Setting: Different Perspectives

Last week during Teachers Write (which I am trying to keep up with!), there was a prompt about setting (you can read it here). Setting is a weakness of mine, an inconvenience at best. I usually just scan right past the setting in the books I read. I never thought about it as a way to reflect character, like Elana K. Arnold talks about in her blog post.

The exercise she had the teachers/librarians do was to observe a place near us. I, of course, was at Starbucks, so I wrote about the table I was sitting at.

Mahogany but a false one. Irregular grooves to look authentic. A little space between the edge of the table and a dark brown rim that mysteriously catches crumbs—useful to keep the floor clean, but a little odd to look at. What are the stories of these crumbs? Usually eight chairs, but a few taken to add to other tables. After all, this is a working table. The light is the best here. Not the place to be comfy and cozy with friends, but sometimes used that way when there’s no other space. For four people, two frappuccinos, one iced latte, one iced tea; tall, tall, grande, grande. One book, three phones, two computers, one tablet. The future of the coffee shop.


Then, a challenge: write about the same table, but this time, from a few different perspectives.

Lost 6 year old: I sit at the huge table. All these people here, and I don’t know who to ask about my mommy. Maybe Mommy is in the bathroom or maybe I’ll see her out the window. These people all look too busy to talk to me so I look at the table again. They don’t even look up at me. I lay my head down on the hard wood and try not to cry.

Satisfied house cat: Ah, a lovely place to stretch out. I sniff at the table and smell bitter and sweet. I stretch out like a tube. Not comfortable yet. I stand up and walk in circles until I find the exact spot to flop down. The wood is hard but the space is mine. I give my best glare to the people around me and they get up and leave, one by one. The table, and the universe, is mine.

15 year old, just heard about her parents’ divorce: I stumble over to the long table, the only area not crowded. I’d much rather be on one of the comfortable red chairs near the fireplace. Why am I here if all I want to do is hide? I open my journal and pretend to write, but all I do is sketch, my mother and my father, and then me and Skye, with a jagged line in between us. I want to take a paper clip and carve the picture into the table, because this is permanent and there should be a permanent record.

Fun! Maybe I’ll even examine the setting of my book. Maybe.

I Wonder as I Wander


Time to start Teachers Write again! If you don’t know what it is, check out the link above. It’s a virtual summer writing camp, run by a few picture book/ middle grade/ young adult authors. Today’s the first day. I always start off Teachers Write with such enthusiasm (see last year, around the same date…), but then it fades as life takes over. But now that I actually finished my library degree (!) and the school year is over, I have some extra time.

Kate Messner’s first assignment was to write a list of things that make you wonder. A lot of the commentators wondered about historical events, scientific phenomena, etc. Mine are a mix of psychological and personal. Here’s my list, in the random order it came through stream of consciousness:

I wonder:

  • What it’s like to be a twin
  • What it’s like to have selective mutism/ why it happens/ how much (or all) is psychological? How do people come out of it or do they?
  • What it’s like to be a therapist; what it would be like if a character stalked their therapist, from both perspectives?
  • How EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can completely relieve symptoms of trauma… if it that’s true, why doesn’t everyone do it?
  • What would it be like to honestly have a yoga “practice”
  • How a teacher can truly create & use problem-based learning
  • What would happen if I took adult ballet
  • Why I start all my writing in 3rd person and it ends up in 1st
  • Why I’m so drawn to writing and reading intense psychological stories
  • Why I don’t like fantasy very much & why I get angry if a book doesn’t seem like it will be fantasy and then it is
  • Why I like to share my writing so much
  • What my children will be like as adults
  • What it would be like to be a librarian in an actual library
  • If I’m meant to be with inner city kids (like a calling) or with suburban kids (better for my mental health)
  • Why my writing group disintegrated, without any discussion
  • How to explain my decision to be a librarian to others
  • What people think when they hear you’re a school librarian, and how that compares to the perception of an elementary school teacher
  • Why district administrators don’t see the value in librarians, even though the research is clear
  • How Greece can solve its financial problems
  • What it would be like to go to a mission trip to a poor country, and how it would affect my life
  • What it would be like to hold a copy of my published book
  • What it would be like if I just ran away for a while

What do you wonder about?

Teachers Write: Summer 2013

Teachers Write 2013 Button

Teachers Write is back!

Teachers Write is the brainchild of Kate Messner (author of such chapter books, MGs, and YAs like the Marty McGuire series and Capture the Flag). She’s running it with Jo Knowles, Gae Polisner, and Jen Vincent (one of the gurus behind Teach Mentor Texts).

You can find out more and sign up at Kate’s Teachers Write informational post.

Basically, the deal is that teachers, librarians, and others read minilessons on the craft of writing by various authors, get inspired by prompts, and commit to writing, at least a little bit, and maybe even out of their comfort zone.

It starts on Monday. I’m going to try to actually do it, instead of just lurking! Hope to see you there.