Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Alan Wright: My Notebook is My Catcher

It’s hard to believe that next year marks the 30th anniversary of my writing partnership with a notebook. Notebooks have been a constant companion all that time. The words and ideas captured in those many notebooks are like the footprints of my life.

My notebooks have come in so many sizes –thick and thin, large and small. Most needed some decoration to personalize the cover page. Others were fine as they came. Each one of them is unique, special to me and forever precious.

I take a notebook with me almost everywhere I go. I see my notebook as a travelling companion. I never know when an idea might arrive, so I must be ready to receive it, and my notebook is my catcher.

I also like to collect facts and trivia. Facts fascinate me, particularly those obscure little known facts such as –it’s illegal to take a bear onto a beach in Israel!

My latest book contains many ideas that originally found their beginning in one of my notebooks. Each day, as I worked with young writers and their teachers I saw things and heard things that started me thinking, so I trapped them in my notebook. Later these ideas were lifted from the notebooks and used as part of the manuscript. I love harvesting, and experimenting with words and ideas. I regularly share my notebooks with teachers and students. I think it is important that writers share ideas. Talking is an important part of writing.

This page (above) emerged from discussions with students who were investigating spiders and bugs. I went home that night and began my own investigations. My starting point was what I already knew about spiders. What eventually emerged was a narrative about a spider named Harriet.

Believe it or not, this photograph on its yellow background is a topic list! I gathered some artifacts from my study and arranged them for a photo. Each item has a story just waiting to be told. Each item is part of my personal history. Anyone can do this. It’s quick and easy and really helps you to make connections as a writer.

These 'sand' pages developed one morning, when I delved into my beach bag to see if there was anything still in it at the end of summer. When I withdrew my hand, my fingers where coated in tiny granules of beach sand, That’s all it took…

I found myself writing a piece that explored the way sand migrates so cleverly and easily all around the world.

Writers have to be keen observers of their immediate world. Ideas for writing are waiting for us to discover them. We must use all our senses to find them. Try this:

Take a camera and go for a walk. Take photos of things you find on the ground, or things you see on walls, or even things that move. The possibilities are endless. The images you collect will stimulate your thinking and hopefully spark a new writing idea.

Alan Wright is an Australian author and educational consultant currently working with a range of schools in his home state, Victoria. He  also worked in New York for six years. His latest book, Igniting Writing- When a Teacher Writes, (Hawker Brownlow Education, 2011) is a passionate portrayal of why it is important for teachers to write for and with their students. Alan has published plays, poetry, songs and writes professionally for teachers on matters concerning the effective teaching of literacy. He has been recognized nationally for his contributions to literacy. He writes regularly about all things to do with writing on his blog, Living Life Twice.

Book Link: Igniting Writing- When A Teacher Writes, Alan j Wright, (Hawker Brownlow Education, 2011)
Video Link : Making Effective Use of the Writer’s Notebook
Video Link: Igniting Writing- When A Teacher Writes

To celebrate Alan's 30 years of notebooking, I (Amy) will offer a surprise notebook to one commenter on this post.  Please just leave your thoughts below to be entered in a drawing which will take place on August 14!


  1. I know I'm late commenting, but wanted to be sure to visit your notebooks, Alan. How beautiful they look, so filled with ideas and visual thinking that will spark other ideas, just the thing to share with teachers here at the beginning of the year. I'm trying to entice them to start their own personal writers journals/daybooks, so maybe your post will help! I love the idea of photographing some personal objects and the mosaic, too. Thank you!

  2. I love that Alan's notebook is partly digital! I have truly begun to think of iPhoto as a part of my writer's notebook, and my camera as one of my composing tools!

  3. Oh my gosh, what a truly wonderful idea!

  4. The drawings and artwork combined with lists and ideas makes my "words only" notebooks look so tame. I've never considered myself someone who could draw (understatement of the year) but Alan's notebook has me thinking beyond the sketch to other visual options. Thanks, Amy!

  5. I just found this blog today and am so thrilled! I already sent it to my fellow literacy coaches, who already sent it to their teacher friends! We are in our 3rd year of using writer's notebooks in our school district and I just can't wait to explore this blog with my students! Alan's notebook is so cool and full of ideas for my personal notebook and to share with our students!

  6. I not only love Barry's music I adored his music to your poem!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.