Teaching's in my DNA

My Treasure Book of Writing

Last year's purple book shows how thick each of these will be.
Last year’s purple book (standing) shows how obnoxiously thick each of these will be.

A while back I mentioned my self-made textbooks for high school. They’re so fat they’re laughable, being stuffed with quotations and articles. And, ha, cartoons.

So today I’ll give you a look. Yes, that is Wile E. Coyote’s calling card in yellow on the open page. (Click the image if you’d like to enlarge it.) “Have Brain, Will Travel,” it says. Not bad advice for the student writer. Or for me!

I’ve learned that students prefer visuals that the teacher has made herself. I don’t know why, but they shrug off professionally-designed graphics, especially in a Christian setting. They’d rather have my cattywampus chalkboard drawings—produced as I taught Sunday school—showing, say, the lopsided New Jerusalem or bulbous lions surrounding Daniel in their den. We’d laugh, and the students would say that my drawings were great. Why? Because I’d drawn them right then, just for them.

So when I launched my high school fiction writing elective, I knew the textbook had to be something more. More than just pages to be inserted in a three-ring binder and forgotten. Instead, I decided that for each student I’d put together a Treasure Book of Writing.

An even better view of the  fat finished book.
A top view of the humongous purple book.

I broke open my spiral notebooks stuffed with quotations I’d copied out for my own use. I went through bookmarked articles and blog posts. I unearthed funny Internet quips about the English language. And I dug out cartoons I’d saved because they made me smile. All these get taped, week by week, into what used to be regular composition books. As you can see, by this point in the school year they’re becoming freakishly fat.

It helps that I am published. In the students’ eyes, I wear the long cape of the professional author instead of the short cape of the teacher, so it’s like I can do no wrong. When I give them helpful material, I share as a fellow writer. “We all learn writing the same way,” I tell them. “By doing it, lots of it. And I’ve made every one of the mistakes you are making, and many more besides.” And they learn, bless them. As the year progresses, their work improves and their confidence soars.

And it’s gratifying that my students love their books. They refer to them, not only for assignment parameters and deadlines, but also for advice. They eagerly page through to see the new inserts. A few students have taken them along to university. One girl loaned hers to her writing professor!

You can picture my chagrin, for most of this material is swiped from Writer’s Digest and other blogs. All sources are cited, but still. I stretch “for educational purposes only” to its limit. So don’t expect to see these “textbooks” published anytime soon. Because they won’t be, not ever!

Now I have a question for you. Do you have your own Treasure Book of Writing in the works? Do you save advice and articles and clever cartoons that speak to you? And even (gasp) compliments you’ve received for your writing? You should.

Because on dark days of writerly despair, these can be so very encouraging. They help you remember that you are not alone, that even famous authors have struggled. And encouragement is powerful. It helps keep you in the writing game.

11 thoughts on “My Treasure Book of Writing

  1. Susan, thanks so much for stopping by! And for giving me the link to your blog! 🙂

    Yes, April is going to be insane. I forgot about NaNo. And report cards. And the ginormous (30-page) short stories that must be graded.

    So for A – Z I’ll probably share writing quotations. Or random babbling from my crazed mind.


  2. What a great idea. Brought me right back to my best teachers and yes, as I think of it, my favorite used to draw for us on the board. Nothing like it in terms of feeling seen. Also loved the “long cape of author vs. the host cape of teacher.” Your students are lucky to have you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The long cape / short cape idea came to me, Tonia, when I noticed the difference in how students responded to our music teachers. The fellow who had his own voice studio, who sang in operas, had them in the palm of his hand. And so did the musicians who played in jazz bands, and who (bless them!) broke out their instruments and played along with the band.

      Being a small school has its perks, and to interact with working artists is wondrous for students.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You know me, I keep no quotes, or prompts of any kind. I do have a file in my email box called, Readers. If someone took the time to email me directly, I’ve kept it. Otherwise, I tend to wing it, depending only on Steve Pressfield and his “The War of Art” battle cries.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How I wish I’d been in your writing class in high school. Of course, your age in the seventies may have thwarted your effectiveness… What fun ideas. My fifth graders had writing journals, which they covered with collages, and filled with quotes, poetry, journal entries, music critiques, cartoons, and magazine clippings. I still have mine as their teacher. I thought they were AWESOME. You should put this on Pinterest! Teachers would love it…and MORE details!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the props, Denise. I’ll consider Pinterest. Right now I’m chin-deep in teaching, writing, and blogging … and I must have lost my mind when I signed up for A-Z Blogging and Camp NaNo.

      I’m three books behind, as my readers remind me, but I’m still in the game. Thanks for stopping by!


      1. Doorstops, yes, Susan. It’s a real time sink to keep these updated. On the other hand, I have to tape each quotation and each article in, and as I do, it’s like reinforcement to stay in the game.

        I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for the A-Z blogging thing. Camp NaNo’s goal is 20,000 words, 100 more than what I’m doing already. And the A-Z posts will be short.


    1. Too big to ship or pack in carry-on luggage, Gayle. I’ll have to drive one to your house! Which would take a week. And, given that I’d be traveling with Susan Kaye, it would be one of those Thelma and Louise deals. 🙂

      More reasons to finish my manuscript!


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