Having just returned from a 7-week road trip out west to market my mystery series The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple to schools, bookstores, and libraries, I serendipitously got to view performances of my play, “The Last U.S. Mail Stage Robbery.” Although now settled back home, I admit feeling a thick layer of contentment icing over my obviously tired body.
While in Elko, Nevada, the Real Ima,* portrayed by my daughter, went with me to public and private schools to present “How to Turn Your Own Adventures into Stories.” I shared some of my own experiences that had informed my series. Our program received enthusiastic approval and participation. After giving back-to-back presentations, a few times I lost my voice mid-sentence. Fortunately, Ima took over and completed my point. Her rescue of me delighted the kids and commanded their strong attention. Of course her being dressed in full Ima Purple regalia (purple dress, purple shoes, and carrot-colored wig) helped as well.
The lesson plan I left with the teachers held enough material on “How a Detective’s Mind Works” and “How an Author’s Mind Works” for them to continue exploring the adventure idea with their classes. Since my series is in the educational fiction genre, I gave a brief explanation on how Sherlock Holmes used “deduction”and on how Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot used “induction.” Then I explained Ima’s investigative method of “reduction.” I also included a grammar thrust which asked students to explore using more “activity” verbs than “being” verbs. We discussed what too many “being” verbs can signal to a reader or a teacher:
- a sleepy writer
- a passive writer
- a procrastinating writer
Students got a copy of two famous quotes showing how Charles Dickens opened The Tale of Two Cities with multiple uses of “was” and “were” (being verbs) and how William Shakespeare let Hamlet give his “To be or not to be” soliloquy (also in being verbs). Even though these passages show the eloquent, rhetorical style penned by the hand of masters, few modern writers can match such artistry.
The freedom that students crave to develop their own writing style, may come most naturally once they grasp that most things in life do not remain in a “state of being” but fluctuate within a wide range of physical/sensual/mental/emotional activity. Therefore, choosing verbs that describe actions/senses/thoughts/emotions can lead to the creation of more accurate sentences. Refined word choices and strong verbs often better express what students mean to say or how they want to describe an event or idea.
After mingling with the students and teachers, I watched the Flag View Intermediate librarian follow up our presentation by reading Ima Purple’s biography in the Appendices of Imasode I: The Last Passenger Train Across Newfoundland. She then let the students write the background of a person they had met or a character they could imagine.*
Another great delight came by watching the faces of kids at the Elko Boys and Girls Club as I read an excerpt from Imasdoe III: Mary Jane of Canton, Maine.
I hope to get more invitations to present my series to other audiences.
(To view more pictures of the Real Ima, check out Beth Fine’s Amazon Author’s Page.)