Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Laura Purdie Salas: Nite Notes & A Poetry Pot

As a writer, I feel totally lost without some way to record thoughts. At the grocery store, in a bookstore, or while riding a roller coaster, I feel lost without a pen and paper.

But I'm fickle. I don't carry one notebook. Instead, I use whatever's at hand. I take notes on my iPhone, in journals, in my calendar, in travel journals, on index cards, on a voice recorder, and just about anywhere you can imagine.

When I start writing poems that might form a collection, I designate one notebook for them. I actually write most of my poems on my laptop, but I jot down ideas and notes and research questions in that notebook. This page is from a notebook about space poems.

Sometimes I start a notebook for a certain time period, like, "This is my summer journal." And this (below) was, many years ago! I mostly kept poem ideas in there, though there's a little bit of everything.

I sometimes think of things in the middle of the night or as I'm falling asleep. My husband gave me this Nite Note a few years back. When you write on it, it lights up so you can see. Cool! The only problem is that I don't always remember what I meant in the morning. "BC took all the best metaphors." Huh?

I usually end up transferring these ideas into my computer files or my Poetry Pot.

My Poetry Pot holds ideas for single poems. It's an old flowerpot, and when I jot down ideas on Post-Its or Nite Notes or whatever, I toss them in here. When I can't think of something to write about, I dig around in here for poem seeds.

When I travel, I take notes because my memory is so bad. This page is about a harbor cruise in Duluth, Minnesota. I noted cool facts I learned and funny comments and events that I wanted to recall.

Some writers use beautiful, crafty journals, but not me. This one is from a writing retreat, and we brought blank journals and decorated them with quotations and pretty paper stuff. I like it - but I would never bother to do that on my own.

Below you can see a journal page from 2006, when I was working on some poems from the point of view of parts of a book. And beside that journal page is my brand new book, BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Clarion, 2011). It's really fun to look back through that journal and see how BOOKSPEAK! was born!

I'm an inconsistent journaler, and I rarely look back through my notebooks. But writing things down helps me think about them, and I love knowing that they're there, available for me. Writing this post has made me eager to go back through my old journals to see what surprises I'll find there!

Here's something to try!  Carry your journal around to three different places (math class, cafeteria, bowling alley, backyard -- whatever works for your day).  At each place, make a list of at least 10 nouns that are specific to that place.  For instance, in math class you might have protractor, calculator, ruler, and so on.  Your backyard could include fire pit, volleyball net, and your beagle.  Then choose one item from each of the three lists and try to come up with a story, poem, song, or article that somehow ties all three together.

Who knows?  Maybe you'll write an awesome story about a tiny dog that gets its head stuck in a protractor, runs loose in the cafeteria, and jumps onto someone's lunch tray!  Be outrageous.  Have fun with it.  No wrong answers here!

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 100 books for kids and teens, including BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS and many other poetry and nonfiction titles. She loves to introduce kids to poetry and help them find poems they can relate to, no matter what their age, mood, or personality. Visit Laura at her website or her blog, Writing the World for Kids.


  1. I enjoyed seeing all that Laura does, as I have from the other writers, plus the bonus idea. It will be a good sharing for students to see this. Thanks.

  2. Oh how I love this post!! Laura you have inspired me once again. Carrying my (current) junk drawer journal around with me today...

  3. I like the poetry pot.... and the idea of carrying a journal to 3 places. I forget to write in my journal - tend to scribble on scraps of paper and tuck them in pockets and send them through the wash...

  4. Having a poetry pot is a great idea. I keep a notepad in my wallet so that I can jot down ideas. i like the Idea of having one place where all your Ideas are.


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