Embolden Your Writer with a Plan – Article 8
Idea time – “Homelessness Mat-ters” grew from the same idea in column seven. When I revisited the idea, I decided to write a children’s story with an environmental slant.
Research time – I used the same mat/homelessness facts and spent my time researching children’s markets, paying attention to themes, length restrictions, and the reading audiences’ ages. Since the piece was fiction, I needed a message, characters, setting, and a plot.
Message: here is a recycling project that benefits others and can involve the entire community
Characters: Jada, Charlotte, and Louisa
Setting: outdoors on a warm spring day
Plot: my conversation with my mother put into little girls’ mouths
Writing time – I wrote the story, set it up exactly as I said in column five, from the dialogue/mindset of 7-10 year old girls.
Organizing time – I created a folder for “Homelessness Mat-ters,” with a page for potential markets and a page to track the story.
I spent subsequent writing sessions on editing and rewriting. This is the final draft published by Skipping Stones in its March/April 2013 issue.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Jada laughed as she tucked a strand of long black hair behind her ear.
Louisa shook her head no. “I laughed when I first heard about it, too.”
“Did I miss a good joke?” Charlotte asked as she joined her two friends. Her blue eyes sparkled and her lips lifted upward as she felt the sun’s spring warmth on her shoulders.
“I was asking Jada to help me collect plastic bags,” said Louisa. “You know, like the ones you get from grocery and drug stores. My abuelita and her friends need them.”
“What’s so funny about that? We recycle plastic bags at our house.” Charlotte extended her arms motioned around her. “We want to take care of all these beautiful trees and flowers.”
“Oh, I agree with you, Charlotte.” Jada held up both hands as if to ward off an evil spirit. “But listen to what they do with them.”
Louisa continued, “They cut the bags into strips, tie the strips together, and then crochet them into mats.”
Now Charlotte laughed.
“They give them to their church.” Louisa paused and stared intently at each girl. “Then their church gives them to homeless people.”
“I thought homeless people slept in shelters,” said Jada.
“Many do,” said Louisa, “but during the day a lot of the shelters are closed.”
“And some areas don’t have a shelter,” added Charlotte. “I saw a documentary on homelessness on television and the reporter said there are over 600,000 people homeless in the United States . . . and over a 100,000 million homeless people around the world.”
“Sounds like we should be working to end homelessness instead of crocheting mats,” said Jada.
“We do need to work to end homelessness,” admitted Charlotte, “but we can also make people comfortable at the same time.”
“With this project, anyone can get involved.” Louisa held up her fingers as she ticked off the ways people could help. “Some people collect the bags, some cut the bags and tie them into strips, and others roll them into balls of parn –”
“Parn?” Jada squealed and threw her hands over her mouth.
“It is a funny word.” Louisa laughed. “It’s a combination of the words ‘plastic’ and ‘yarn.’” Louisa became serious once more. “But there’s nothing funny about homelessness.”
“I think it’s a wonderful project,” said Charlotte. “It’s another way to recycle and it costs practically nothing to make the mats. All you need is a crochet hook and a pair of scissors.”
“And it makes my abuelita happy,” added Louisa. “Last year she volunteered three day s a week in a Soup Kitchen that provides meals to the homeless. Then she fell while working in her garden and broke her hip. Now she can’t be on her feet for long periods of time. She heard about these mats and organized a group in her neighborhood. They call themselves the Mat Makers.”
“I guess the joke’s on me,” said Jada.
“You can get the directions online,” said Louisa. “It takes about 700 to 900 bags to make one two and half foot wide by six foot long mat.”
“Wow, that is a lot of bags!” exclaimed Jada.
“That’s why I’m asking for your help,” said Louisa.
“Well, count me in!” exclaimed Jada. “Let’s start a plastic bag collection drive in our neighborhood.”
“Maybe we can get the school and our churches to help, too,” said Charlotte.
“Thank you so much!” exclaimed Louisa. “We can make a difference by helping others make a difference.”