school

The Curious Cats Sessions

curious-cat

Do you need to analyse poems?

Yes.

Well, learn this sentence:

“All curious cats think mice smell lovely, don’t you think?”

Why?

Because, if you do, you will be one step closer to remembering all the stuff your teacher asks you to write about when it comes to a poem.

How come?

It’s a mnemonic.

Oh, OK ..

A ll – A uthor

C urious – C ontext

C ats – C ontent

Th ink – Th eme

M ice – M ood

S mell – S tructure

L ovely – L anguage

Don’t you think? – Reader response

Cool!

So, when you’re analysing a poem, you can do it by working out the answers to questions like these:

All – Author

Who wrote the poem? When did the poet live? Where? What was his or her childhood like? What did they do apart from write? Did they write other stuff?

Curious – Context

When was the poem written? What was happening in that place at that time? What is the poet’s perspective on these places and events, and the characters involved? What was the general public’s perspective on these things at the time? Have these views changed since the poem was written?

Cats – Content

What is the poem actually about? Does it describe something? Does it tell a story? What places or characters are mentioned? What do we know about them? Is there a literal and also a metaphorical or allegorical meaning to the poem?

Think – Theme

If you can answer the last question in the Cats section, you will already be thinking about the themes that are dealt with in the poem. Does the poem have an overall subject or topic? What is it? Does it have more than one? Does the poem have a message for the reader? What does the poet want the reader to think? What does the poet want the reader to feel?

Mice – Mood

And if you can answer that, you are ready to start thinking about what it actually is that the poet actually does to convey all of the above to the reader.

Is the poem dark or light? What situations, places, characters, phrases or words make it that way? Does it make you laugh, cry, think, cringe? Why? Is this how the poet wanted you to feel?

What other things has the poet done to influence the way the reader feels?

Smell – Structure

Is it long? Does it have stanzas? How many? Are they all the same length? Are the lines all the same length or are they different? Is there a pattern to the stanzas or the lines?

Does it rhyme? is there a particular rhyme scheme? What is it?

Is the poem a sonnet, or a ballad, or even something as weird and obscure as a villanelle (not likely, but ..)? How do you know? Why did the writer choose this type of poem? Was it a popular or common type of poem at the time? Is it popular now?

Has the writer made the poem this way for any particular reason? Does the structure of the poem do anything to enhance the message or the themes of the poem?

Lovely – Language

What emotive words has the poet used? Are they adjectives? Are they adverbs? Does the poet use alliteration, repetition, personification, enjambment or any other fancy poetic devices to help us understand the poem’s message and feel the poem’s feelings?

Don’t you think? – Reader response

Do you like it? Why? Why not? Who would like it? Why? Who definitely wouldn’t like it? Why not? Are particular types of people more likely to like it than others? Did more people like it when it was written than now? Why? Why not? Will people like it in the future? Why? Why not?

2-curious-cats

Day By Day

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

day by day by Eva

Day By Day by Eva

This session is about routine. It’s about the boring hard work of daily routine, or about the interesting, the amazing, the pleasurable things that you manage to fit into your day. Or both.

Do you have a daily routine? If every day is different for you, you can still try this session. Just average things out or use yesterday as an example or make things up, imagine the daily routine of another person. It doesn’t matter.

Activity

Copy the diagram below into your notebook. At The Safe House, we love squared notebooks, it doesn’t really matter the size. You should use any type or size you like. You could use a cereal packet rectangle, as described in other sessions from The Safe House.

Find a comfortable place to sit with a bit of space to spread your kit out. Complete the diagram in any way you choose with regard to your day, or that of your chosen character.

Stimulus

The ‘stimulus’ is the diagram below. You can complete it in any way you choose. Use clouds, arrows, different coloured pens, a ruler! Note significant parts of your day on the diagram – Sleeping, dreaming, eating, travelling, etc.

Obviously, if you have chosen to use another person or character, you should complete the diagram for that person.

