Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Different Way to Travel



Hello Inksters!

We are fortunate to be off to Trinidad and Tobago to visit family. The kids are so excited to travel on a plane.

Where are you traveling or where have you already traveled this summer? How did you travel — by car, train, bus, plane, boat, a bike, your feet?

This Inkspiration asks you to imagine different ways to travel. We are flying on a plane to Trinidad. But what would the trip be like, say, if we took a hot air balloon? Or if we could fly there like a migrating bird?

Write about a place you’ve traveled to, either this summer or some other time. Imagine a different mode of transportation to that place. Describe the experience. What would you notice that you didn’t before? How would it feel to be able to try a different mode of travel?

We also travel in small, necessary ways every day — to the grocery store, the beach, a friend’s house, our mailboxes, our own backyards. Imagine yourself traveling to these places in different, magical ways.

Perhaps your words will find you enjoying a magic carpet ride — to Target!

Happy Writing! Happy Travels!


6 Things for Children to Understand about Writing, and 4 Ways to Get Them Started



“Are you excited about all the writing you’ll do this summer?,” I asked my exuberant Inktopia Kids summer writing campers. It was the last day of a fun-filled, early summer week of word games, character creation, and poetry making. Every Inkster said they had a great time and would miss camp. But in response to the question of writing during the rest of the summer, one camper mused aloud, “Well, it’s summer vacation. It’s not really time for school work.”

We understand that if kids don’t read and write over the summer, their reading and writing muscles grow slack. They lose some of their imaginative muscle. Just like a coach sees the difference in her players if they spent the summer lounging instead of being active, I certainly see a literary sluggishness in my students if they return to school in the Fall without picking up a book or writing in their journals with true engagement.

That is the key: true engagement. Where summer reading and writing assignments often miss the mark is that students (and sometimes their caregivers) view them as a chore, as a homework assignment that intrudes on sunny summer days like a too full rain cloud. They become an item on the Return to School To Do List: buy a new backpack, sharpen pencils, read my summer reading book(s), get a new lunchbox, write about what I did during my summer vacation…

So why write during the summer? Or, a better question: Why write at all?

As a response, a list:

6 things for children to understand about writing, and 4 ways to get started

1. Writing is an invitation for you to sit quietly with your thoughts, your wit, your confusions – an invitation to find your voice. As one of my former students told me recently, “Writing is my state of rest.” Low stakes journal writing is a form of vacation, an invitation to rest. Accept the invitation whenever you can. Take some time every day to jot down a few words and see where they take you. Make or find a journal you want to fill with your words. Need a break from your nagging siblings? Looking for a way to chill out? Find a cozy place – a favorite room in your house, a welcoming spot on the couch, under the shade of a tree, in a fort you’ve built – to take a break from everyone else’s voices and spend time listening to your own.

2. Writing is so much more than the physical act of putting pencil to paper or fingertips to keyboard – or screen.  We compose, for instance, each time we tell a story at the dinner table, or, for that matter, comment on the food we are eating at that same meal. If you don’t like physical writing, try spending some time creating oral stories. Put on a puppet show. My son loves building Lego creation and using them as settings for stories that he then shares with us. Play with Rory’s Story Cubes. You can even just take time to share your experiences from the day. Speaking stories is a fun and wonderful way to develop as a writer.

 3.Writing leads to discovery. You may know where you are in this moment, but who knows what you’ll discover if, like Harold with his purple crayon or Vashti and her dots, you make a mark – or in this case, write something down – and see where it takes you?

4. Speaking of Harold and that purple crayon or Vashti and her dots, drawing is a fabulous way into writing – as is music. This year, I taught a student who is such a talented artist. Drawing is brainstorming for him; in his sketches are the seeds of fantastic essays, stories, and poems. Use your drawings, illustrations from favorite books, images from magazines, or photographs from a summer vacation as inspiration to write. Listen to music you love or have just discovered and allow it to fill your writing with sound. Most importantly, remember that writing is also about using your uniqueness to help lead you to your best writing ways.

5. Writers Block is a chance to ask a new question or find new inspiration. Don’t know what to write about? Questions and prompts can inspire you. Try writing in order to ask your questions – any questions at all – and to explore possible responses or solutions to them. How many times have you opened your journal and had your pen stunned mute by the blankness you find there? This doesn’t mean you’re a horrible writer. When this happens, try jotting down a question about something that puzzles you and then try to write your way to the next question, elaborate on the question, or try writing a possible response.

