Tag Archives: Beverly Cleary

Three Thing Thursday

#1 Boy, do I have a big surprise for my students!

I can’t say more than that. I’ll let you know what happens next TH.

Plus, the person we bought this home from failed to disclose a problem with mice.

We kept them very well-fed this past winter. I found that out when we pulled out our food storage in plastic, used-to-be air-tight bags.

I keep thinking about the old Beverly Cleary book The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

It’s not helping.



I keep going back to read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  She was pointing out that you should read a good poem, like “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and you should do so aloud, reading it “the way he set it up and punctuated it, what you are doing is breathing his inspired breath at the moment he wrote that poem.”  Yes, even 150 years later (though now it’s even a little more than that).  Then she said, “This is why it is good to remember: if you want to get high, don’t drink whiskey, read Shakespeare, Tennyson, Keats, Neruda, Hopkins, Millay, Whitman aloud and let your body sing.”
It brought to mind how I never tire with reading Millay: I’ve read many of her poems to various classes and audiences. They always take my breath away, but loan me hers for just those few moments! Try reading GREAT authors’ materials out loud: see if they fit your breath, your mouth, your heart, your head.  Then discover how to do the same to your readers.
#3     I love musicals. I know some people think they’re dumb, because who breaks out in song and dance in the middle of the street? But I can’t get enough.

For me, musicals are not literally about breaking out in song with a full orchestral backup. It’s a method of communicating emotion in a way higher than dialogue. When the emotion of the scene goes beyond what words can say, they allow music to reach us on a deeper level.
With novels, of course, we can’t have the page magically start singing to the reader. (Although that would be totally cool. Publishers, get to work!)
So what do we do instead?
We find rhythm in words. We work in cadences. We have short sentences. Then we follow them up with longer sentences. Then we go for broke and whip out the longest sentence we can think of, hoping that we don’t lose the reader halfway through.
We use the pronunciation in words to create a feeling of musicality. We naturally inflect higher and lower on certain syllables, and we can use that inflection to create a roller coaster of prose.
This is when training in poetry comes in handy. If you haven’t ever studied poetry or tried to write with a strict poetic structure (think of sonnets) then there’s no better time to try. A deep understanding of the music of language can really help with your ability to bring emotion to a scene.

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