Tell It Slant

This morning on the way to school, Boy told me about a writing assignment his class will be working on this week. And he’s dreading it because he hates writing. The content is there, but getting it on paper? Not so much. Unless he’s MOTIVATED.

He told me he has to write a couple of paragraphs about something fun he did during this school year. Pretty straightforward. He went on and on about how boring he thinks the assignment is and how much he hates using graphic organizers because they are a waste of his time and how much he detests being told what to write about and how having to write a report about a fun time – no matter how awesome it was – using a dumb paragraph formula is so stupid, bland, like dry, white toast. “And who cares about my personal life anyway?” Yes, he said that. 

Anyway, I told him about one of my favorite quotes about writing, taken from a poem of the same name by Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” He thought about it for a second and then asked, “You mean stretch the truth? I can’t do that, Mom, because this is a nonfiction assignment.” No, it doesn’t mean stretch the truth, I told him. What I think it means is tell YOUR truth, but do it using your own creative view of the event. It’s called creative nonfiction and it doesn’t need to be bland or boring if you “tell it slant”. He thought about it a little bit more and then remembered playing a video game with a friend recently during which they imagined being transported into the game itself. He asked if I thought his teacher would go for it, reporting on the play date with some weaving in and out of the video game. I told him to pitch it to her, and to advocate for WHY he wants to write that way and then he went OFF about how the only way he’s going to get through school in one piece is if “these teachers get with the program and stop with all of these boring assignments.” Yes, he said that.

I really do think his teacher will be cool with his proposal. If not, I’ll get with her to figure out another way to motivate him. If he can keyboard and if he’ll use a graphic organizer and if she’ll let him add some illustrations and if he can write whatever it is she wants but he can “tell it slant”, HE’S GOT THIS. I hope.


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