In another example, he included the story of a first grader whose mother had died two years earlier. Almost everything she wrote that year had something to do with the tragedy of losing her mother.
Recently I asked a high school teacher if there was a drug problem in his school. He smiled sadly, shook his head.
"Not really, not now, but let me tell you about something that happened a couple years ago. This kid got hurt one day on the athletic field. Broke his leg in three places. They had to bring in a helicopter and pull the kid out. The big copter - landed right on the field. When kids saw the copter, they panicked. 'The narcs are coming! The narcs are coming.' they rushed out of their classes and into the bathroom. All you could hear was the sound of toilets flushing and flushing all over the school."
The bigger the issue, the smaller we need to write. That's when we need to focus in on the details, to slow down and paint a clear picture.
"You don't write about a serious drug problem. You write about a helicopter landing and the sound of toilets flushing frantically throughout a high school. You don't write about the death of a mother: You write about how 'her voice got quieter.'"I love Ralph Fletcher. I've attended several of his writing workshops, and I always leave with a wealth of new tools to become a stronger writer. I also use several of his student writing books in my classroom. He's one of the best out there, folks.