So I may have mentioned to some of you that I burned my diary when I was in high school. This turned out to be a bad thing, because the feelings that ended up in ashes are feelings I can now only access when I listen to certain Journey songs. (Songs by Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen and the Kinks also take me straight back to high school, but for the wretched, angst-ridden part, Journey seems to be my main shortcut, plus or minus REO Speedwagon.)
Anyway, after the fire (to channel a little 80s Roger Daltrey) I started keeping my journal in a different way. Instead of writing down all of my inner-most thoughts about certain boyfriends, I started keeping a writing journal instead. Little things from my personal life snuck in amid the poems and things. But it was distanced enough that I didn’t have to keep it locked and under my mattress — or burn it, when rereading it got too painful. I used my journal (and still do) for a collection of everything. A snippet of an overheard conversation. The color of a tree. The score of a game of spades. Books I want to check out of the library. And story idea after story idea.
Each summer, my kids keep a journal as well. And this summer, a few of their friends mentioned trying to keep one, too. Then, my journal buddy at my daughter’s elementary school asked me for some summer writing tips. My main tips are always “write” and “read,” so I decided I’d go ahead and share some writing prompts here, in case any of my other young reader friends were looking for ideas. I’ll keep adding more as the summer goes on. Feel free to use some. Feel free to add some. And remember that there’s no right way to keep a journal. Happy writing.
School’s out: Write a list of things you miss (or won’t miss) about school or a list of things you plan to do this summer.
Feelings: Not your personal, innermost feelings here; I want you to write about how something feels. The pool water. The sand. The grass under bare feet. You pick. Just a line or two will do.
Color poems: Let’s play around with similes. First, choose your favorite color. Then, think of a string of things that are that color and arrange these in order as a poem. For example, I am a huge fan of yellow:
Yellow as a noon-time sun.
That’s how I’d start. Then I’d add more.
Yellow as a firefly, searching for a friend.
Yellow as a buttercup.
You can rhyme some of the phrases or leave them unrhyming. Try to string together 8 or 9.
Did you hear? Conversation time. Listen to somebody’s conversation. You can be at the pool or on a bus or in a restaurant. Write down two or three sentences of what they say. This is a good exercise for writers because it gets you listening to the natural flow of a conversation. What do you notice? Do people speak in complete sentences?
Rate the food item: We had a great time a few summers ago trying to find the perfect dumpling and the perfect lemonade. Everywhere we went, we rated these items and described their flavor and appearance. A good exercise for detail and for finding the very best of a food or drink you love. This week would be a great week to pick something that you’ll track down during the summer.
Comics: Comics are a great way to work on your writing (and drawing). If you do a three panel, you still need a beginning, middle and end. If you do a one panel, you are working on getting your humor through as succinctly as possible. So draw a comic in your notebook. Any topic is fine but if you need more direction:
Set it at the pool or in camp.
Make your main characters space aliens.
Somehow, involve a taco.
Okay, those are your prompts for week one. I’ll be updating the blog as the summer goes on, and I’ll be adding links here, too, so check back. And as long as we’re talking summer: Have you signed up for your library’s summer reading program yet?
Prompts for Week 2 are here.
Prompts for Week 3 are here.
Prompts for Week 4 are here.