Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On Becoming a Magpie

"Magpies are birds that are attracted to shiny pieces of fabric and glittery threads.  Writers are people who are attracted to revealing detail, half-remembered history, and glimpses of people on the bus."

In Section 27 of Spilling Ink, Anne Mazer discusses begging, borrowing, and stealing.  She compares writers to magpies-- very clever and very appropriate.  When we teach students to look at the world through the eyes of a writer, we talk to them about being collectors.  We encourage them to collect thoughts, dialogue, cool words, pictures, and any other useful minutia in a "writer's notebook."  (Thinking about a writer's notebook reminds me of Ralph Fletcher, who wrote a whole book on the writer's notebook.) 

In this day and age of instant gratification and over-stimulation, sometimes we forget to notice things.  We are in danger of losing our sense of curiosity and our power of observation.  We need to teach kids to  ssssllllooooooooooow down and become magpies-- searching out the bright and shiny bits of their ordinary days.  Then we can teach them to mold what they collect into brand new bits of brilliance with which to create their own stories. 

*If you, like me, need a little push to help you straighten up and fly like a magpie, I highly recommend Keri Smith's book, How to Be an Explorer of the World

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