Monday, July 14, 2014

Details, Details, Details!

By Janie Reinart

The power of a story is in the details. Annie Lamott, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, says all you have to do is write down as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame.

 I agree. Focus and give the readers something concrete to hold in their mind and to see with their imagination. Ralph Fletcher, in What a Writer Needs tells us, "Writing becomes beautiful when it becomes specific." 
Before my young authors write, I ask them to close their eyes and picture a treasure chest. Next, I direct them to open that treasure chest in their mind and take out three things. I mention the three objects should be something you can hold in your hand that remind you of the person or place you are writing about. The possibilities are endless: a ring, a hat, a piece of candy, the scent from a perfume bottle, a musical instrument, or something in nature.

Before writing her poem, B. told me about the memory of her mom leaving their home. When I asked what do you remember, B. said mom wore a black coat with only one button. That detail helps us connect with the poignancy of her poem. 

by B. in 2nd grade

Mom you light up
Like the sun
I remember you
With your black coat
Your black button
You called me sweet girl
You and me
Cooked pizza
I cried and cried
Til you came back
I love you mom
I don’t want to cry
Some more

Anthony wanted to write about listening to music with his Grand Dad after school. I asked for specifics and found out the kind of music Grand Dad loved.  Anthony's poem helps us to know his grandfather.

To My Grand Dad 
By: Anthony in 2nd grade

My Grand Dad
Listens to Jazz
Smooth and neat
As a clarinet
Eats steak
So tasty and juicy
It makes his mouth water
Sits outside
Sun bleached
Feeling cozy
Glad because
He has the day off

Open your treasure chest of details and write something beautiful! We would love to have you post your short poem in the comments to share with us.


  1. The details in your choice of photos, quotes, and poems proved your point. I am amazed at the power of your second grade poets and your skill in drawing it out of them. Inspirational!

  2. Thank you Pat. The voices of the children always touch heart strings!

  3. Beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. Great post!

  4. Janie,
    This is wonderful. Delicate and insightful, thank you. Anne Lamott is a great reference for this. Love the poems!!

  5. Hi Pam,
    I always enjoy reading books about craft! The children always amaze me with their poems!

  6. Found Details

    A hat

    A piece of candy

    Eyes closed, treasure chest





    gifts of details

    from writers



    Appreciations, Janie.

    - Jan Godown Annino

  7. Awwww Jan! You rock! Love it! Thank you.

    1. Three of my favorite authors (Annie Lamont, Ralph Fletcher and Janie Reinart!) Great post full of rich and inspiring content. Thank you!

    2. Todd you're welcome! The young authors share a fresh view of the world with us! I always tell the young students that all writers want to be like them and see through their eyes.