Thursday, July 8, 2010

Krasner pitches writing tips to Woodridge kids

All photos and text by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
July 8, 2010

STORYBOARD: Sportswriter Steve Krasner shows newspaper accounts 1981 baseball game on which he based his book, "The Longest Game."

The students in Lynn Almonte and Michele Kiley’s fifth grade classes got several innings worth of writing advice from longtime sportswriter Steve Krasner when he visited their classrooms as part of his “Nudging the Imagination” educational workshops.

Krasner was a sports writer for the Providence Journal for more than 30 years, covering the Red Sox for the last 22 of those years.

According to his website,, Krasner’s "Nudging the Imagination” is a collection of interactive, motivational writing workshops designed to engage students, while providing teachers with strategies to do the same.

At Woodridge Elementary School, the students in Almonte and Kiley’s classes enjoyed Krasner’s lively presentation, which began with a discussion of some of his non-fiction work based on his days as a sportswriter for the Providence Journal.

Krasner spoke to the students about his book, “The Longest Game,” based on the longest professional baseball game in history, played at the McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket on April 18, 1981. Krasner has several other sports themed books, including “Play Ball Like the Pros,” and “Play Ball Like the Hall of Famers.”

After talking about his non-fiction work, Krasner began speaking to the students about his fiction book, “Have a Nice Nap, Humphrey,” and took them on a journey from an idea for a book through the writing process, ending at publishing the book.

Krasner asked the students to think about how a story comes to be.

“What’s the first thing you need?” Krasner asked. “You need to have your squash cooking and get an idea.”

He told the students that the idea for “Have a Nice Nap, Humphrey,” came to him at 35,000 feet in the air, while he was on a flight with his daughter Emily.

Krasner made sure to emphasize throughout his presentation the need for revising and editing when writing a book.

“Naturally, since I’m a professional writer, I only had to revise once, right?” “Wrong,” he answered to his own question.

Krasner often referred to the “Six Traits,” which is a writing process taught in many elementary schools, including Woodridge. Using some of the traits the students have learned in their writing classes, he spoke to them about using better word choice and having good sentence fluency when writing stories. The students nodded in agreement as he spoke.

As Krasner continued the journey from story idea to story publication, he spoke to the students about finding an illustrator to take his words and create illustrations for them. He held up original pencil sketches from some of the early drawings that the illustrator had come up with, and then compared them to some of the final drawings, asking the students to look for differences in the drawings.

“These are pretty good, don’t you think?” he asked as he held up some of the first drawings. “But this is even better,” he said, holding up a final one.

Krasner told the students that once the drawings were complete, the book had to then be formatted, pictures matched up to words, font sizes chosen, and then everything had to be revised yet again. He held up his actual storyboards to illustrate the process for the students.

“One of the great things about creative writing is that there is no right or wrong. If you want something in a book, you put it in,” Krasner said.

He shared that he has included his family in his books, and even a stuffed monkey that he had as a child.

As he neared the end of the book writing process, he emphasized yet again that revising and editing is the most important part of the process.

“Even when you think you’re done, you may not be done,” Krasner said.

He told the students that as late as the day before the book was being sent off for publishing, it was being revised again.

Krasner talked to the group about choosing a title for a story, telling them that oftentimes, although there may be a working title for a story, the actual title of the book may not come until the end.

“You revise as you go along. Therefore, you can’t possibly put the best title on your story until you get all of your best writing done,” he said.

He shared with the students that the title of “Have a Nice Nap, Humphrey,” came to him from the last sentence of the story itself.

Krasner gave the students advice about choosing interesting story starters and making good word choices. He talked to them about “word pictures,” where the words of a story are written so clearly that they form a picture in the reader’s mind.

“The toughest thing about writing anything is writing it for the first time,” he said. “Once it’s out there, it’s not so hard to give it a little massage, make it better, polish it up.”

He asked the students to close their eyes as he read aloud to them, instructing them to form a word picture in their minds.

As Krasner wrapped up his fiction-writing workshop, he read aloud to them from the final product, his “Have a Nice Nap, Humphrey” story. The students were able to now see the results of the writing process that Krasner had walked them through.

He finished up his visit by showing the group some of his notebooks and “homework” from his sports writing days. He also had several replicas of sports memorabilia from years past that he held up for the students.

Krasner left the students with several pieces of home run writing advice.

“If you write, you can do anything you want to do,” he said. “Anything and everything can be a story. Writing can be fun. Writing can take you to the World Series.”