Saturday, June 30, 2007

Writing Workshop - O. Henry

O. Henry

O. Henry is the pen name of William Sydney Porter, one of America's most famous snort story writers. His mother died when he was three; his Father, a physician, became an alcoholic and worked continuously to invent a perpetual motion machine.

Porter left school at age fifteen and went to work in a drugstore. When he began to show symptoms of tuberculosis, he moved to Texas and worked on a ranch. He married and lived in Austin where he began a newspaper called "The Rolling Stone." It failed. He was accused of embezzling bank funds and fled to Honduras.

In 1887, Porter returned to the U.S. because his wife was dying. He was then put in a federal prison in Ohio. Released in 1901, he moved to New York City, where he lived and wrote for nine more years. Porter died a penniless alcoholic. No one knew that he was the famous 0. Henry, master of the ironic ending.

O. Henry begins his stories in interesting ways, and often ends them in even more interesting ways. On the screens below you will find the beginning lines from several of O. Henry's stories.

Read through each of the choices. Consider how to use the beginning to unfold your own story. Spend a few minutes just thinking about a story line. You might want to type a few notes on plot, setting, and character if they come to mind. After you've looked at all the choices, choose the one you like the most.

Choice #1


"It was a day in March.

Never, never begin a story this way when you write one. No opening could possibly be worse. It is unimaginative, flat, dry, and likely to consist of mere wind. But in this instance it is allowable. For the following paragraph, which should have inaugurated the narrative, is too wildly extravagant and preposterous to be flaunted in the face of the reader
without preparation."

Choice #2


"Suppose you should be walking down Broadway after dinner, with ten minutes allotted to the consummation of your cigar while you are choosing between a diverting something serious in the way of vaudeville. Suddenly a hand is laid upon your arm. You turn to look into the thrilling eyes of a beautiful woman, wonderful in diamonds and Russian sables. She thrusts hurriedly into your hand an extremely hot buttered roll, flashes out a tiny pair of scissors, snips off the second button of your overcoat, meaningly ejaculates the one word, 'parallelogram!' and swiftly flies down a cross street, looking back fearfully over her shoulder."

Choice #3


"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all . And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Delia counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas."

Choice #4


"A guard came to the prison shoe-shop, where .Jimmy Valentine was assiduously stitching uppers, and escorted him to the front office. There the warden handed Jimmy his pardon, which had been signed that morning by the governor. Jimmy took it in a tired kind of way. He had served nearly ten months of a four-year sentence. He had expected to stay only about three months, at the longest. When a man with as many friends on the outside as Jimmy Valentine had is received in the "stir" it is hardly worth while to cut his hair.

'Now, Valentine,' said the warden,"


Now that you have finished writing the first draft of your short story,
reread it for the following points;

Does the beginning catch your imagination?

Does your plot unfold in a well-paced and well-structured way? Does the plot have enough complexity to keep the story intriguing? (Imagine the most likely outcome and then add surprises and twists which the reader
not expect.)

Because of the brevity of a short story, you can't spend too much time developing setting. However, the setting often helps determine the mood of the story. So look at your story in respect to mood and setting. Does the setting support a light and humorous story? ...a serious, foreboding story? ...a dark, mysterious story?

Is your main character completely developed and easy to visualize? Can you add some traits to his or her character which give more depth or

Now revise your story. After you've finished your second draft, your story should be ready a peer review.

Peer Review

Someone should read your story. They can can consider the same questions you did and make suggestions for improvements. You, of course, have the final word on how your story is changed, if at all. Sometimes, however, a fresh eye can spot problems or shortcomings you are unaware of.


When you are satis-tied with the content of the story, you will want to check it closely for spelling, punctuation, and usage errors. It is sometimes helpful to read your writing backwards, from the end to the beginning. This helps you focus on the mechanical errors because it prevents you from reading the story for understanding,

When you have finished your final draft of your story, you will probably be curious about how O. Henry actually told the story. Check your library or the Internet to locate an anthology that includes the story you chose. Then see what things you did similarly and what things you did differently from O. Henry.

