Monday, October 9, 2017


In a new book, Writing Radar: Using Your Journal To Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories, Jack Gantos shares more than classic tips for writing a great beginning, middle, and end. He shares his own passion to become a published author. Do you have students who dream about seeing their own books on library shelves? If so, give them Writing Radar. Give them the opportunity to hear Gantos describe in emotional detail the moment he placed his hand in the exact spot where a fiction book written by an author named “Gantos” would be shelved.  

Fans of the Joey Pigza books will enjoy the story of how Gantos met the student who inspired the character of Joey at an author visit. Gantos has lectured in dozens of schools about the craft of writing. He shares those lessons in Writing Radar along with many short writing examples teachers could use as models in the classroom. Gantos uses anecdotes from his childhood to demonstrate how everyday experiences make excellent writing material. “The Cool-Air Chair” is a brief story of how Gantos liked to read with the refrigerator door open because it was the coolest place in his Florida home without air-conditioning. Examining how Gantos makes a fairly mundane activity into a very amusing story should help your students discover the stories in their own lives. The book is peppered with such stories and many chapters can stand alone as a read aloud, making Writing Radar a great text to use periodically throughout the year.

In a chapter called, “Breaking It Down,” Gantos provides a step-by-step guide to the elements of storytelling. Writing and reading teachers could use this as a model for studying character, setting, problem, action, etc.  

Finally, Gantos nudges the young writer to simply get moving—to write. In his most important writing tip, he says: “Don’t be that writer who waits all day for the perfect first sentence, or you will grow old while learning to hate yourself and writing.” Gantos cautions young writers not to expect creative thoughts to line up neatly “like a long string of dominoes standing on end and all the writer has to do is push the first one over.” He accurately describes the messy process of creating story while brimming with excitement for the craft. Writer Radar is an excellent resource for the classroom and all those who love writing.

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