Monday, October 20, 2008


"Children want to write. They want to write the first day they attend school. This is no accident. Before they went to school they marked up walls, pavements, newspapers with crayons, chalk, pens or pencils... anything that makes a mark. The child's marks say, 'I am.'" - from Writing: Teachers and Children at Work by Donald H. Graves

You may have heard people say that you should only "write what you know." What does that mean exactly? A lot of young writers get intimidated by this idea and believe that they don't know enough to write about whatever it is that interests them. That is simply not true. While it is important to know something about what you are writing, you will ultimately need to use your creativity and imagination to create the world in which the character lives and breathes. So, don't be afraid to write about that issue, that event, or that feeling that you are itching to get out. Writing is a way for you to tell the world what you're thinking and how you feel.

Strong writing is inspired by things that you are passionate about. Once you have identified an idea that you feel strongly about, draw from your experience and imagination to create a character and a world for that character to inhabit. Send them on a journey to accomplish something and see what happens. You can always go back later to do research about any experiences, time periods, or other facts that you are unsure about. These will be included in your revisions. But for now, to help you get started in generating story ideas, take a look at the following "Self-Questionnaire." This was adapted from a worksheet created by Dominique Cieri, a teaching artist with Playwrights Theatre.

Answer each of the questions about you. Be sure to include as much detail as possible.

1. What is your full name?
2. What are some nicknames you have? Who calls you these names?
3. Where were you born?
4. Is there a story about your birthday?
5. Mother’s full name (including her Maiden name, if you know it)
6. Father’s full name
7. One grandparent’s full name
8. Do you call anyone by a nickname? Who are these people? What do you call them? Why?
9. Who do people tell you that you look like? (family member, someone famous?)
10. What is important to you? What would you stand up and fight for?
11. What gets you really angry?
12. What is your biggest dream?
13. What is unique about you?
14. What or who do you admire? Why?
15. Everyone has a life question. This is something that you’re dying to know. Someone is going to walk through the door in 20 seconds and answer this question. Quick! Don’t think about it, just write down the first question that comes to mind.

Hopefully there is an answer to one of these questions that has sparked an idea to jump start your writing. These are the same questions that you might ask your characters to get a deeper understanding of each of them. See where your answers take you and if you can create a character for your story, ask these same questions of that character.

Have fun writing!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

They're here!

The brochures for the NJ Young Playwrights Contest arrived at Playwrights Theatre yesterday.

They should arrive at your school by this Friday. Ask your Drama or English teacher if they received one. If not, let me know and I'll send one right out.