(I was not contacted by Ralph Fletcher or his publishers to give this review. All opinions are 100% mine and were not compensated in any way. Although, I'm 100% for compensation and would love any money thrown my way...hehehehe.)
Yesterday I mentioned that I was reading Ralph Fletcher's Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words. I can't remember where I first heard about Ralph Fletcher, but it was sometime last summer when I was researching the concept of Writer's Workshop and Writer's Notebooks. I have a couple posts about my journey into starting Writer's Workshop on my other blog The Lazy Perfectionist which I wrote before I decided to do an exclusively teaching blog here at Simply Sixth Grade. Here's a post on introducing the Writer's Notebook: click here. Here's a post on using observations in the Writer's Notebook: click here. Here's a post on using Heart Maps in the Writer's Notebook: click here.
I really enjoyed implementing Writer's Workshop in my classroom last year. My students loved it as well. My goal for this year is to be a bit more focused in the Writer's Workshop mini-lessons and to make the purpose of the Writer's Notebook clearer to my students.
The focus of Live Writing is on crafting powerful stories. The chapters are essentially broken up into different elements of stories. Fletcher starts with character, then moves on to voice, conflict, setting, time, leads, details, and then ends with a discussion on "the golden line."
One thing I love about Fletcher's writing is his straightforward writing style. 4th-6th graders could easily read this book and apply the principles to their own writing. As an adult, I can also easily apply the tips and principles to my own writing. So, he somehow writes in a way that speaks to anyone at any age. The best part is this book is only about 131 pages long so you could easily read it in a day (maybe even sneak it into teacher's in-service). ; )
I also like how Fletcher finds a way to get interviews with big-name children's authors and then includes excerpts from those interviews in his writing. He also uses examples from the writings of upper elementary students (good and bad) to emphasize his principles. He has written a few novels himself and he includes excerpts from these novels to further exemplify his writing principles.
I think Fletcher's thoughts about "voice" are what stuck out to me the most. When I'm blogging (especially with the goal of having other teacher's read my writing), I so often tend to write in a formal, up-tight way. Every once in a while, my true self emerges. I could easily copy the writing styles of other bloggers since I read A LOT of blogs. Plus, it sometimes seems that the more you conform to the standard writing style, the more followers and readers you get. At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I've noticed some teacher-bloggers writing in a style that almost sounds fake. I don't know them personally, so I really have no right to assess whether or not they are being fake. But, I can't help wondering if they really sound like that in real life. I hope that I don't do the same thing by trying to sound grammatically correct or prim and proper in order to keep all the English teachers out there happy. Anyways, Fletcher urges his readers to find their voice and make it come through their writing. He mentioned that writing, writing, writing is one of the best ways to get your voice to rise to the surface.
All that to say, Ralph Fletcher's Live Writing is an excellent book. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to either improve their own writing or to improve their writing instruction. Read it...you won't be sorry...especially if you read during teacher's in-service. ; )