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Posts Tagged ‘Maryland State Arts Council’

I taught poetry residencies for the Maryland State Arts Council’s Artists-in-Education Program for over ten years to students from kindergarten through grade twelve. It was a wonderful, but exhausting, experience. The first thing I wrote on the board when I walked into the classroom was: “”Poetry excites the senses!” And then, I’d write my name.

Because of the limited number of words a poet has to express their ideas, they must choose wisely. In my opinion, the wisest way to express yourself and grab a reader is to use sensory language. I used to had out a list of sensory words for all five senses, then I’d have the students read aloud the smell and/or taste words. I still hand out that list to prose and poetry writing workshops I teach – whether young writers, college level courses, or adults.

Why? Because a writer needs to be observant. He or she needs to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world around them, and use that information to enrich their writing. Readers can more easily become immersed in your world when they can identify with the sensory experiences your characters are having.

Again, I’m going to link to writing friend Steven R. Southard’s blog, Poseidon’s Scribe where he discusses another way for writers to think like Leonardo da Vinci: Sensazione.

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An interesting quote popped up on Facebook today from my good friend, Michelle:  “You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not the rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” -Erin (dressaday.com)

I think those of us who are writers & illustrators need to remind ourselves that our female characters need not all be slender, with flowing blond locks, a perfect complexion, and beautiful blue eyes. Real women (and men) come in all sizes, colors, and ethnic groups. I believe we need to celebrate the differences in physical appearance in our charcters as we do their varied mental capabilities, personalities, and talents. Let’s set the tone for our readers, and value each of our characters for their uniqueness.

When I taught Poetry for the Maryland State Arts Council, I discouraged the use of the word, “pretty.” I told the students to be more specific. To give a sensory description that showed what they thought was special about the person, place, or thing they thought was “pretty.” And so, I’d get things like: “she had hair softer than my collie’s coat,” “she smelled better than cookies in the oven,” “her eyes were brighter than a flashlight,” or one of my favorites, “her voice sounded like raindrops in puddles.”

And what reader wouldn’t be more interested in reading about a woman whose hair was softer than a collie’s coat, had eyes brighter than a flashlight, smelled better than cookies in the oven, and had a voice that sounded like raindrops in puddles – than one that was “pretty?”

So writers, illustrators, and readers – Forget exterior “pretty,” and join me in celebrating those females who are beautiful in thoughts, words, and deeds.

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