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Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday odds and ends

Advice to a budding writer

We were in Columbus yesterday for my nephew Charlie's baptism when my 10-year-old nephew Todd told me about a story he wrote that got published by his school district last year. He's always been a bright and curious child, using bigger words than most kids his age. He asked if he could send his story to me to read. Absolutely, I told him. Being the diligent young man he is, the story was waiting in my e-mail when I got home last night.

Here was my response to him about "Snappy the Wolf":

Dear Todd,
What a wonderful story! I like your character, Snappy. He's a very noble creature. You have a very good message in your story about protecting our forests. And you do such a good job of describing the place where Snappy lives. That means you have something that all writers need—keen observation skills. You see the tiniest details, like how the light streams through in the morning, or what a thunderstorm looks and sounds like or how a cave can be a place of refuge, and make the reader see those details in his or her own mind.

I hope you keep writing and I hope you keep sending me your stories. Do you have a journal you can use to write down ideas? It's good to have and I always carry one with me. Sometimes I'll just write down something I see, like a color or sometimes I'll describe a smell, like the way the air smells after a summer rain. When I'm writing, sometimes I'll refer back to my journal to help me describe things. Sometimes I just write about what I'm thinking and that may give me an idea about a story.

A very important part about being a good writer is reading. Make sure you continue to read different kinds of things such as newspapers, magazines and books that interest you so you can learn how others write well.

I'm so glad you remembered to send me your story. Have a great first week of school and I'll talk to you soon. Keep writing!


Aunt Wendy

On this date...The Writer's Almanac

On this day in 1858, the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates began in Illinois. Slavery was once again becoming a big issue in America after a quiet forty years since the Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery in territories north of the 36°30' latitude. But in 1858, there was argument about whether slavery should be allowed in Kansas and Nebraska, and the Republican Party had been formed largely to keep slavery out of the western territories.

When Lincoln received the Republican nomination to run against democrat Stephen A. Douglas for the Illinois senate, he said, referring to the question of slavery "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Douglas called Lincoln a radical, and Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of seven debates around Illinois. Each debate lasted three hours. Crowds in the thousands turned out, and newspapers covered the story across the country. Douglas won the election, but during the debates Lincoln had forced him into a position that alienated southern Democrats. Meanwhile, Lincoln won national fame as an eloquent speaker, and when he faced Douglas again in the 1860 presidential race, Lincoln was victorious, becoming the first Republican to be elected to the White House.

Friday night lights in Alaska

An interesting look at the gridiron in today's LA Times.

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