I visited Flynn Elementary for my third time this week. It is a school with a delightful library, because the librarian is delightful and committed to making it a central hub for the students and staff. It is a comfortable and inviting place. I have enjoyed visiting Flynn over the past few years, but never as much as yesterday with Mark Ludy, one of the most talented humans I know.
Mark Ludy (illustrator extraordinaire) and I visited Flynn Elementary to share our love for creating stories in four workshops throughout the day. We worked with students from kindergarten to fifth grade, building the elements of WHO, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, WHAT and created the prompt for a picture book with the students throwing out his or her ideas in each session. It is amazing to see children's creativity when given the chance to explore the "wilder" side of writing.
The students are called upon to help build the blocks to creating the story, beginning with character development. I tell them the ideas must be "school appropriate", meaning they should be able to read our story to a kindergartner and to their principal. They usually come up with something to do with bodily functions, butt (sic) hey, they are kids after all. The fun begins with eager hands reaching up and ideas pouring out of them. The teachers are also fun to watch as they see students participating gleefully.
Next, we must put these characters into a setting, so we come up with the WHERE and the WHEN. Once that is established we come up with the WHY. Why we are writing about this and what we want our audience to experience, be it humor, scary, romance or whatever, then we commit to our main idea and carry it through the story. Once we have all that we then can add the WHAT, the plot lines, what our characters will do where we place them. (NOTE: the first item in the setting was volunteered by none other than the Librarian's grandson).
Now we are ready to rock and roll! The students break in to groups of four or five and go to work on the verb bank to bring tons of action to the story! Meanwhile, I begin a prompt while Mr. Ludy draws from our session.

The end result is that the students see the blank paper turned into the makings of a great story and they see the characters Mr. Ludy has prepared for them in the setting. WHAT A GREAT DAY FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED!

Mark Ludy and I both visit schools independently all over the country, but if you really want to make it something special, please have us visit your school together. You will not be dissappointed, just ask the schools that have us back again and again... We both simply love kids and love working with them to hone that creative gift!

If you would like to explore the possibilities for your school, please contact me at justin@justinmatott.com

If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Ludy and his books, please visit his website: