Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 1: Went to the Beach--Creative Writing on Vacation

We're back from Maui.  We were supposed to go trekking through Northern California in search of mammals but, well, it was chilly, and er I'm embarrassed to admit it, I just turned tail and bolted for the tropics.  

We always try to keep journals when we are on vacation, but they so often end up like this:
In case you're having trouble making it out, it says:
Day 1: Went to the beach.
Day 2: Went to the beach.
Day 3: Went to the beach.

Ok, I should say that this is Greta's idea of an awesome joke.  She loves this joke so much that she can't wait to write the next day into her journal.

But journal writing does tend to devolve into catalog.  Though lovely pictures go a long way.

I brought this book along for inspiration:

UnjournalingThe subtitle is Writing Exercises That are Not Personal, Not Introspective and Not Boring.  I think the point of traveling is outrospection, not introspection, so I hoped it would help us get creative with our observations.  It did, and it also helped us drive away boredom on long drives. That was why I opened the book the first time--to direct the three kids in the backseat to something other than whose elbow was where.

The first exercise I didn't find promising:  1. Write a paragraph about a girl named Dot, but use no letters with dots.  I think I'd rather try to use lots of letters with dots, but not very much.

I flipped through and we settled on 114: Write 4 sentences made up of 4 four-letter words.  We modified it to 5 sentences with five five-letter words because there are five of us. 

Water moves along coral reefs.
Waves crash sandy beach tower.
Pines stand along windy roads.
Snail lives where water blows.
Trade wind's sweep dries suits.

Later we were waiting for the check at The Pineapple Grill and there was some flopping over in the chairs happening.  So I whipped out the book and found:

169: Describe a place to eat using every letter of the alphabet at least once.

The Pineapple Grill
Clem's french toast with macadamia nuts happily filled her stomach.  The Shirley Temple quenched her thirst. Mynah birds zoomed around screeching.  Evelyn's juice smoothie was bland.  The kids played with the sugar box.  
I think it is curious that even so small a push as using each letter of the alphabet has interesting results. It was only the need to get the z in there that prompted "Mynah birds zoomed around screeching."  But that is the most interesting and memorable part of the paragraph (and the lunch).

A few days later Evelyn had given up trying to net fish in a tidepool and was hunting sparrows, luring them with Greta's snack.  She was still basking in the glow of having caught one a few days earlier.  I guess I was the one who was bored this time.  I flipped open Unjournaling and landed on 

17. Create a much more interesting version of this sentence:
The dog barked.
What kind of dog was it?  Where was it?  Why was it barking?  How would you describe the barking?  Make the sentence as interesting as possible by choosing your words and details carefully.
This is not at all an original exercise, but a good one nonetheless.  We modified the exercise to suit our needs.
The sparrow ate.
Everyone threw out ideas (as Evelyn threw out her bait) and I took dictation:
The young house sparrow gobbled pieces of pirate booty, gulping down the little chips as fast as it could, hopping away and coming back for more, stretching its neck up to see where the best pieces were and sometimes even hopping very high and turning its head to eye the pieces.
Greta did this one:

She began with: We sit on the beach.
And ended up with: Mom and I sit and talk on the fine yellowy-tanny sand of Ka'anapali beach.

Doesn't that tell a better story than Day 4: Went to the beach?

I think so.  But if you want to know why Greta thinks Went to the beach is so funny, scroll through the pics below.

Swinging bridge.

Shave ice.

Greta's first time snorkeling.


Above the clouds at Haleakala.

Sunset at Haleakala.

Trying out the water bounce house.

Hiking the Pipiwai trail.

Climbing banyan trees.

On the trail to the red sand beach I was too terrified to take pics, so here is the pic of the warning sign I took after we made it back.

Catching geckos.

Visiting waterfalls.

Climbing bridge supports.

Exploring a lava tube.

Sliding down the roots of a banyan tree into a lava tube cave.

Jumping into a freshwater pool in a cave.
Swimming in tidepools.  Turned out the kids were sharing one with the world's most venomous fish, but hey, it was fun anyway.

Clem and Greta conspired to paint their dad's toenails when he was distracted.

Snorkeling with sea turtles.

Red dirt shirts again!

Ev jumping off Black Rock.

Mike and Greta just before that big wave turned their tidepool into a jacuzzi.

Nakalele blowhole.

After a couple days like this, particularly the harrowing red sand beach trail, I was ready for a day worthy of no more mention than went to the beach.


AM said...

You have built-in live entertainment! Must make another one.

Carolyn said...

Oh my, Susan, that picture of Ev jumping off the rock-- did that not make your heart stop? Mine did! Lovely pics of your days "at the beach" :-)

patricia said...

Wow--you all sure know how to go to Hawaii! If we ever go, I'd like you to plan our itinerary!

I've never seen the Unjournaling book before. Looks fun! It probably has some good activities to use as exercises for the writer's workshop.

My favorite was the restaurant description. And Greta's recollection of sitting with you on the "fine yellowy-tanny sand of Ka'anapali beach." Lovely.

jugglingpaynes said...

Those are some seriously cool adventures. And I'm putting that book on my wish list. That looks like a keeper!

Peace and Laughter!

Susan said...

AM, at the airport the TSA woman said, "Do you have another one on the way?" I looked down in dismay and was relieved when she said, "I mean license. This one is expired." Oops! But not that kind of oops.

Carolyn, there were several things that made my heart stop on this trip, but not that, strangely enough. Parasailing at 800 feet with Greta next to me was scary. When the girls dashed off in the lava tube with all the flashlights and left me in the dark and Clem went so far that she did not hear me call or answer...the rock was almost relaxing.

Tricia, it is exactly that--good short exercises for a writer's workshop. Most of them I'm sure you could come up with yourself, but then, if you have a book, you won't have to!

Cristina, it is not as much of a must-have book as Wacky Wesearch Reports which Tricia (above) recommended to me and which is fa-a-abulous. I draw from it all the time. But it does have fun, short, engaging prompts.

Kristin said...

Well you certainly make traveling with kids and writing fun. I like that you adapted the writing activities to make them pertain to your kids' interests, or what was in your environment at the time. I love to see all of your adventures and now I want to go their too. I can't believe they climbed down those vines and swam in a cave. Very brave indeed.