The diagram below:

The Diagram Below

Guide

This is an exercise in thinking carefully about when things happen. It is also good practice for note taking and then using notes for creativity.

You can use the information you note on the diagram to construct a piece of narrative writing.

Here are a few things you could do with the diagram, if you complete it with enough detail:

  • Write sentences about the day in the third person.
  • If you choose to complete the diagram with information about another person’s routine, write sentences about the day in the first person.
  • Focus on a particular part of the day, break it down even further and write in more detail about the routine of that part of the day.
  • Use past tenses, as if the routine has now changed.
  • You could begin to think about describing feelings about the routine as well.
  • Describe the day as a one-off day, as if it happened yesterday or as if it happened one day last week.
  • Describe the day as a dream for the future.

Word count and process

You could probably fit your day into 250 words, if you really get brutal and edit out a lot of stuff. We would say that between 250 and 500 words is a pretty good target word count for this session.

  • Open up a clean page of your notebook, get together a good selection of pens, pencils, felt pens, a ruler and any other kit you would like to use.
  • Make a version of the diagram and fill it in. You should think about spending about 15 minutes on this. Of course, it depends on how long it takes you to make the base diagram, and how busy your day is, I suppose. But we think about 15 minutes is good.
  • Use the completed diagram to write 250 – 500 words to describe the activities, etc. noted on the diagram. First draft should be pretty much non-stop and take not more than 15 minutes. You’ve got good notes so you don’t have to think too much about what to write. We think it’s a good idea to use your plan when you write like this, but we know not everybody actually does it that way! If you don’t usually use your plan when you write, you could try it for this session. You never know…
  • When you have done this, spend time proof-reading for any spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and check it makes sense. Make sure you would be happy for other people to read it. This should probably take about 15 minutes but it really does depend on your accuracy in the first draft and your ability to spot things that need changing.

nb Look for other Safe House Sessions for ways to proof-read and edit your writing.

If you do all of this in one go, you will have been creating and writing for about 45 minutes in total.

This is the same time span as a half in a football match. You will probably be knackered, if you do it non-stop!

Of course, this isn’t football, this is writing. It’s harder. So, we think you should take breaks if you need them. It’s up to you, though.

Anyway, when you’ve done it, leave it for at least half an hour and then come back and edit it one more time.

What next?

Updike on HabitIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

Thanks to Eva for the diagrams.

(Don’t Go) Back to School

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

The day when millions return to the ‘3 Rs’ (the routine, rules and rituals of school) comes round all too regularly. Holidays over. Back you go!

Have you lived it? Did you love it? Did you dread it? Why? Why not? Do you remember what it was like? Here is a writing session about returning to school after the holidays …

Activity

All you have to do is write a short piece of fiction that ends with one of the sentences below.

Stimulus

And that was why she didn’t want to go back to school.

Or, in case this is your perspective

And that was why she couldn’t wait to get back to school.

Guide

Your piece should be fiction, but you can base it on your own experience. Or, if you haven’t been to school today, you could write about the experience of someone you know. On the other hand, you could write a piece that comes entirely from your own head using as much imagination as you can muster!

Use question words to help you think of what to write. For example:

  • Who is the ‘she’ of the story?
  • Who else is in the story?
  • Why didn’t she want to go back to school?
  • What did she want to do instead?
  • Who did she talk to about it? Why?
  • What did that person say?
  • What did that person do?
  • Where did she spend the day?

Word count and process

A minimum of 25 words and a maximum of 250 should just about do it. Of course, if you get a buzz and want to write more, that’s OK.

  • Aim to take around 5 minutes thinking about your story then about 5 minutes writing a first draft.
  • When that’s done, you should spend a bit more time proof-reading for possible spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and maybe a quick edit for meaning.
  • If you spend 5 minutes doing that, you should have been creating and writing for about 15 minutes in total.
  • Leave it for about half an hour and then come back for another go.

What next?

destiny

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!