Tuesday, June 23, 2015


There is Incredible corn growing across the street from the Highlights Foundation family home. It's a small plot, maybe twenty rows tilled and planted on the thirtieth of May. Not even a month in the ground and the stalks are almost knee-high.

Ideas grow quickly here too. I imagine it's the climate or the perfumed air, the buzz of the woods-- the writing with friends old and new. All of it gets the gears going in good, productive ways.

Yesterday we began the Writing from the Heart workshop and I want to share two of my favorite activities from the day. These are pieces I will take into my writing room and back to my classroom come August. 

First the magic, then tomorrow, the mystery. 

Suzanne Bloom, one of our author-facilitators, brought out her make up case. I hadn't seen one of those since the seventies when my mother was packing her golden one for a family trip to Denver, Colorado.

Suzanne's case was not filled with any sort of ordinary make up like Clinque, Estee Lauder or dusty mineral containers or the Mary Kay my mother sometimes wore. Instead it was filled things we had to make up stories about.

She started with a simple green jellyfish ball. We writers had two jobs, catch the green glob when it was thrown your way and then say what it was --make it up, play. The second prop was a electric gold scarf. We threw the scarf around our U-shaped table and said who owned it and what magical properties it had. Quick, less than eight minutes this warm up took.

Then we work in groups of threes. Are you seeing the gradual release model in our workshop days? I am.

Suzanne had an assortment of mystery packed into tiny boxes: metal boxes, cardboard boxes, long boxes, jewelry boxes, cloth boxes, wooden boxes, soap boxes and small boxes.

We had two questions to guide our group talk:

  1. Who was the owner of the box? 
  2. How did what is inside the box transform him or her? 
I chose the wooden box with shells inside.

Who owned the box?
How did what's inside transform her? 
My threesome talked through several scenarios some involved Atlantis or breathing underwater.
Each group shared out their story ideas. With our individual pumps primed, we then got to stick with the box we had or choose another. I kept the shell box and listened for its whispers.

We wrote and wrote.I wrote about a young girl who found her grandmother's box of shells and heard the sea's whispers. When she picked up the Pink Calico it worked like a ticket to another world.

I've already started scouring eBay and Goodwill.com for boxes and tins. Can you imagine the magic this activity will make in the first weeks of school?

I can.

On a different note, can you Slicers believe that I am hear claiming my commenting prize and Stacey and Michelle are for some unworkshop writing time too?! 
Such a delightful surprise this week.


  1. Congratulations, Lee Ann! I'm so glad you enjoyed the workshop. I love the mystery box idea. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  2. Oh I love how you are sharing your experience here at Highlights! I have lots of great antique stores near me. I guess I will be searching for a make up case. :) Such fun to get to spend this week together!!!! Happy Writing!

  3. I am so glad that you are enjoying your time at Highlights! Wonderful! Hooray for writing!

  4. I am so glad that you are enjoying your time at Highlights! Wonderful! Hooray for writing!

  5. Thank you for sharing these fabulous ideas! It sounds like a really special place. Can't wait to hear more!

  6. I'm so glad you shared these ideas from Suzanne's workshop on your blog. I had the pleasure of sitting next to her at dinner tonight. She's delightful!

    I think I need to take a walk tomorrow. I haven't come across any corn yet.

  7. Love this idea! How lucky that you are able to be there, too. Enjoy!

  8. Love this idea! How lucky that you are able to be there, too. Enjoy!

  9. The Highlights Foundation is indeed a magical place. Thanks so much for sharing these ideas. I can't wait to try them with teachers and students. Enjoy the rest of your workshop!

  10. Lee Ann, I love the ideas you are sharing. The box reminds me of the activity I created for young historians who peeked inside a trunk from Grandma's Attic. I would love to see the piece you wrote about the box of shells. You may even want to share it in my Summer Splashings Gallery.