A longtime writing professor shares her sensory approach to developing creative writing skills.
For more than 30 years, Fennimore (Earth Talking, 2010), a professor emeritus at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, taught writing to public school students ranging from preschool through graduate school levels. In this 15-chapter guide, she sets forth her “field-developed” curriculum, a series of activities that begins with such sensory exercises as considering what words come to mind while contemplating a cotton ball and builds to crafting a satisfying story with conflict, characters and style. Fennimore, also an illustrator and published author of poetry and on the art of bookbinding, infuses all her creative interests into this work. She uses drawings to spark flights of fancy, including cover art of a sketched flower that has the caption “petals having a gossip session.” She encourages readers to bind together books of their own writing to celebrate their creative expression. Fennimore’s exercises are, not surprisingly, focused on reading or writing poetry, although many prose selections and activities are also included. One of Fennimore’s particularly interesting ideas is to use children’s picture books as a springboard to launch other stories. While Fennimore’s approach has plenty of New-Age flavor, it’s also her pedagogical belief, backed by other educators whom she cites throughout her narrative, that one learns how to write through a process of observing experiences, talking about them and then expressing them in written form. This credo has plenty of mass as well as academic appeal, and Fennimore must have been a wonderful mentor to many in her career. Based on its abundance of writing prompts alone, this book will be greatly valued by parents, students and teachers. Experienced writers may find some of Fennimore’s tutorials a bit too remedial, and her preference for children’s literature and student writing as reading selections won’t be to everyone’s taste. Overall, however, this is an effective—and affecting—starter text to calling forth the writer’s voice.
A motivating combination of self-expression, philosophy and practical exercises for aspiring writers.