Writing Teacher Passes Along "Legacy" Writing Tips

It’s been over 30 years since this happened, so there are details long lost in the fog of my teaching memories.

It was in one of my World Literature evening classes when we were all listening to student reports discussing one author or literary work or another. Then she took the podium. 

She was a rather exotic Mediterranean (I think) blonde beauty. An art student. The sort of student a teacher is well advised to keep his thoughts about to himself.     I did.

She stood at the front of the class and asked for a volunteer. One gentlemen joined her and she asked him to turn his back to her and cup his hands behind his back. She said she was going to place a series of objects in his hands, ask him to describe the object in question without identifying it, and then ask the class to guess what the object was. She didn’t reveal what each object was until the guessing game was over.

I don’t remember what her objects were—I think they included a hairbrush and seashell. I don’t remember how well the class did at guessing the objects. But I do remember that, when she was done, she looked out at us and said, “This is what a writer does. Try to describe something so we can identify it without seeing it.” 

She didn’t elaborate on that point, if memory serves. I do know I imitated her demonstration for many years in my writing classes and kept a bag of objects I used over and over.  I’m pretty sure I had a clothes brush and a genuine cowboy spur in the mix. If memory serves, many classes did very well at guessing the objects, others not so much.  One thing was consistent. For a few minutes, I definitely had their attention.

If you’re a writing teacher, writing coach, the like, try this little demo yourself. If nothing else, you’ll engage your students for a few minutes and perhaps give them writing prompts to play with. 

This article first appeared on May 1, 2018 at Carolyn Howard-Johnson's Sharing With Writers

(Courtesy of Carolyn Howard-Johnson The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors)