Allison's Book Bag

QUICK TAKE: Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan

Posted on: February 2, 2015

Over the weekend, I received the unexpected present from a friend of Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan. My friend said the book looked like it belonged to me. In that the book is about writing, stories, and how words can change lives, I’d have to agree with her. 🙂

Every day feels the same for fourth-graders in Miss Cash’s writing class. Then along comes a visiting author who encourages students to see their lives in terms of words. First, there is Evie, whose parents have been separated ever since her return from summer camp. For her, words translate into a character named Sassy who is lonely like Evie’s father. In contrast, May feels that she needs to make up disasters, violence, or alienation, in order to have words to write. Then one day, her parents give her a real-life story in the form a decision to adopt a baby. Except this real-life event doesn’t make May happy either! Next, there’s Russell, who still grieves the loss of his dog. For him, words translate into a poignant poem. Finally, there’s the narrator, whose name is Lucy. Despite the fact her mom has cancer, Lucy feels like May that nothing interesting happens to her. For her, all writing revolves around sadness, a fact that she wishes to change.

As for the visiting author, in some ways, Ms. Mirabel is a unique character. Her hair is unruly. She daily wears a new outfit. At times, she provides instruction that goes against that of the classroom teacher. Otherwise, her life can be viewed as similar to that of the students whom she wishes to inspire. Like them, Ms. Mirabel even has a sibling with whom she doesn’t get along. On the first few days of her visit, Ms. Mirabel answers questions about writing and shares samples of published stories. About the latter, she makes clear that there will be well-liked stories and maybe some less-liked stories. Not all writings have to be enjoyed. She simply hopes that some will speak to them. And when they find a story, they will write it word after word after word. After that little speech, Ms. Mirabel invites the class to bring their own writings to share.

About the only quibble I have with this lovely little tale is Ms. Mirabel’s attitude towards outlines. She says they are silly. “Once you write the outline, there’s no reason to write the story. You write to participate…” I believe that one can participate and find out what happens in a story through an outline too. When asked why authors write, Ms. Mirabel recognizes that there are all kinds of reasons, from it being a way to change one’s life to even just make money. I think she should have also recognized that authors all have their own unique ways to write. Of course, writers aren’t perfect, and so here’s where Miss Cash can balance the perspective.

In the Author’s Note, Patricia MacLachlan notes that she had been asked to write a book about writing and her life as an author. As she sat down to write such a book, MacLachlan realized that she didn’t want to go over the same stories of her life. Instead she decided to tackle the topic through fiction. An excellent decision!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

7 Responses to "QUICK TAKE: Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan"

She sounds like a pantster. Lots of them have that attitude toward outlines.

Surely, there’s enough room in the writing world for both styles. 😉

I agree it sounds intriguing happy reading:)

I just read my second book by Patricia MacLachlan. Here’s the review:

This one sounds intriguing…thanks for sharing. I like the descriptions of the visiting author.


Word After Word After Word is a quick read. It’s a children’s book of only about 100 pages with larger text too.

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