Day 8 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Music and Lyrics

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray” is not just the famous first lines of the song California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas. The lyrics launched many a poem and narrative today, and all of them were quite unique.
Today’s lesson focused on music lyrics, but not just what the words meant to the songwriters or listeners. We were introduced to the meaning of subtext in songs and were moved to discover what was going on before the song and after it was over.
So many meaningful pieces were developed through the inspiration of the songs and the meanings behind them.
We weaved quotes throughout the original stories during our revision time to add even more depth and, of course, we focused on enhancing word choice. It was a blast!
Lesson Learned: “I learned that generating a backstory before or after the song really makes the song have more depth.”
Quote of the Day: “Nate’s jaw dropped to Antarctica.”

Day 7 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Asking Why Leads to How

“When your why is big enough, you will find your how,” according to motivational speaker Les Brown. Well, kids have known that for ages because that is often their favorite word to repeat in the car, on vacation, in the grocery store — you name it. Today we explored the folk tales called Pourquoi tales, which ask why something was created that way and then answer the how through the fictional story.
We wandered through the beautiful faculty garden to gain inspiration for our tales, which are traditionally written about animals and nature. We encountered a blue heron, cardinals, butterflies, and finches, which inspired our minds and set our pens to paper. We learned that in Pourquoi tales, the characters usually don’t have a specific name because they represent how the entire species became spotted (the leopard) or gained a hump (the camel), etc.
Cuteness flourished throughout the fun and quirky stories. While revising, we focused on figurative language, such as metaphors, similes, and imagery to create vivid and memorable tales.
Lesson Learned: “Pourquoi stories will help you be creative and explain things to your kids.”
Quote of the Day: “I’ve been reading this book on reverse psychology. Do NOT read it.” 😉

Day 6 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Brainstorming Blast

Characters really let their true colors fly when they are writing a review about a horrible product.
Our quick write this morning launched our characters from last week’s monologues into a whole new mode — expressing their thoughts about terrible products purchased from online retailers.
New stories and even new characters emerged, which were pretty hilarious.
We learned how to make our stories more in depth by creating layers and adding multiple conflicts, settings, themes, and character traits. Our groups tackled this job together by making graffiti walls of the four writing elements. We came up with so many ideas that we ran out of room on the chart paper.
Next was the fun part, making new stories, adding more traits to our characters, additional settings, and making sure there was a  central belief or theme.
Groups worked together to revise and hone the final products to add action verbs and colorful word choice.
We also voted for the cover art for our section of the anthology! Congrats to Leah M.!
Lesson Learned: “You can have multiple themes, settings, and conflicts in your story and multiple character traits in each character.”
Quote of the Day: “Sure, you can name your character Mistress Hotdog.”

Day 5 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Kicking it with Poetry, Dashes, and Parentheses

“Close your eyes, and just listen to my voice. There is a door in front of you. Open it. What do you see when you walk through to the other side?”
Today we began by visualizing spaces through a mindfulness exercise. We realized that by closing our eyes, we were able to see more details in our scenes.
Those details became the basis for the poems that we would write later. We were introduced to poetry’s stanzas and line breaks and all of the ways that poets emphasize words and emotions.
After examining poems, we took our scenery prose and formed poignant, funny, and beautiful poems, but we took the lesson even further.
We learned how the dash and the parenthesis are used to add emphasis and to downplay or whisper information (the latter is the role of the parenthesis). Ms. Joy literally kicked her way around the room as each dash was read to help campers visualize the true meaning of the dash — to spotlight important information.
What an inspirational way to end our first week!
Lesson Learned: “Punctuation in poetry is important to communicate with your reader.”
Quote of the Day: “I feel so deep! I want to be a poet now!”

Day 4 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Packing Punch

Scenery, setting, and Sci-fi/fantasy were the focus today. From the get go, students were immersed with natural scenery to evoke ideas for settings. We played freeze dance while waking up a bit with beautiful scenery in the background.
Next, campers viewed various prompts, scenery, and quotes from Sci-fi and fantasy novels to help them develop characters who would burst into action with an immediate conflict.
We were then asked to delve deep and to focus our stories through the genre of Flash Fiction — short stories (500 words or less) that get into the action right away and pack a punch with selective word choice and environments that create strong emotions.
Almost every camper climbed into the author’s chair today, eager to share their creations.
The afternoon was spent honing our word choice and cutting out words that slowed down our prose to make our stories more poetic and succinct. Revision partners helped each other find those perfect, strong verbs and other word choice to keep the stories lively and the readers attentive.
Lesson Learned: “Use descriptive words in your writing; your writing does not have to be long to be powerful.”
Quote of the Day: “You really packed the page!”

Day 3 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Monologues Create Perspectives

Building upon yesterday’s lesson that focused on us, today we turned that lens around to create characters and monologues using a unique method: examining receipts!
We first explored things we notice about people when we first meet them and what we might infer about their personalities or interests. We transferred that same focus to various receipts that were passed out to the tables. We had to decide a lot about our characters from what they bought at the store. For example, what can you infer about a person who buys a $7 bottle of wine, crème brûlée, glade candles, and dog food? We wrote monologues (a piece written from a character’s personal perspective) based on the items on the receipts. It seemed everyone was whipping up all sorts of personalities, and almost everyone wanted to read from the author’s chair today. 
In the afternoon, we flipped the perspective and wrote from another character’s point of view. The cashier’s monologue in the one story now became the customer’s monologue. Everyone’s inner humor and voice emerged from monologuing. We wrapped up the day by revising and began typing up some of our favorite pieces for our anthology.
Lesson Learned: “Monologues are putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, making your voice show.” 
Quote of the Day: “My bland yellow shirt and beige pants screamed middle age.”

Day 2 at St. Pete I.C.E. Writers: Maps of Ourselves

Sometimes it’s okay to get too emotional. Today, we explored the truths of who we are, what we enjoy, and what makes each of us unique. That led to some pretty amazing moments.
We began the day decorating “ME” posters with images and words cut out from magazines that represented us and our interests. We expanded our views of each other by examining our friends’ “ME” posters, and then we delved deep, thinking back to five major events of our lives and putting those on a timeline. At first, it was difficult to figure out what those major events were that shaped us into who we are. We forged ahead and heard a very personal and heartfelt memoir piece from Ms. Franki that gave everyone the feels. With this example in mind, we picked one event and developed our own memoir pieces. These funny, cute, lighthearted, and heartbreaking stories brought us together as a writing family.
And then the real work began — writing a six-word memoir that represented these emotional stories. How would be able to cut these masterpieces down to six words!? Well, we paired up with our revision buddies and magic memoir moments began emerging all over the room.
We were introduced to the Ladder of Feedback, and finished the day by writing our six-word memoirs on large strips of paper, which we will display with our “ME” maps around the room.
It was truly an inspiring day for all.
Lesson Learned: Memoirs can bring memories of any emotion, share them!
Quote of the Day: “Everyone is watching me. I feel looked at.”