The Writer as Word Gatherer
A Guest Post by Renay Intisar Jihad
Teaching students how to write well involved sharing incremental and manageable micro-steps or risk seeing them sink into a vast bin of hopelessness while staring at a blank sheet of paper clutching a sweaty pencil. I had to trick them into thinking writing was fun and easy. The writing process began with a fun and engaging activity – gathering words. Now retired, and a published author, this pre-write method is still a useful tool.
Every piece of writing inhabits a linguistic atmosphere. Knowing the word environment or content-area words associated with a subject keeps me focused on the big idea. Subject-matter triggers help me decide what to include or exclude in the final product. The quality and quantity of my word bank dictates its usefulness. An excellent word environment naturally produces parameters in which to write, edit, and revise a poem, story, or news article. For me, the word bank supports a formidable liaison between content and delivery.
To prepare for writing Mini Solja Stands on the Shoulders of Giants, I read, skimmed, and scanned black history books to gather words and terms from each decade dating back to 1619. Documentaries, speakers, primary source documents, and museums added to what I already knew about the subject. It was essential to include famous and noteworthy black Americans of distinction. My list of people, places, things, dates, times, and colloquial expressions influenced the outline. Taking stock of the manuscript’s goal through creating a word bank supplied a self-assessment: What did I know, want to know, and learned? What did this subject look like, feel like, sound like, smell like, and taste like? I compared this activity to setting the stage for a play, fertilizing a garden, eating an appetizer before dinner, or warming up before a yoga class. See it this way:
You are creating a reservoir of ideas from an ocean of suggestions related to your subject, theme, title, content-area, or focus.
THE IMPACT OF WORD GATHERING
Because Mini Solja Stands on the Shoulders of Giants was a poetry book with informational and literary elements, the word environment that I created during this pre-write process came in handy when collaborating with my editor. Every printed word dictated a promise to deliver a message of hope, remembrance, and homage to book lovers reading on multiple grade levels. Achieving suitable readability was an ambitious task. Bottom line, were the words generated from my word bank during the pre-write process dynamic, specific, timely, useful, effective, and historically relevant enough to convey the message I would later generate during the writing process? In this sense, the list was not static. It ebbed and flowed as new information became critical to the final product. I organized my words, knowing that the economy of words and ideas was crucial to the quality of the final product. I often swapped, threw out, re-purposed, recycled, or retired certain words depending on how my project progressed.
In short, spending time creating a word bank saved me time, supplied a world of ideas and possibilities from which to draw on, and served in helping to refine my focus.
Remember Yesterday’s Giants Cherish Today’s Giants Honor the Giant Within You. A teenage boy named Mini T. Solja learns an important lesson about his rich heritage from his grandfather. MINI SOLJA STANDS ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS is a lyrical coming-of-age conversation. This poetic snapshot highlights the stellar history of Black Americans and pays homage to our ancestral struggle and triumphs. Enjoy this timely, engaging, and enlightening book. Additional resources include a list of famous Black Americans and a directory of Black museums.
Renay Intisar Jihad was born in New Haven, Connecticut, where exposure to the arts was as natural as breathing. Serving as a literacy coach for eight, of the thirty years in teaching allowed her to support new teachers, write curriculum, and share resources. Scarves and Bandanas and The Day Josef Found His Pride were short-run publications tailored to the needs and interests of her students. Renay is the recipient of the Global Educator of the Year and a Teaching Tolerance Award. After she earned her National Board Certification, the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) recognized her as one of twenty NBCTs at that time. A Fulbright-Hays scholarship enabled her to travel to Kenya and Tanzania. Other education-related travel opportunities to China, Egypt, Morocco, the Caribbean, and Thailand helped enhance her teaching and writing curriculum. A Michael Jordan Fundamentals grant enabled Mrs. Jihad to produce a book of children’s poems entitled The Many Faces of Poetry. Her sixth-grade students authored original poems, art, and short stories inspired by personal experiences. In the Many Faces of Love, Jihad penned a poem for each of her one-hundred and ten students to honor their unique gifts. Now she contributes to the AF-Am POV (African American Point of View) and the Muslim Journal. Learn more at https://www.renayspace.com/