Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Trying on a New Lead for Size #SOL17
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Slice of Life: Trying on a New Lead for Size #SOL17


I am participating in #SOL17 and want to thank to the Two Writing Teachers blog team and all the participating writers for creating a wonderful community.

One of the many things I love about the #SOL March challenge is the opportunity to really learn from other writers.  It goes beyond topic generation – there is craft, voice and structure to consider.  Writing and reading slices for 31 days in a row truly allows you to experiment, revise and try on new craft moves.

Last week I read a post by Lynne Dorfman about strategies to craft leads.  As I read her piece, I reflected that I was in a “lead rut.”  I almost always begin my slices with dialogue.  It brings me into the moment, it helps me set the tone, and it gets voice out right away.  It works for me.

Lynne shared some of her revision strategies and one is to rework the lead.  She suggests that writers try different leads out and see where it takes you.  She shared a few of her leads and I decided to use this lead as a mentor for me:

One Quarter Too Many

Sleeping bags, red and green and gray, cover the grass between the riding ring and the barn like a Pennsylvania Dutch patchwork quilt.  I see my brother Darren, our youngest camper.  His hair, thick and straight-as-straw, falls over his eyes, making him look like a tiny, shaggy sheepdog. He is placing his tooth under his pillow.  I grin as Darren calculates the very middle spot.  Satisfied that he has found it, he places his pillow on top and runs off to join the others. 

I was drawn to it because it is so different from what I currently do as a writer.  Setting and action grab the reader and invite them into the story.  I decided to think more about this idea.  I looked at some of my drafts and tried to rework them.  Nothing.  I tried to begin a few pieces with setting.  Nothing.  Then it happened.  Setting was on my mind.  I think I started looking at the world around me in a new way – a way into my writing.  The next day I found my slice through setting.

Here the lead from my post:

The flash of red catches my eye.  I turn to watch him jump off the bench arms lassoing some object in his mind.  He continues down the path and then stomps with both feet exclaiming, “Gotcha!”  Then he is off in pursuit of his next victory.  Lasso, stomp, gotcha continues over and over until he captures every shadow on the quad.

The moment I saw that flash I was oriented to the setting.  The setting helped me find my story and I discovered it changed my writing.  When you begin with a different lead, the story flows and connects in a different way.  I was truly surprised to discover that changing my lead changed more than the beginning of my story.  It complete impacted the structure of the piece.

Last year during the challenge I learned so much from experimenting with my writing.  I lost this practice a bit throughout the year.  This March I plan to do more of it and look forward to seeing how it impacts my writing.  There is a playfulness to revising in this manner.  I want to think more about how to help elementary students try this more often in their process.  It helps clarify the role of revision in the writing process.

Thanks Lynne for the inspiration and tips for how to do this with students in the classroom.


  • Avatar
    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 11:05h, 06 March Reply

    I too am finding inspiration in others writing giving myself the opportunity to try-out new things.

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 11:28h, 06 March Reply

    I learn so much from Lynne every time we write together. I loved your story that began with the “flash of red.” I agree that playing with revision leads to discoveries. Sometimes when I revise, the point of my story changes altogether. I love when that happens. It’s like finding a new friend.
    Helping students to make their own discoveries is a joyful teaching experience.

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 12:47h, 06 March Reply

    A great lead, Clare – so interesting – the very first sentence pulls me in! What is this flash of red? And then the description of the action is crystal clear. I can close my eyes and see it!

    You are right! Slice of Life is a wonderful opportunity to gather ideas and experiment. As I write and read on Slice this month, I keep two of my writer’s notebooks next to my laptop so I can open to a clean page and try out something new. I love belonging to this writing community, and I’m particularly delighted to find you here as well!

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    Katherine Sokolowski
    Posted at 12:55h, 06 March Reply

    Thanks for this. I find my writing grows tremendously during this month. Love the lesson you have shared with us here.

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 13:50h, 06 March Reply

    Loved that lead when I read it in your slice yesterday, Clare. It really pulled me in! I also like to try out the different strategies I learn from others during the month. Imagine…a couple of hundred posts every day for a month that can become mentor texts! Now if I just had time to read them all!!!

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    Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 22:55h, 06 March Reply

    How true it is that experimenting with different crafts is so helpful. I’m still in awe of your slice from yesterday, but thank you for letting us have a peek behind the curtain of how you created those beautiful images.

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    Posted at 02:07h, 07 March Reply

    You have modeled such important writing work, Clare! This is at the heart of every writing workshop – we want to empower our kids to do just what you did. Bravo!

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 03:49h, 07 March Reply

    I love how you described the process. I loved the lead originally, and I often think of you as a mentor in leads and endings, but playing with the different ways does have the potential to change a piece or lead us to new thinking about it.

    See you tomorrow. 😉

  • Avatar
    Carrie Gelson
    Posted at 05:24h, 07 March Reply

    Now this has me thinking about my leads. Which I have never thought about before at all. So much learning!

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