• Crafting Beginnings (A Single Shard)

    Memoir Crafting

    Layered Beginnings

    Inspired by

    Linda Sue Park's 

    A Single Shard


    Below is a memoir written by Saga Blomberg.  It was inspired by a lesson I taught about crafting memoir beginnings.  The template I used appears below Saga's writing. 


    It’s Christmas Eve and I am at the Christmas party at the Brown’s house….we like to play our games and capture the cats and watch the Christmas shows… the house smells like gingerbread and potatoes… we go home full and sleepy wishing that it was Christmas already… when we come home we have some hot chocolate and open one of our Swedish presents… next  morning I wake up at 6am, it feels like a huge sugar rush: happy, excited, and hyper - even though I haven’t eaten anything in hours… the air smells like new stuffed toys and sweet clementines and mint… I dash into my mom and dad’s room (they’re still asleep)… I jump on the bed and say “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas! Come on we have to go down.”  Still half asleep my mom says, “Five more minutes, then we will go down.” ….Then my dad says, “Christmas is canceled. There are no presents.” ….My mom puts on her clothes and we go downstairs…we go in a clockwise, present opening circle… I love when it’s my turn… I feel like another sugar rush is coming my way… you never know what gift you are going to get… when it’s my brother’s turn I feel like I’m in a line with 1,000 people in front of me… my family gifts seem to be the best…. they always know what I want: dolls, books, blankets, games, game systems, and money or just plain cards... one of my favorite parts is on New Year’s we smash our gingerbread house… I love to smash the gingerbread it’s so full of candy, and sometimes memories… it tasted so superior to the store bought stuff… I like the windows the best... they are so chewy like a box of bubble gum and it sticks to your teeth like caramel: sweet, chewy, and delicious.              

    Notice that Saga strings together memories, separate ideas and topics with the use of the ellipse.  I let the kids know that they could choose not to capitalize each new sentence because they were "streaming" their memories. (Some of my kids who forget to capitalize were excited!)  Also, notice that Saga did not focus on the notion of finding synonyms for "layer". That is because I did not focus this year on that aspect as much.  I did invite the kids to use a simile in the the first draft of the piece, though.  Later, I asked the kids to super-size the simile after a lesson on supersizing similes.

    Name: _________________Date: _____________

    Memoir Crafting


    “Memories layered themselves in Tree-ear’s mind: Crane-man’s willingness to discuss things with him…the stories he told, the mountain secrets he shared, his reading of the world around them…the way he loved a joke, even at the expense of himself or his bad leg.”

                          From Linda Sue Park’s A SINGLE SHARD


    Linda Sue Park does some cool stuff here that you can borrow and expand upon. 


    Start out writing about your memories being layered too.  (You may even want to think about crafting a simile or metaphor in that first line.)  Think about things that are layered.  Or think about a synonym for layered.  Or a word that is closely related in meaning to layered – like “coated” or “encrusted” or “scaffolds” or “blanketed” or “a tapestry” or “mountaining”. 


    Now create a list of memories from a vacation or holiday or time period or event.  List the events, activities, feelings, happenings of that vacation or holiday or event. 


    Now write that first sentence, use a colon :  and then list things that happened…how you felt - happy, sad or confused…and then write another right after using an ellipse…stringing it all together with artful uses of…punctuation!


    Below is an example you can use to inspire your writers more.  I co-wrote this with a former student who is now in fifth grade, Gabi Rosenfeld.


    My memories of the holidays are blanketed in layers in my mind, like snow in winter: my mom baking latkes - yummy, sizzling in my mouth, and attacking my taste buds....my dad always getting off from work (safe, comfy and loved!)…going to my Aunt Marilyn’s for Christmas (on my dad’s side) - the best things about that is seeing ALL of my family…New Year’s at Fred’s house (Jackie is actually a girl – it’s a long story!)…but presents, presents, presents are definitely my favorite thing.


    Another piece to use:


    My memories of the holidays layer and layer in my mind:  my sister and me searching and searching for hidden Christmas presents (without a treasure map!)…the

    jackpot-finding of them and then the trying to carefully open a corner or end of a box to see…the thrill of not getting caught…the waking up and running down the stairs…my mom and dad making us pancakes after we had scattered the floor with wrapping paper…the lull that comes after the waiting and opening and basking/playing with the gifts…the wishing I didn’t have to go to a family party just because I wanted to play all day with my new found gifts.  Magic.

