A guide that encourages young writers to experiment and create.
Well-known writers and illustrators here collaborate on a volume of writing prompts and the stories that result. Sharp invited contributors to submit creative prompts (“poems, photographs, drawings, anything”), and then each contributor used another’s prompt to create something—a story, a poem, a comic, an illustration. The experiment in “the way ideas can be story seeds that take root and blossom” must have been fun for the creators, but the fruits of their play have not yielded a collection that’s particularly useful to young writers. Many of the prompts are silly or vague, and the resulting stories, poems, and illustrations are, for the most part, lacking in substance. Kate DiCamillo leads off with a solid idea—using overheard dialogue for a short story told in dialogue. But Lemony Snicket’s response feels dashed off, a flip story likely to fall flat with readers. John Schu’s prompt, “My school librarian turned into a fly on the fifth day of fourth grade,” might sound Kafka-esque, but Sherman Alexie’s resultant poem feels like so much free association rather than a constructed work. A proliferation of exclamation points seemingly intended to boost enthusiasm may further act as a turnoff.
An earnest attempt, but readers will find both better guides to creative writing and better short stories, poems, etc., elsewhere. (contributor biographies, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)