April 12, 2016

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets #18: Betsy Franco on "Bed Head"

Greetings, fellow morning people! How are those sparkly brains today?

I was working with the fifth graders at Swansfield Elementary yesterday. When I explain my preference for quiet during writing time, I have everyone point at the two sides of their heads. Most of the kids know their brains have two lobes. One side is logical -- your computer, but also your dictionary. The other side is creative -- your artist, your outside the box thinker. Writing poetry requires accessing both sides of the brain. If you talk to me while I'm writing, I feel like an electric cord that's been pulled out too fast -- zap!
Brain lobes from
That's why I love children's poet Betsy Franco's writing habit: bed head. When your brain is waking up, there's a beautiful quiet space for thinking and for poetry.

Here's Betsy:

I'm a morning person, so I used to jump out of bed and write. But I discovered that there's a very creative space between waking up and getting out of bed. If I have any problems to solve in my novels, poetry, or plays, I just lie there, and the solutions come. Characters talk to me about things I've had them do or say, lines of poetry come to me that solve rhythm issues I'm having, and so on. I definitely have a pen and a thick pad of paper on my nightstand.  And I've learned to write in the dark.  Turning on the light breaks the spell.

For instance, I'm working on a novel that's written in both prose and poetry.  I added a party scene in which the main character scans the room and spots some people he recognizes from school.  I didn't think his ex-girlfriend was there, because she's not into partying, but I woke up and could picture her leaning on her boyfriend's arm. She was pretending to be comfortable, but I could tell from her eyes that the whole scene looked like a circus to her.  And my main character picked up on that, too.

I also worked out many of my concrete poems in A Curious Collection of Cats and A Dazzling Display of Dogs in that weird, creative morning space.  It was easier to picture the visual part of the poem and how it meshed with the words.  Here's a poem from the cat collection that came to me in the morning.

copyright 2009 Betsy Franco, A Curious Collection of Cats, Tricycle Press

Try it.  If you're a morning person, keep your eyes shut, concentrate on something you're writing, and see what happens.

Thank you for visiting, Betsy. A Curious Collection of Cats is one of my favorite books to use when I work on concrete poems with kids. Check out my lesson using Betsy's poetry from the book.

Does Betsy's advice remind you of Winnie-the-Pooh's "Thotful Spot?" Enjoy your time a-bed.


Christy said...

Thanks for sharing these ideas, Betsy. I love those waking moments when writing comes. Another time I find is while swimming laps--something about the repetitive rhythm, but I haven't figured out how to bring a pad of paper in the pool.

Robyn Hood Black said...

I love Betsy's book of curious, concrete poetry cats! And I love hearing how some of them came to be, in that pre-waking state of dreamy imagination. Thanks, Ladies, for another great post in this series.