Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘creative projects with words and art

GiftsWritingIn the 1980’s, my dad gave me Gifts of Writing by Susan and Stephen Tchudi, and the guide received much use from me during my formative years. When I eventually prepared to move out on my own, and so began to sell books, Gifts of Writing is one that I kept. Even my younger sister entered high school and developed an interest in creative activities, I sought out a second-hand copy for her rather than part with my own. Finally, a few years ago, when I first began to teach after school writing clubs, I developed a curriculum around the guide. As you can see Gifts of Writing has been a constant part of my life. Hence, my wanting to finally review it.

What about Gifts of Writing appealed to me as a both a young person and a fledging writing teacher? Unlike the norm of creative writing books, this particular guide overviews creative projects involving both words AND art. The first section in particular emphasizes this combination, showing how to make stationery, postcards, greeting cards, and posters. Other sections rely more heavily on words, but still draw on art, showing how to make books, graffiti walls, photograph-autograph albums, and nature journals. While I have always loved to write, the guide had high appeal to me because it allowed me to explore other creative modes too. At some point or another, artistic, musical, and theatrical expression have all appealed to me. As for my students, one reason a curriculum that combines two creative modes works is that levels of writing ability and interest can vary, even among those who join a writing club. Being able to integrate art helped those with more average literary talent to still produce fine publications.

A second feature that appealed to me is that like many creative writing books, Gifts of Writing provided a huge variety of variations on each type of project, meaning it serves the same function as a prompt book. Consider that just the section on making your own books contains nine made types of books: scrolls, accordion, quartos, mini-books, hand-bound, books for children, collaborative, stories and mini-novel, journals, and diaries. Within those types, there are also more variants too. For example, under collaborative books, these types of stories are covered: surprise, circle, and collection. My favorite during high school was the hand-bound book. I still have my journal that I created using this guide. The final section in the guide is about holiday projects. Inspired by it, I taught my students not only how to write blessings and curses, and wishes and warnings, but also nature descriptions and scary stories.

The final feature I wish to highlight is that because Gifts of Writing is for young people, the instructions for creating projects aren’t too short or too long but just right. For instance, there’s the section on how to create fortune cookies. To start, it lists materials for the fortunes and then outlines the procedures, which include cutting thin strips of paper and writing a funny fortune on each strip. As part of the procedures, there are also examples of fortunes written by young people. Next, it lists materials needed for the cookies. Then as one would find in a standard cookbook, it outlines the steps for baking the cookies, as well as provides tips on what to watch for and how to know when the cookies are baked. There are even diagrams, showing how to place the paper strips inside the cookies.

Does the guide ever fall short? Sure. Having being published in 1980, some material is outdated. To help my students write epitaphs, I had to look online for more modern examples. Also, as with any guide, one might at times wish for more detailed explanations. When my students latched onto writing stories, I had to draw on other sources for info about how to develop plot, character, setting, and theme.

Negatives aside, for myself as a young person, I always viewed the guide as perfect. Now, as a teacher, I find that very few other guides that focus on crafty writers and so it remains a much-used resource. Available second-hand, Gifts of Writing will prove an invaluable addition to the shelves of any creative person, whatever your age.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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