August 10, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:37 am

I’ve always believed that kids were natural born storytellers.

When I was 19, and a counselor at a summer day camp, with a fierce crush on someone that infused all my days, I taught a writing unit to kids who spent the rest of their day tearing around fields and diving in the lake.

And these little moppets and gremlins would shuck off their damp towels, push the brims back on their caps, and hunker down over notebooks.

They’d come up with lines like, In the blackberry brambles, hid a puffy rabbit.

Not a ‘fluffy’ rabbit. That’d be a cliche. A puffy one.

And, My feet were as sticky as day old lollies.

Or, There is nowhere that’s really over the rainbow.

(This from a child we later found out had it kind of rough).

They effortlessly wrote lines that a grown up writer might toil over, slavishly polishing and re-polishing to get the sheen that comes so naturally to children.

I’ve taught writing to emotionally disturbed kids, to ones in the juvenile justice system, and used writing in therapy sessions with child patients, and the result is always the same.

Now I see it with my own children.

My daughter seems like she might have a gift for writing, one that, if I can (please, somebody) do what I should, might fuel all her days. She feels an internal pressure when she’s not making up stories that is the hallmark, or so I’ve read, of something special.

My son is more a scientist, observer (and questioner) of the world. But like his sister, he’s been read to and dragged around to bookstores and heard me muttering lines out loud as I revise. And so even though he’s probably not destined for life as a writer, just today in his game, I caught this gem: The car slammed into a wall as hard as a cloud.

As hard as a cloud?

See? Not going to be a writer probably. But the point is he was thinking in similes, as all children do.

If we can kindle that flame, some of these children will become writers.

Today on our ventures, I found a gem of a used bookstore, called Jupiters. And I met the proprietor, Watt Childress, who went to the trouble of leafing through three old volumes to help my son decide whether he wanted a book on air craft, trains, or sports cars.

Watt also is a keen political writer–with a new/old online paper coming soon–and something of a scribe for the community.

And he’s done something with this shop that is the essence of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day (whose word we are still spreading).

On his business card, his two daughters are listed as apprentices.

That’s what TYCBD is all about. Not introducing kids to a love of reading–better minds and organizational bodies than I have already addressed that.

But introducing them to a love of bookstores. Of being in a store filled with magic and knowing what to do with it.

Some of these kids may fulfill their potential as storytellers. Some may become booksellers. Some may just narrate their car games, well or not so well.

But they’ll all find that over the rainbow lies some place just for them.


  1. I love the business card with his daughters listed! That is great!

    Comment by Judy — August 10, 2011 @ 8:24 am

  2. What a lovely description of the gift an exposure to bookstores brings. Also, you’re right that often kids come out naturally with amazing words that adult writers only wish we could find. Liz

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — August 10, 2011 @ 10:36 am

  3. This is so true! Thanks for a fun read, Jenny.

    Comment by Kaye George — August 10, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  4. Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Jenny! I watch my son and wonder if he’ll ever gravitate towards writing, like me, or if he’ll remain more like his father, a keen observer and doer of things, but not necessarily with words. Either way, he gets read to as often as he wants (which is more often than I want–just kidding!), so I know he’ll find his own path to follow. But it’s so much fun to watch the journey of him learning to become himself.

    Comment by Becca — August 10, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  5. Every day I watch my son put stories together, cobbled from his own imagination, my stories to him and whatever he sees or experiences through the day. We have made our own books, he has offered title suggestions for my ms and even future plots. I’m hopeful that even if he doesn’t become a writer, he will write in some way throughout his future life.

    It makes me inordinately happy to know that some gift has been passed and all it really took for me was storytime every night.

    Comment by Karyne — August 10, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  6. My daughter has that imagination and gift with words, too. And my son is a scientist… Funny though–my son is more a reader… daughter will have to pick up the reading habit if she wants a career of it. I think she likes creation more broadly (photography, drawing, design) and writing will just be a piece of it, though she might make an excellent graphic designer doing some layout, some coywriting.

    Comment by Hart — August 10, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reactions, and so many wonderful kernels about your own kids. May the story teller in them all continue to flame–whoever they ultimately turn out to be.

    Comment by jenny — August 10, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

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