This is what I was seeing on blogs, Instagram, Twitter:
Don’t these pictures make you curious? I could not imagine what this was all about. Slowly I gathered clues and tried to make sense of it all, but it didn’t make sense. The word prompt kept appearing and I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how creativity and prompt fit together.
I decided to wait until I knew more and placed my trust in Colby Sharp. I knew in my heart that Colby was not a teacher who gave a prompt and expected kids to write. I decided to wait and see, but I did pre-order this book.
Colby did several videos when he got the ARCs. He mentioned trying some of the prompts with his students. I was feeling a little hesitant, even though he said his students loved creating with the prompts.
I am not a fan of prompts. Prompts make me think there isn’t a choice in what to write or how to write. We are right back there being the turkey persuading you not to eat him. When I think back to my days of writing as a student, I don’t ever remember getting a choice in my writing. I remember wishing I could write the story from my pencil’s point of view. That was never an assignment and I only wrote to fulfill the assignments. I didn’t know I could just do it on my own.
The first page I read began with the heading WELCOME TO THE CREATIVITY PROJECT! Here he explained how the project worked. He challenged forty-four authors and illustrators to create a prompt that would get creative juices flowing. These prompts could take any form illustrations, photos, poems, anything that gets one thinking. Once he got the prompts, he sent them out to the authors and illustrators to create. This book contains the prompts (forty-four used and forty-four unused) and the creations from the prompts.
Now, I am understanding that these aren’t your everybody-writes-the-same-story kind of prompts. These are more like prompts for quick writes. I’ve been trying to understand quick writes. Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Linda Rief write about having their students do a lot of quick writes off a prompt. I spent an evening talking with Ruth Ayres about the difference between a prompt and a quick write prompt. She helped me clear the fog that had been clouding my brain on this topic. I wish I knew a different word for quick write prompts.
As I read some of the prompts, then the response, I noted that sometimes the responder didn’t truly follow the prompt, but they made it their own, which is what is asked of the writer in quick writes.
Gary Schmidt is one of the contributors. I have been a fan of his writing ever since I read Orbiting Jupiter. I was curious what he wrote for a prompt. He had a half page of a story started, then Linda Urban finished the story, but she included an author’s note that I very much appreciated because she explained her thinking on this idea of prompts. These words made all the difference: “. . . I want all the readers and writers who are looking at this anthology to understand that prompts like these are for play. They are for exploring and trying things out and seeing what skills you might have and where you might want to grow.” A few sentences later she said, “The project isn’t called the Perfection Project or the Judgment Project or the Published Authors Can Do No Wrong Project. It is the Creativity Project. I stretched my creativity a little here, to try to finish a short story. I’m going to call that a success. Now, how about you?”
I can see using this book in many ways in the classroom. It can spark an idea. It can be examined comparing the prompt to the response. Perhaps the response could be read, can you figure out what the prompt said? I see mentor texts in these pages. I love the range of writing and illustrations. However, I wish the illustration pages were in color, but I guess that would make the book too expensive.
What a unique concept for a book! Well done Colby Sharp!