The second year of the Thalia Book Club Camp started today with a bang. It was great to see some old friends and meet the newcomers. This morning, we decorated our journals, got to know each other and began to discuss the books we had read for the week. To prepare for the visit from Sarah Weeks – author of So B. It – we did a dramatic reading from the Authors Readers Theater extra at the end of the book. Hearing the story out loud definitely brought the characters to life more than reading it silently could. We also wrote about pictures of abandoned houses – one of the inspirations for So B. It.
After lunch in Riverside Park, Sarah Weeks joined us to discuss how she gets her ideas, her writing process, and her techniques for writing descriptively and interestingly. Some of her advice included “Keep your eyes open!” and “You are never too old for a picture book.” Her inspirations, she told us, range from listening to and watching her two sons, to eavesdropping in a Starbucks, to paying attention to “weird” kids when she talks at schools, to watching a small bird die in her hands. Sarah also explained why the arc is the best shape for a story. For instance, unless something strange or suspenseful happens – such as seeing a hairy, half-naked man on horseback in the Dallas airport – a story can be a flat line. Her illustration of an ideal story-line:
Memory featured prominently in So B. It. To demonstrate how fickle and fascinating memory can be, Sarah made us remember the first slide she put up when she came in. It showed a penny, a toothbrush with a pointy end, and a piece of string, among other everyday objects, but did not include a pair of scissors, however convinced we all were that it was there.
Sarah did a few exercises with us to encourage compelling, vivid writing. We learned about the writer’s “5 Best Friends”: See, Smell, Feel, Hear, and Taste. Keeping our friends in mind, we each wrote down how we brush our teeth. What resulted was “great descriptive writing,” as Sarah expressed it. We also witnessed the difference in how Sarah (counselor) and Conrad tie their shoes, and closely observed Conrad’s and Sophia’s hair. When writing a story we will never again just write “She tied her shoes” or “The boy’s hair was short and brown.”
Most exciting of all, we got to hear a sneak preview of Pie – Sarah’s just completed new book (to be published in about a year).
Some helpful links Sarah recommended:
www.sarahweeks.com (Sarah’s website and blog)
www.authorsreaderstheater.com (A.R.T. – Authors Readers Theater)
What an amazing first day of camp! Check this site every evening to discover what we did each day for the next three weeks.