6. Writing is essential. Writing is about developing a life in which you are intentionally expressive, where you give your imagination a life. Writing allows you to grow and stretch, to test ideas, to immerse yourself in another world, to reflect, to express feelings, to explore. And while writing is often viewed as a solitary activity, it is also collaborative. Writing allows you to think about your ideas and voice in relation to others. We write from our experiences with others. We write about our views on the world, about our feelings regarding others. We write because we want to do what our favorite writers do for us as readers – transport us, awaken our imaginations. We write to give ourselves courage to share what we have trouble speaking out loud to others. Writing is too essential to leave behind when summer vacation arrives.


4 Ways to Get Started

1. Make your own Journal Jar filled with Writing Prompts. At a writing camp last summer, I helped girls create their own Journal Jars – glass jars (or, for the summer, a bucket) that holds writing prompts on paper slips, one prompt per slip. Whenever the girls needed inspiration, they were to visit their Journal Jar, pick a slip at random, and write about whatever was on the slip. One prompt: What is your favorite possession? How is it important to you? One response: “My stuffed lion. I call him Li-Li. Everyone asks me why I still sleep with Li-Li every night and let him travel with me on trips. Well, it’s because I’ve had him since the first day I was born. He holds memories that I don’t even remember. Where would they go if I got rid of him?” (Logan, age 8 at the time). You can find more fun writing prompts and Journal Jars at Writing prompts, whether collected in a jar or shared from time to time, are very helpful ways to give writers a place to begin a practice of journal writing.

2. Write to a friend or family member. Traveling so much you feel like you just can’t find the time to write? As a souvenir, write and send postcards to family and friends so that they know what you are up to. Even writing emails are a fun way to write while reaching out to others.

3. Make a list.We rattle off lists all the time: things we want to do during the day, foods we like to eat, places we like to visit, games we like to play, our favorite songs, scores from our games or games we’ve watched. So fill those journal pages with lists. Make a quirky list by using one of your senses you wouldn’t normally use to describe something. For instance, instead of writing about how good those chocolate chip cookies smell in the oven, what about imagining how they sound as they bake?

4. Develop a story or poem from your Writing Journal. So you’re at the end of the summer and you’ve filled lots of journal pages. What to do now? Read through your journal. Circle or highlight words and ideas you really like. Take one of those ideas and write them into a story, poem, or song.


Ink This!



This week’s Inkspiration features this image created by photographer Eva Ho.

Look carefully at this photograph. Soak it in. It is an image Eva Ho captured while traveling in Namibia. Go to a map and find out where Namibia is in the world. Then open your writing journal and see where this picture, your pencil, and your imagination all lead.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Describe it.
  • What is happening in this photograph? Tell us.
  • Imagine what the sand sounds like. Then describe the sound and help your readers hear it the way you do.
  • Where do these doors lead?
  • Ask a question about the photograph. Then try to creatively answer that question.

Want to share your imaginings with the rest of the Inktopia Kids community? Then remember to comment to this post. Or write us at

Inksters and Parents: For more of Eva Ho’s amazing global photography, visit her website:

Freedom: Another Way to Say…



Hello Inksters!

Did you have a fun Independence Day? You know, when we celebrate the 4th of July, we celebrate freedom. This week’s InkStart invites you to play with the word “freedom”:

Can you think of other ways to say “freedom”?

First, start by making a list of words that, to you, can be used to say “freedom.” This will be your list of synonyms — words that mean the same thing or approximately the same thing as the word you begin with.

Then, grow your list to include phrases or sentences, like this one from Lucas (age 7): “Freedom is having a good life.” Write down all the phrases or sentences that come to mind. Ask your family members and friends to add to the list, too.

Lastly, write about moments when you feel free. Do you feel free when you are swinging on a swing? Running up and down a soccer field? Sitting under a tree reading a book? Write about a particular time when you have felt free. Or tell a story that shows a character experiencing or fighting for freedom.

Most importantly, use your writing to freely express yourself. And remember to share your writing with us!

If you are looking for a few books about America’s fight for Independence, check out Mary Pope Osborne’s Revolutionary War on Wednesday (Magic Treehouse #22) and its non-fiction companion, American Revolution.