There is no Place Like My Favorite Place
Serves: One or Multitudes
Time: 12 minutes, 13 seconds
Writing about favorite places.
Cynthia Rylant's picture book, Tulip Sees America, is the inspiration for this writing recipe. It's a story about a young man and his dog who travel across the United States, seeing our country with fresh eyes. The illustrations, by Lisa Desimini, are amazing and vibrant.
Read Tulip Sees America.
The main character visits amazing places, describes the place, and ends the descriptions with a repeated sentence structure:
"There are no farms like Iowa's."
"There are no skies like Nebraska's."
"There is no wind like Wyoming's."
Ask yourself, “What are some of my favorite places?”
When I asked myself this question, I thought of Tuolumne Meadows, Mammoth, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, but for some reason, on the day I picked up my pen to write about a favorite place, I thought of Snapper Jack's Taco Shack in Ventura, California.
What? I was surprised. Maybe I was hungry for tacos? Maybe I was missing my friend and remembered all our Friday visits to Snapper Jack's when we were teaching together?
I've learned to let the surprise take me where I'm supposed to go. That's one of the best things about writing.
Read my sample piece, inspired by Cynthia Rylant's Tulip Sees America.
Snapper Jack's Taco Shack in Ventura
Beach Boys blaring.
Surfboard tables. Salty chips.
Cool sodas. Crispy tacos.
Breeze coming off the ocean.
Once a week lunchtime treat.
Twenty minutes before lunch, I'd call in the order. I made the phone call from my classroom. Telling my students, "Don't listen. This is a very private and very important phone call." Of course, that got every fifth grader's attention. "We'd like two potato tacos. Two fish tacos. Two Diet Cokes. For Lorrie and Barbara." Before our students reached the cafeteria, we were already buckled up and on the road.
One week I'd snag our favorite table while Barb got the food. The next week, we'd switch jobs, doing whatever we could to squeeze precious time out of our too short lunch.
Finally, time to relax. Two friends, close as sisters, called to teach, sharing dreams and challenges and stories and lives over tacos. Conversations too big for one short lunch.
There is no place like Snapper Jack's in Ventura.
Time to Get Cooking
Think of a favorite place.
Write a list of phrases that describe your place. See how I did it in my sample above. It’s kinda like a little introductory poem.
Then, write a micro-story about a memory from that place.
End your piece with, “There is no place like ______________.”
Do all of this using the quick write method.
Quick write means write for 12 minutes, 13 seconds without stopping or talking. (Studies show that 12 minutes, 13 seconds is the perfect amount of time for this piece.)
Keep pen/pencil/keyboard moving the entire time.
If you get stuck, write I’m stuck I’m stuck I’m stuck until you aren’t anymore. Cross that part out later.
Don’t worry about spelling.
Quick writes grow writing love because writing fast for a short period of time helps you outrun the inner voice that says, “You can’t write. You are bad at this!”
Tell yourself, “I don’t have time to listen to that critical voice. I’m gonna go for it!”
Share Your Words
1. When you are done, read your piece aloud – to a real live human, your dog, or your bathroom mirror. It’s essential to hear your writing aloud. You’ll hear what works. You’ll hear what doesn’t work.
2. If you do read this to a real live human, ask them to tell you a word, phrase, or sentence that stands out to them (this is called SAYBACK ). Don’t ask for or receive advice about revision or editing. Just absorb what someone likes about your writing and say, “Thank you very much.”
3. Select one line you like the best – or one that moves you the most - or one that stands out the most. I call these golden lines. It’s good to notice what you are already doing well as a writer. Often, if you get response from a human, your golden lines might be the same! That’s fun and tells you a lot about what readers think is good writing. I’d even suggest making a collection of all your golden lines in a journal. Over time, you’ll see a pattern of all your writing awesomeness!
Serve It Pretty
Here's an art project for this piece. It's easy and fun and you can repeat the technique for other writing pieces, too. Basically, all you do is draw an illustration of your favorite place using unexpected colors. Using watercolor paper is the secret sauce for making the illustration pop!
If you or your students try this recipe, I'd love to read your masterpieces. Email me at LorrieTom@lorriet.com. I promise to write back and let you know what lines I love the most.
Happy writing and happy thinking about places you love the most.
P.S. I wrote another favorite place piece, but it's about the Grand Canyon. Enjoy.