Letting Dancing Bananas into my Writing Life

Last week was the fourth and final creative writing workshop I did with a fun group of six fifth and sixth graders. For the past four Tuesdays we got wildly creative in their media center. They learned about developing setting, characterization, suspense, and story openings-- along with a bit about the publication process, writing as a career, and the inspiration for my books.

I learned from them, too. They reminded me about an important thing about writing. It's something easy to forget once you grow up and start dealing with bills and car maintenance and other boring stuff. It's something that fifth and sixth graders naturally excel at: Having fun. Pure, goofy fun.

So here's the lesson I learned/remembered: Let yourself giggle hysterically as you write. Take deep, hilarious pleasure in telling a story. Be playful and spontaneous with your words, and remember that laughter loosens up our imaginations.

The earliest creative writing I did was in mid-elementary school-- a series of "Bottlebug" stories full of humor and magic and adventure. I wrote them for my friends, and we giggled and acted them out and made up a dance and a strange language to go along with the stories (which really annoyed our teacher-- "No more Bottlebug talk in school!" she'd snap.) It was fun!

I promised this group of students (who are brilliant writers and will no doubt be publishing their first books within a few short years...) that I'd post their comments on my workshops. Here goes:

"I like the Jimmy /World Travel prompt. It let us laugh and write a lot. You taught us to use all the senses. Next time put a banana in the mystery bag."

(Note: The Jimmy prompt refers to a scenario we developed for a group writing activity about a boy who eats a magic almond that gives him the ability to instantaneously appear in different parts of the world... and what we eventually came up with was a story that could have been called "Jimmy and the Dancing Bananas." The mystery bag refers to a bag of mysterious objects that the students had to incorporate into story openings... and lamentably, I forgot to put a banana in there, although there was a coconut ape.)

Okay, to continue:

"Fun. Interesting. 2 words or 5 syllables, Dancing Bananas!"
"I liked the dancing bananas with rocket launchers."
"It was fun and funny and interesting."
"Loved everything. Everything was very fun. Nothing was boring. Great advice. Fun fun fun."
"It was a really good time. I learned a lot. Laura was a big help to my writing."

Hanging out with these imaginative, fun kids was a breath of fresh air into my writing life. Every Tuesday I drove from their school back to Fort Collins with a smile on my face.