To share your work - click on Comments and type in your short story.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Poetry Workshop - Simile To Metaphor

Simile To Metaphor

Changing a simile into a metaphor
Is like opening a swinging door
Changing a simile into a metaphor
Is the branch growing
Into the trunk of the tree.

A simile says,

"I am slinky like a cat."
It is tame.
It doesn't take the next step and say,
I am a slinky cat."

"I am as hot as a fire"
would change into,
"I am a hot fire."

So, to change a simile that uses "like" or "as" into a metaphor, you simply remove the "like" and "as" words.

Then rewrite the sentence so it makes sense and so it states that you are what you say you are.

A good way to start is to write a simple "I AM" simile poem. Something like this:

I am as short as a tall table
I am like a friendly circus
I am as curious as a person swimming under water
I am happy like a baby being loved
I am as skinny as a hippo
I am as tired as a rusty nut
I am worn out like an old ripped road map that's been folded too many times

Write your own "I AM" simile poem.

Now remove all of the "like" and "as" words, changing your simile poem into a stronger metaphor poem.

Here is a wonderfully simple metaphor poem in which the author, Daniel, describes himself as a house.

I'm a house,
Three stories high.
I'm a house,
All lonely and shy.
I'm a house,
An old, dirty house.
I'm a house,
With bugs and a mouse.
I'm a house,
With dirty walls.
I'm a house,
With creepy walls.
I'm a house,
All lonely and shy.

Now write your own metaphor poem using a house to describe yourself.

To share your work - click on Comments and type in your metaphor poem.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Writing Workshop - Creating Character

William Faulkner


You know that the use of DESCRIPTION and DIALOGUE develops a character. DESCRIPTION describes or draws a word portrait of a character. DIALOGUE, when a person says something, tells a lot about their character.

In this activity, you will write a dialogue for an already created character. The character description is from literature. The dialogue is from your imagination.

Below is a character description -from A ROSE FOR EMILY by William Faulkner.

"They rose when she entered a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a limp of dough as they moved from one face to another while t he visitors stated their errand."

Please read the character description a second time. This time imagine how this character’s personality would be expressed in the way she talks. Visualize the character; see her move and hear her speak.

You are one of the visitor's, come to state your errand. You are asking her assistance.

What are you asking her assistance for?

Write a brief description of your own character based en the errand you are on .

Now create a dialogue between yourself and the woman. State your request. Listen to her response. Create at least ten lines of dialogue between yourself and the woman.


Look carefully at HOW the lady spoke to you. Can you add anything to the way she spoke? Describe how her voice sounds as she speaks. The list below may help you.

Words to use instead of said:


Can you add anything to her mannerisms as she talks? Try to describe what she does with her hands, how she moves, and what her facial expressions are like.

Return to your dialogue and rewrite, adding details that help the reader see and hear the characters.

Click on Comments and type in your dialogue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Writing Workshop - CLUSTER

Imagine that you have been given a topic. You have been asked to think of words that remind you of that topic word. That group of words is called a CLUSTER.

It's fun to create word clusters by BRAINSTORMING with your partner or with a friend. When you brainstorm, you jot down your ideas as quickly as you can. Word clusters are a good way to think of supporting details for a topic. When you finish creating your cluster, you will probably have material to write a good paragraph.


Form clusters for each of the topics listed below by brainstorming a list of ideas that you think of when you hear the topic word. Use colors, feelings, smells, appearances, sounds, or tastes to describe each topic word.


TOPIC: designer Jeans

IDEAS: expensive
make me -feel good
wear them anywhere
kills my clothing budget
tore my favorite pair



favorite entertainer: __ (you put in the name)



the future



You can form the supporting ideas you listed for one of your topics into a paragraph. Begin by writing a topic sentence.

Here is a topic sentence on the main idea of DESIGNER JEANS, using some of the supporting ideas from the list.

"If I had my way, I would live in my stone-washed, super-comfortable, straight-legged designer jeans."

The remaining ideas become the supporting ideas. Here is one way these ideas might be written into a paragraph:

"If I had my way, I would live in my stone-washed, super-comfortable, straight-legged designer jeans. True, they are expensive, but then I only need a couple of pairs to last through a season. I feel so good when I'm dressed in designer jeans; they give me the confidence to relax and be myself. I can wear my designer jeans anywhere because they are so versatile."

