Grades 6-8, High School

Story Ideas – the ultimate mash ups

Sometimes random ideas or disparate items make no sense together – that is, until they do.

glossy-arrows_z1Zj71FOIn a delightful post on Nerdy Book Club, called ‘From Everywhere and Nowhere,’ blogger (and author/illustrator) Philip C. Stead explains how he gets ideas for his books. Bottom line:

Some stories come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Now that is the alpha and the omega of cross-curricular integration!
It’s Mash-up Philosophy writ large.

The excerpt below sums up Stead’s point, but please DO click through and read the entire blog. You really do want to learn how his ‘jumpy and disjointed’ mind works to create fresh, fulfilling stories.

Special Delivery is a book about postage stamps, and mail, and elephants, and monkeys, and bean eating, and kindness, and ice cream sandwiches, and ridiculousness, and alligators, and bubble gum, and determination, and airplanes, and hot chocolate. It’s my most jumpy and disjointed and absurd book yet.  And, so, it’s a big surprise to me that I know that exact moment when this book came to life. One day over morning coffee a friend said to me, “Last night I dreamed I brought an elephant to the post office.”

“Oh, yeah?” I asked. “Where did you mail it?”

“Nowhere,” she answered. “I couldn’t afford the postage.”

So there you have it. An elephant became a dream became an idea became a book.
It’s as simple as that!


Activities for Making Simple Sense with Your Students

1. Share Stead’s blog with your group. Does his premise resonate? Why or why not?

2. List 10 alternative ways of saying ‘jumpy and disjointed.’ Which 3 descriptors are the most motivating to each student or the group? Explain why.

3. Read some of his books. Do they make sense – even knowing the background Stead reveals?

4. Keeping in mind Stead’s approach to story ideas, analyze a favorite Dr. Seuss title. List the items that should not make sense together in one story. Then explain why they do – preferably in Seussical rhyme schemes or at least a couplet or two.

5. Use a random word generator or shuffle 2-3 decks of flash cards featuring different themes. Pick a pair or trio of words from the generated list or shuffled decks. The words must seemingly have no direct connections (by meaning). Use the words to write a tweet, haiku, or 1-paragraph short story that makes sense. Option/Repeat:  Swap out one deck with picture-only cards.

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