Writing is such a wonderful activity and great skill to have as we adventure through this great wide world. Which is why we love The Write Start, by Jennifer Hallissy. This book is full of fun and insightful activities to encourage the young writer, but if that isn't enough here is my interview with the book's delightful author...
... What is the first thing you write each day?
As soon as I wake up in the morning I need somewhere to deposit the ideas that float in my head all night – so I write them down. Sometimes this looks like an orderly list, sometimes it’s a bunch of random and seemingly disconnected notes, and sometimes, when I’m trying to make sense of my thoughts, it’s more of a mind map. It’s pretty much a representation of my state of mind on the page; tidy some days and awash in ideas on other days.
Being an occupational therapist, what made you start your blog, and eventually write this book?
As an occupational therapist, I help children mater the skills they need to be successful in all of their daily tasks. I am constantly in awe of the magic of mastery – it’s what informs and inspires almost everything I do.
What is your goal in writing this book?
My goal for this book, and for upcoming projects, is to help can-do parents raise can-do kids. I think all of us, parents and children alike, crave that just-right combination of information and inspiration that makes us jump up and run for our tool box, crayons, paints, pencils, or whatever, with a bright idea and an “I can do it!” attitude.
What role does writing play developmentally in children?
Simply stated, I think that when children write, they make their thoughts real. The role that this plays in learning, self-expression, and communication cannot be overemphasized. It’s a BIG deal!
Why is it so important to get kids physically writing, why not typing?
Written by hand, each letter has its own little choreography. When combined, this dance of movement results in writing. All of this motion strengthens connections between the mind and the body, and activates more areas of the brain then will ever be activated by keystrokes. For young children with developing brains, this type of long-hand writing supports growth and learning in a way that does not even compare with typing. (For some interesting research that supports this, check out this article.)
How does your book inspire the imagination?
I truly believe that imagination is the greatest natural resource of childhood. And I am also quite sure that writing is one of the absolute best tools for bringing imagination to life. The activities in The Write Start are intended to make writing skills strong, and make writing a daily habit. Children who have efficient and automatic writing skills in their pocket will find that they are armed and ready to act on their imaginative ideas at a moments notice!
What is your favorite creative writing exercise?
Drawing! I think when we draw, doodle, or sketch out an idea, it helps us to visualize it in our mind’s eye, which is the first step towards putting it into words. Pictures and words go together like mac and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly, or, oh well, you get my point! Drawing is not only a great warm-up to writing, it compliments it as well. I think children should always be encouraged to illustrate their stories, or otherwise embellish them with images.
What made you fall in love with writing?
As a child I had a very special PenPal, my great-aunt, who wrote me long-hand letters in her beautiful old-school penmanship about interesting, grown-up ideas. She addressed them “Dear PenPal,” and I could feel the time and love that went into each letter. I saved each of those letters because, even then, I had the sense that they were something even more special than spoken words. More purposeful, more permanent, more personal.
How has writing influenced your life, what has writing done for you?
Strange as it may sound, I think writing has influenced my parenting. In order to write you have to really tune in to the world around you, really notice things, really be in the moment. This is something that children do naturally, but we grown-ups struggle with. Writing is a wonderful way to re-train your brain to tune into your child-like sense of wonder. Children naturally speak in metaphor, are sensitive to the rhythm of language, and instinctively magnify details that adults overlook. When we remember to see the world as they do, we not only become better writers, but we become parents better able to appreciate, communicate, and connect with our little pint-sized poets.
What would you do with this word...childhood?
I imagine childhood as a blank book. Just think of all of the stories and scenes and ideas and inventions and pictures and plans and dreams and directions that will fill up all of those pages! Childhood is the time for kids to create the story of themselves. And every day is another amazing opportunity for us to cheer: “Tell your story!”
Thank you Jennifer for such a great interview! And in the spirit if gratitude, we would like to give away three, yes three, copies of this lovely book!
For a chance to win a copy of this book, simply leave a comment on this post by 8am MST Thursday December 22nd. The winners will be chosen by random number and announced later that day.
And the winners are... Becca who said:
"Love the post, and I've had the book on my wishlist forever! Thanks!! Becca"
Brook who said:
"The pictures in this post are very inspiring! Sounds like a book I would love to read!"
And Sarah who said:
"Looks like a lovely book."
Thank you all for such a wonderful response!
*Last time in Books and Stories: Passing Notes