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Friday, March 15, 2013

Understanding Place by Kitty Griffin

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

I chose this picture I took in Ireland because I was talking with someone about setting and place in our stories.

I taught an on-line kid's writing class and this was an exercise that we did.

Four books were presented to the students, everyone had to read Cynthia Rylant's book, "The Islander."

Then they could chose to read one of the following:
Gary Paulson  "The Island"
John Rowe Townsend "The Islanders"
Gordon Korman "Island"

I suppose by now you notice a theme going on, that's right, ISLANDS.

After reading the two books, students were to create their own island. They had to decide where to put it, in a lake, a river, or an ocean. They could choose the shape and geographical features.

It was their island to own.

I wanted them to get to know their island before they put any people. We spent time going over descriptions and drawing maps.

Once that was done we began to talk about story possibilities. What I wanted them to examine was how does being confined on an island impact on story?

What surprised me was doing the assignment along with my students and really enjoying myself. It made me think long and hard about place.

I recommend all four books, although the Townsend one may be hard to find.

If you don't have time for that, just pick up a pencil and get a blank sheet of paper and make your own island.
What comes out just might surprise you!


  1. I love the idea of this exercise. It would be a fun activity for my writer's group. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Oooh - I've never read Cynthia Rylant's The Islander! I'll have to put it on my list. What a great assignment - my children loved Island of the Blue Dolphins - wish we'd done this! :)

  3. This is terrific, Kitty! A place and a setting in a novel can really be as much a character in a story as the characters themselves. So very important!