I just finished a beautiful book called The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. I enjoyed so many things about this book filled with promise, magical realism and love. But more than just enjoying the book, I found that it offered me an idea worth sharing.
The book begins as the main character, Anthony Peardew, collects another of his many lost things. He has an entire room filled to overflowing with lost or discarded items that he hopes to return to their owners someday.
What captivated me was that he uses these lost items as a springboard for his creative writing and he ends up making his livelihood writing short stories about each item. What a great idea for an English teacher, a creative writing teacher or any parent among us!
As someone who has had all of these titles at one time or another, and continue to have some of them, I thought this was a brilliant idea. Speaking to my husband, I said, “I wish I still had the time to do creative writing classes. This is such a great idea.” And he recommended that I start a little class, filled just with our own boys who need help with their writing. We started tonight, as I presented the boys with a florescent nail file and told them to write a story. They, of course, don’t know what a nail file was, and they turned it into many interesting items. Here are a few examples:
Child One’s Story:
Once upon a time there was a little kid who begged his mom to buy some ice cream. His mom didn’t let, but he kept begging and at the end his mom let. The kid was so happy. When they got to the Ben and Jerry’s store the kid picked the flavors cookies and cream and super fudge. After he got it, the owner asked him if he wants a regular spoon or a new orange very cool big spoon that looks like a bow and arrow. Of course the kid picked the cool one. The kid went out of the store happy with his ice cream. The kid said he wants to go to the park so they went to the park. When they got there, the boy finished his ice cream and told his mom to save the spoon while he plays at the park. He played and had a lot of fun. When his mom said to come, he came straight. They got home and the kid realized that his mom forgot the spoon at the park. The kid started going crazy and the mom suggested to go back to the park and look for the spoon. They went back to the park but didn’t find it and the boy started going crazy again. So the mom said that they could buy more ice cream and get another spoon. They went to the store and the boy said he wanted to same toppings and the same spoon and he was really happy and this time he did not lose it.
Child Two’s Story:
A brave hunter was trying to kill a lion for dinner. He was walking around in the Savana searching for lion scent. He was sniffing the floor, licking trees and scanning for a lion. He looked for a lion for four days before he saw a lion sitting on a rock. He hid in a tree, He couldn’t miss. If he missed he would have to find a new lion to hunt. He stood on a branch and was ready to throw the boomerang. The hunter threw the boomerang as hard as he could. Bullseye! On the way back from the hunt, he was driving in his jeep when his bag opened and the boomerang flew out of the bag and flew on to the road.
Linda couldn’t believe it. Her nail had chipped with only an hour until the prom. She had just left the mall, after running around all day and getting ready for the most exciting evening and now she was stuck again. Her mom was in the car and waiting for her; her date was in his house with the corsage at the ready; her dad was pacing and ringing his hands; but all of this would have to wait for now so that she could get her nails fixed.
She had always been good under pressure – but this was the first real test of her life. She sprinted through the doors and back into the mall to the CVS, grabbed the first nail file and red polish she could spot and ripped them open with her teeth while exiting the store. The rain had started. Her mother’s nails were clip clip clipping on the car wheel; her dad’s feet were tapping on the hardwood; her boyfriend’s gum was smacking against his lips as he tried his bow tie. The screeching sound of the nail file and the smooth feel of the nail polish told Linda she was ready.
She threw the nail supplies in her bag, overshooting by a bit and leaving the florescent nail file behind on the ground.
It was show time.
She was ready.
This idea can be used in so many ways. If you’re a teacher, it might be something to incorporate into a weekly lesson or journal writing assignment. Ask one kid each week to come to class with a found object, and then have everyone write a story with it featured.
If you’re a parent, this might be a way to get your kids writing. I was shocked by how excited my kids were when we explained the idea and sat down to write. I read each of their stories privately and then gently corrected their many spelling mistakes. They each shared their stories and we talked about where they did a good job with character development and plot and where they could have improved. It was great fun for everyone!
Here’s to the writing about lost things, and to the finding of a creative spirit in each of us.