Saturday, September 3, 2016

Keep a Word List: A Word List is Your Friend

Wolf's Moon
by Amy LV

(I will add the audio recording later today...having troubles at the moment.)

Students - Today's poem grew from an exercise I learned in a Highlights Foundation Workshop with the wonderful poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich in 2001.  She told our class that she had learned it from the wonderful poet Myra Cohn Livingston.  Today I will share it with you.

In the back of my notebook, I always keep a list of words that I love.  It grows because I add to it regularly and also because I share word lists in workshops and we share our words with each other...because words are free and we can all swap and share our faves!

At our workshop in Honesdale, Pennsylvania many years ago, Rebecca asked us to each list some words we loved - words we loved for the meaning, the sound, anything.

Then we went around the circle, each reading a few of our words out loud.  If anyone liked a word on someone else's list, that person could add it to his or her own list.

After this, we took a few minutes to draw lines between our words, as you see below (this is my current notebook).  We drew lines without thinking carefully about the connections.  We drew lines to surprise ourselves with connections.

From Amy LV's Summer 2016 Notebook
Click to Enlarge these Pages

Then, we went off to write, either from one word on our list...or from one pair.  See, the beauty of the random line drawing is that often we make new connections that we would never make in any other way, connections that surprise and delight us.  

Can you find where I paired WOLF and WISH in the word list above?  Well, that's what I decided to write about one day this summer...and you can see the beginnings of a poem below in that same notebook.

From Amy LV's Summer 2016 Notebook
Click to Enlarge this Page

Sometimes, all a writer needs is a way to get started...a window to climb into the writing.  Word lists are whimsical and magical windows.  Each word is a portal to a new place, and when you start pairing the words...well...anything can happen!  You might want to give this a try, and if you do, I'd love to see some student poems grown from simple word lists.

I just held a giveaway over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks.  Congratulations to Julieanne, winner of HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY by Orson Scott Card! I am so grateful to Alexandra Zurbrick for her post, and excited about our next writer - Kiesha Shepard from Whispers from the Ridge.

While I am here on Saturday today instead of on Friday this week, know that this week's Poetry Friday roundup is over with Penny at a penny and her jots. Please stop on over to find out what's happening poetry-wise all around the kidlitosphere this week.

And next week...Poetry Friday is at my place!  Come on over!

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. What a wonderful exercise. And I love the results. It's wonderful that the wolf is just howling an invitation. Sometimes the moon is so beautiful that I'd like to howl :-)

  2. What a wonderful way to spark something new. I will definitely be trying this! I love this poem and what it celebrates, Amy. Just being wolf is enough.

  3. Amy, thank you for sharing your word list, which is so rich and vibrant -- very much a living thing! Of course you paired wolf and wish. Of course you created a gorgeous, thoughtful poem. I like that there doesn't need to be a big reason to howl. Howling can be its own reward. :) xo

  4. Words are windows! What a fun exercise. This sounds like a great exercise for words we wonder about too! Thanks for the great ideas. And for the book prize! Yay!

  5. Love this! I think we'll start word lists in our notebooks this week...ALL of us, including ME!!

  6. Love this! I was feeling stuck in a recent challenge given out by a fellow poet and friend. This is just the trick to un-stick myself! I love how your blog is poetry and the craft.

  7. Oh I can't wait to hear the audio of this one! Thank you for sharing the word list strategy. I definitely need to start this. Thanks, Amy!

  8. What a fun exercise and a great poem. I've howled at the moon a few times myself. Thanks for sharing.

  9. "Word lists are whimsical and magical windows" - inspirational words. Thank you! =)

  10. Sometimes I do write word lists, but only for the poem at hand... this would be so much more freeing and idea inspiring. I'm going to try it. Starting my word list today. Once you have drawn lines though, in a list you have been keeping for a while, how do you continue to work with the list? Or do you use a different listing each time you start? Wait. Don't answer. The answer is, do it however you want to. I could make my list on the computer. Print it up to use that day. Then continue to add to it for use another time. Oooh, or circle random areas of your list and have those as a word bank for the writing. I see. There is no write answer. They are all WRITE! Thank you!

  11. I like the exercise. And the poem that blossomed from it. It's a great idea, but I love so many words.

  12. Wolves, Moon, Amy LV, Rebecca KD, Highlights workshops... Swoony-swoon-swoon. :0)


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