    Frank Murphy, Christmas 2005



    More (unedited) offerings from this year's fourth graders:


    I’m ready for Hanukkah… so ready to open my presents as wonderful as jewelry: shiny, pretty and surprising can’t wait…

    I have a tradition that when I go to my aunt’s house they would put the presents in order and each person would open their presents by age so my sister would be first then would be me... then what we would do is my sister and me would go upstairs in my room and try out our new toys and clothes… then the next day we would go to my grandma’s house and also open presents…  Her house smells like perfume…  I always save the biggest presents for last… on Hanukkah my sister opened her present and when my dad wanted to take a picture she held the present upside down… my family started laughing so hard… I love opening presents, especially big ones.   I love Hanukkah. So does my family!!!!! ….one time on Hanukkah (and this was yesterday) I got the last present… there is this game called Club Penguin and you would have to be a member to get some clothes and get stuff for your igloo and buy lots of puffles…  so my last present was that my cousin opened up the laptop and said this is your igloo and you are a member for 6 months… I went to my dad and hugged him as hard as I can…  but the funniest thing is that my cousins are paying for it not my dad or my mom… I also got a purple chair for my purple room… this was the best Hanukkah ever and I hope to never forget it… I hope by reading this letter, mom and dad, you will never forget any Hanukkah we ever had…


    Love: Sabrina,

    To: mom and dad



    My holiday future dribbles around in my mind:  Every year I get 1 big present and 7 little presents….In three days I get my biggest present - A big Pez display…..Then, I get a Pez dispenser called golden glow……The next 6 days, my mom is going to surprise me… I have to go to my aunt’s house…. I don’t get to play with my new - found presents.  Oh well. Every Christmas (since we are not Catholic or Christian), we got to a hibachi restaurant.  

      Every year my dad always makes me put my hands out and close my eyes….Then, he puts the present in my hands….One time my dad gave me a DVD player and I fell off of the couch and almost broke it (I did not fall of excitement, I fell because it was really darn heavy)…..I got a, a, amazed at the weight of that DVD player……I went down like a basketball on a court: hard, painful, and crumbled up….I will never forget that day of Chanukah. 
    I love Chanukah!!  

    by Cole Eisenberg



    On Hanukkah – I have a few traditions I would like to share with you:

    Waking, waking, waking up in the morning…running, running, running down the stairs… OUCH!!!!  I fall down the rest of the way down the steps… quiet as I can, tip-toeing across the hallway… searching – for presents… DARN!!!  I get caught peeking… I decide to go brush my teeth… when I come down the stairs I sniff, sniff, sniff the “sniffalicious” air… my mother is baking yummy yummy in my tummy latkes – yummy as buckets and buckets of chocolate: delicious and sweet and soft… I want to help make them… I sniff one more time… and get to work… my brothers have awoken by the remarkable fragrance of baked latkes… they come down stairs… they are still in their pajamas… sniff – sniff... my brothers sniff the air again… then my dad comes down in his boxers and t-shirt and his teeth are unbrushed… he too came down because of the smell of the delicious latkes… my house is a mess… since it’s almost time for the party... I start cleaning up the mess – knowing it will take around two hours to clean it… my brothers and parents pitch in… we get done in forty five minutes instead of two hours… my dad goes upstairs and brushes his teeth and my brothers follow… my mother and I stay and make other Hanukkah foods… then we tell my dad and brothers we are going to buy Hallah… drive, drive, drive to the store… we are finally there… we buy the bread… we  have to go back home… we drive again… we reach home… we set the table and clean up some more… my brothers and dad come downstairs… my dad sets the table with my brothers while my mom and I put the food on the table when they finish with the dishes… soon after we finish getting ready and change, we are greeted by my family – all of them… we eat and enjoy the dinner… we do karaoke… we have deserts… and last but not least – spin the dreidl… we play until our fingers can’t spin anything anymore… we play for money and hugs… then after that we say our good-byes and that’s the end of that…When everyone leaves I close the door… and I feel – happy – happy because I had an incredible Hanukkah.



    Your favorite daughter

    (by Amanda Sinderovsky)




    I like going in my shed, getting my Christmas decorations, and hanging them on my tree… We have lots of lights on the tree)…When it’s time to go to bed I think about Santa giving me presents… I wake up and I smell the Christmas air… I go downstairs and I look at my Christmas presents… I am excited like a bunny getting a big juicy carrot: excited, running and ready to get surprised… to the presents fast as a fox. I jump into the present pile… I am so happy… Then I look at this one present bigger then me… I look at it, I was frozen like a popsicle… then I tore it and tore it and finally I got to the core of the present…It was like nothing before it was it was…. A big video snowboard I was shocked… right when I got the present I ran to the TV  and I played it day and night into my feet were tired… to this day a always say thank you to my mom and dad.   


    by Lenny Ackerman