TeachingBooks.net is delighted to welcome award-winning author Nikki Grimes as our featured guest blogger.
Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
“Lasso a Daydream”
by Nikki Grimes
Daydreaming becomes a strong muscle if you exercise it often enough. By the time I was ten, I could lasso a daydream and ride the wind. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
There were no lassos where I grew up in the inner city, of course, but there were daydreams to be had, if you knew where to look. That’s the secret I shared with Gabriella, the main character in Words with Wings (Wordsong, 2013). Like Gabby, I was a girl who lived inside her head. I could play a game of jacks and daydream in one room, while young men shot up heroin across the hall in another. I could close my eyes and daydream to block out the sound of gunshots pinging past my window. Daydreaming was a coping mechanism, a way of life, a method for maintaining my sanity. But it was also something glorious, because daydreaming allowed me to create a space in which wordplay was the order of the day. And without wordplay, well, one of us wouldn’t be here.
I got into trouble for daydreaming in school. I wouldn’t have minded, except that trouble followed me home by way of my report card. You might know that “Report Card” was one of the first poems I wrote for Words with Wings. The lovely little comments section was always riddled with complaints in heavy ink: “…mind wanders…,” “…difficulty focusing…,” “…given to daydreaming….” Clearly, these note takers considered daydreaming to be less than desirable.
At one moment in the story, Gabriella seriously attempts to give up daydreaming. No one ever drove me to such an extreme because I never quite bought into the notion that daydreaming was bad, but I could easily imagine how gray the world suddenly seemed to Gabby.
Gabby was not the only key character in this tale. Mr. Spicer, Gabby’s teacher, is also front and center. His role wasn’t planned, though. When I first began work on Words, I wondered how teachers working today handled the daydreamers in their classrooms. I posted the question on Facebook, and received a flurry of responses. One, in particular, caught my attention. It came from a gentleman named Ed Spicer. He revealed that he regularly sets aside time in his classroom for students to daydream, and to write their daydreams down! A brilliant approach, I thought—one that earned Mr. Spicer a prominent place in my story line, and my heart. Now, through Words with Wings, I share Gabriella and Mr. Spicer with daydreamers everywhere.
Hear Nikki Grimes introduce and pronounce her name.
See all available online resources for Nikki Grimes.
This material may not be used without the express written consent of Nikki Grimes. All images courtesy of Nikki Grimes.
Michael John McCann says
Great blog. Daydream every day. As the Mayor of PurpleUmpkin and one of the Murples, we daydream everyday. We also feed children in America and spread literacy. I would love a chance to work and write with her. See daydreaming right there. Come visit everyone. Especially Nikki.
Carol Demasi Glatt says
How beautiful to daydream. I too was a daydreamer, but today I fear it is becoming a lost art. Children are not looking out the window or into space, they look instead at the iphone or android, the Chromebook or tablet. Always looking for something to entertain them. I entertained myself with my daydreams. My movies in my head. Full color, talkies. I could pick the time and place, the setting – how I wanted to be the southern belle – or ride like National Velvet. Those dreams kept me going through the times I didn’t have friends, or when I lost loved ones. Thank you for reminding me to daydream more and put down the technology.