Now choose one of the main idea topics to write a paragraph about. The topics were the beach, your favorite entertainer, dreams, secrets, friends, flowers, munchies, the future, and money.

Pick at least three supporting ideas from your list. Put them together into a paragraph about your main idea.

To share your work - click on Comments and type in your paragraph.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Writing Workshop - Favorite Words

Think of your six favorite words. They might describe a special thing, remind you of a special place or time, or just be fun to say.


There will only be ten words kept in the world. You have been asked to nominate one of your favorite words to be included in those ten. You must write a convincing argument for including your word. Tell why it is special. Tell why it can be used. Tell why it is very important to keep this word.

Think of your six-favorite words. They might describe a special thing, remind you of a special place or time, or just be fun to say. For example, here is a list of a friend's favorite words. She even made up one word on her list. Can you tell which one is made up?


Now choose your six favorite words. You might have more than six favorite words. If you do, great! Just write them all down. Then go back and delete some choices until your final list contains only your six favorite words.

Then you choose one of the words from your list and write an advertisement, offering that word for sale .

Two examples:

FOR SALE! ONLY THREE LEFT!!! Own the word TWITTERPATED for yourself! Be the first on your block with this great new word to express strong feelings of love and affection. Only $13.47 each.

THINK OF IT! Your own personal GREEN! Only a few of this model left. A
special gift for that someone who has red, yellow, and blue, but no green. A steal at $65,962.21.

Recall there will only be ten words kept in the world. You have been asked to nominate one of your favorite words to be included in those ten. You must write a convincing argument for including your word. Tell why it is special. Tell how it can be used. Tell why it is very important to keep this word.

Share your advertisement by clicking on Comments and uploading it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Poetry Workshop - NICE MICE

Poets often find ideas for new poems in poems written by others. Sometimes poets will even imitate another poet's work as a way of complimenting that poet . It is as if they are saying, "I like your poem so well, I've written a variation on it."

Thus let's piggyback on Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Read the following poem "NICE MICE" by Jon Madian. Think about how you might rewrite this poem or create your own variations on this theme.


Nice mice
Eat spice.
Throw dice.
Chew rice.
Make nice.
Slice ice.
Give advice.
Once, not twice.

Now it's your turn to write a new version of "NICE MICE!" Change any of the lines in the poem that you wish to. Here is a word bank for "ice" words that may help you.



Make a word bank of all the rhyming words you used in your poem.
You may wish to add other rhyming words from the original poem, as well.

Consult a rhyming dictionary to find more rhyming words for your word bank.

Take one or two lines or phrases that you particularly like from your own poem and from the original poem. Then create your own original poem about mice or about a new subject. Use some of the "ice" rhyming words.

Share your poem with a partner, friend, or with a writing support group. Decide which parts of your poem others like best. Decide which parts you like best.

Then list the ideas you and your friends have for making your poem even better.

Then revise your poem, using your own ideas and those you have received from others.

When your poem is in final form, you may want to print it out and illustrate it. (Then it would be fun for you and your friends to publish your poems in a poetry anthology!)

Or publish it here by clicking on Comments.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

For Experts Only

See If You Can Figure This One Out!

Jones, Brown, Smith, and Robinson were a driver, s stoker, a guard, or a porter on the Cayuga Express. Each wore either a red, a black, a blue, or a green shirt.

The driver beat Brown at billiards, and Smith and the guard often played golf with men in black and green shirts. Jones and the porter disliked the man in the green shirt, but this was not the stoker as he always wore a red shirt.

What was each person's occupation or job and the color of his shirt?


Friday, June 22, 2007

Writing Workshop - Magazine Report

Use this frame to structure your magazine article report.

Magazine report frame

Name of magazine:

Title of Article:


Date of Publication:

Complete these starters:

This article was about ...

An interesting fact I learned was ...

In addition to this, I discovered that ...

In my opinion, ...

To share your magazine report - click on Comments and type in your magazine report.