Today, I was lucky enough to hear author Lisa Luedeke speak about her debut novel Smashed and her writing process. What I love about Lisa is she is a former high school English teacher and she really knows her stuff. I took a ton of notes during her talk and am hoping to follow some of the advice she imparted. I’ll list a couple of ideas I plan to use in my classroom.
1. Lisa used a quote during her presentation from Willa Cather, “most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.” I jotted this down with a note to use this in my class this year during my narrative unit.
2. Idea for Book Talks: I could read a part of her novel out loud during a book talk and have my kids write down questions they have for the book. This could make them want to read the book even more.
3. The Common Core asks us to do cold reads (stupid idea) and use textual evidence. Lisa gave us the idea to read a section of dialogue (as a cold read) and have the kids describe the characters use the body language (textual evidence). She read a great section out loud to us and I made a mental note to find it and use it when I book talk her book.
4. One thing Lisa mentioned that I find fascinating is that she needed to do a lot of research for her book. This got me thinking about how I teach research (the unit I hate the most). I am wondering if there is a way I could teach research through a creative writing assignment… must revisit this idea in the future.
Finally, like Stephen King, Lisa mentioned several times that her writing always comes out of a complex situation. Her characters are born out of the situation, not the other way around.
All in all, a great talk. I am hoping there is money in our budget to bring Lisa into my school this fall!
I work at a wonderful school. A wonderful school that has given me the opportunity to teach an entire course on one novel. The Stand. Perhaps the most prolific novel of my generation. I read this novel as a troubled teenager and it changed me.
I do not take the opportunity to teach this novel lightly.
For months now I have been trying to come up with an approach to this novel. In describing the novel to a colleague, she mentioned that it seems to fit well with Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey. And she’s right. Stu Redman is very much a hero in the novel. But then, so is Nick. And Frannie. And even Larry. In fact, all the people Mother Abigail dreams about can be considered heroes. So, maybe this is step one.
1. Teach the Hero’s Journey as a way to critically examine the novel. Have student choose which character they believe is the hero and prove it using Campbell’s steps and evidence from the novel.
OK, so this approach, and the fact that the novel is 1400 pages long, will take us through most of the semester. But I still need one more approach to this class. One more lens, if you will, that the students can use to examine this battle of good and evil on their own.
Oh, and if you have not yet read this masterpiece, please do. But, be warned, you will have nightmares.