Blackout Poetry and NaNoWriMo

IMG_6029They opened the library doors for us– our secret society of writers. We headed to the basement, which felt just right.

I sat in the Aldrich Library in Barre, Vermont with an excited and diverse group of writers. Among us were teenage sci-fi writers, a woman who writes about puppies, a 70 + year old man, and a nine year old girl. All gathered to learn about how to participate in the ridiculous National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge– to write 50,000 words in one month.

We talked about plot ideas, best times to write, no editing! and programs that help. We laughed nervous laughs and ate chocolate. Then we started a writing activity, because, well, that is what we do. This one is a fabulous one to do with students, I did it the next day with mine.

So much of writing is productive– the literal creation of sentences and pages. Blackout poetry is reductive. You don’t have to create anything. You take away words and shape an already written page into prose. You can save a lot, or get rid of a lot of words. The text becomes what you want it to be by what you save. You black out the words that you don’t want, preferably with a thick, black Sharpie marker. And of course you need a book you can (gasp!) rip pages out of. Thankfully, the library had many Reader’s Digest anthologies for this purpose!

We were encouraged to think about our NaNoWriMo projects as we did out Blackout Poetry. I did and this is what I came up with:

still too early
a little more time
lackluster, hated everything
grown near overflowing
she hated her master

Let’s go.
Ignite the old furnace
Come on, my friend
It’s time for us to
get to work.

Furnace ignited
roared to life
There we are–
I knew it needed only
a little convincing.

oven burn
raw material
a thousand degrees
of heat within
a pool of liquid fire
to be gathered and reformed
into something new and beautiful

heat blasting
satisfied, ready
watch and listen
to what I tell you–
look for something
you can find

Now pay attention
resting on the lips
idea stuck
heads
how hard we try
doing everything right when
you’ve done something wrong.

“So what do I do?”

You must see that the flaw
is all in your head.

The juices were flowing after that. I would recommend this as a warm up activity for writing for grades 5-12 and adults!

Now, as for the NaNoWriMo– It is Monday and I am not exactly sure how that is going to go with everything else (teaching, parenting, exercising, living– SLEEPING!). Wish me luck!

See Katy’s NEW middle grade fiction novel, The Order of the Trees published in May 2015 by Green Writers Press.

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