On December 10, I attended the PEBC's Winter Seminar with Penny Kittle. Some of my best learning has come about as a result of my relationship with the Public Education and Business Coalition here in Denver (check out the institutes and seminars available on their website - particularly the four-day Thinking Strategies Institute). The day I spent with Penny Kittle was no exception. It was a perfect day of revitalization as a writer and a teacher of writers. I think, too, that Penny's close connection to Donald Graves added bit of light to the day!
One of the books that Penny shared with us was The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler. It's a collection of third person pieces written around a variety of emotions... beauty, compassion, discipline, anxiety. Short vignettes that describe each "quality" with simplicity and complexity... perfect springboards for our own writing or for the writing of our students. Penny selected a few pieces to nudge us to do a quickwrite in our notebooks.
It's interesting that this book is found in the "mental health" section of the bookstore (of course, I went to three bookstores and it was either sold out or on hold, so I had to order it from The Tattered Cover). The book's original intent was likely to bring clarity to our "emotions," but I think Penny had the "write" idea to use it as a springboard for experimenting with words and language. We don't often focus specifically on an emotion and have a go with third person writing. And, we don't often focus enough on building fluency as a writer by doing some writing practice (I learned about the importance of practice from my friend and colleague, Randi Allison, author of Tastes Like Chocolate thoughts from young people). It was such fun to play around with bringing human characteristics to the most human of all qualities - our emotions - in my notebook.
My day with Penny was exactly what I needed that December day, not to get into the holiday spirit, but to get into the writing spirit. If you work with adults or older children, or if you want to revitalize your own writing, this might just be the perfect book for you. Thanks, Penny, for introducing it to us!