate with our more physical types. I too was inspired by you (last year) and Dana’s presentation at NCTE and tried one out in September. Thank you for sharing. You always inspire me.


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