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Author cooks up some plots

Writer teaches students fundamental 'ingredients' for creating short stories

Posted: March 23, 2009 1:39 a.m.
Updated: March 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Mary Ann Fraser, author of children's books, wears her cooking clothes Friday as she describes the ingredients needed to make a storybook at Plum Canyon Elementary School.

Published author and illustrator Mary Ann Fraser captured students' attentions at Plum Canyon Elementary School as she demonstrated how to create intriguing short stories using a writing-based "recipe."

Wearing a tall white chef's hat and toting an array of kitchen supplies, she asked students to pick one "ingredient" from three bowls labeled "character," "problem" and "setting," which she used to create an exciting adventure about a cow who gets lost in space.

"The idea here is that the writing process is a lot like cooking," Fraser said. "I've tried to break it down into simple elements. We have three ingredients, and from that we're going to create a story and demonstrate that every story has to have a beginning, middle, and an end, which ties directly to what the kids are learning in school."

Fraser's interactive seminar Friday kicked off the school's writing program, teaching kindergarten-through-sixth-grade students how to write a book.

Students will present their finished books to their classmates on May 19 at "Young Author's Day."

"The students are given blank books and their objective is to write and illustrate their own story," said fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Way. "They have two months to work on their story and bring it from a bare book into what, in terms of a child, is a published piece of literature."

Sixth-grader Andrew Garcia has written several books and said he is excited about this year's project.

"I started Young Author's Day when I was in kindergarten," Garcia said. "I think (this year) I'm going to write about a little kid named Sparky. He's trying out for the baseball team but he has a serious injury.

"He buys these magic cleats which help him play baseball really well and he gets to the championship. It's going to be a really great book."

Garcia enjoys writing because the story possibilities are endless.

"You can use your imagination for anything you want to write," he said.

Forth-grader Karlie Hernandez likes thinking up stories and drawing illustrations, she said.

"I'm thinking about creating a book with an ostrich as the main character because that's my favorite animal," Hernandez said. "He gets stuck in school. I use my imagination (for the pictures) and use pencils and go back and color it.

"The most exciting part is figuring out what you want to do and finding a problem and figuring out how to fix it."

Students in each grade level receive a topic for their books that's specific to their grade's writing curriculum, Way said.

"The younger kids are writing narratives, which goes along with their curriculum," she said. "Some of the older kids will write poetry books, or a folk tale, or a fairy tale. Each grade level (assignment) has a different twist, but the writing process spans all the grade levels."

Fifth-grader Camryn Ostrander plans to write a story based on a myth.

"A couple months ago we wrote myths, so my teacher wants us to transpose those into stories," she said. "Mine is about a boy who has to go to this animal kingdom and save all the animals and he stays and lives there."

The writing project allows students to track their writing progress because they write a book every year. Some of the students use the same characters in every book and write a series, Way said.

"The kids who have been going to school here since kindergarten have an entire series of books they've written when they leave in sixth grade," she said.

"A lot to them really cherish them. We want them to love writing and come up with a product that amazes them. Some of them will develop a talent that they may not have known they had."


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