Here’s another look into what’s been going on in the Art of Writing Classroom! For our writing invitation this week, we worked on making abstract ideas concrete by writing images that represent certain emotions. Try and see if you can guess what emotion each image represents! And stay turned for our twenty questions poems!

Jumping everywhere


Red eyes, tears, temper tantrum


Two people walking hand in hand looking into each others’ eyes and smiling


He punches every door and wall in sight.


Lips curled up and eyeballs wide, nostrils flared.


On the rack where you left it, your coat still holds your body’s form.


A kid who doesn’t hear from his or her dad on their birthday


Waking up to lots of presents under the Christmas tree at Christmas time

This week, we again worked on showing instead of telling, this time by adapting a classic childhood game — and an excellent activity for road trips! — into poetry. There’s a long tradition of childhood games in poetry: even Emily Dickinson wrote about hide-and-go-seek! We read Donald Justice’s “Twenty Questions,” and wrote our own poem of twenty questions in response — as many other poets have! Take a look at Maura Stanton’s sonnet, which was published in The Best American Poetry of 2005.

Stay tuned for more examples of the good work that’s going on at W.F. Burns!

Here are some examples of the amazing work that’s going on in the Art of Writing Program! The first three examples are responses to the exercise we did in week two: we personified an abstract idea. These students did a great job showing the reader confusion, joy, and depression!



Always walking in the wrong way

She doesn’t know what to say to the things surrounding her

Doesn’t know left or right.



Joy is a little girl,
skipping off to school.

A frilly blue dress
covering her scabby knees.




Depression yet again acting out in class

On the sidewalk, pacing, puzzled, and
hesitated to enter the house, knowing

what was waiting on the inside


And here’s one more poem from a student in the program:

We run, jump, dodge
He runs, shoots, threatens
We turn, hide, cry
He looks, finds, grabs
We don’t live long.


Great work, everyone!

Stay tuned to see more student poems next week!


We like March

His shoes are purpleHello, and welcome to the Art of Writing Program’s corner of the Web! The Art of Writing Program began through a collaboration between the Sun Belt Writing Project, the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities at Pebble Hill. We developed a series of school day, after school, and community programs to bring our love of creative writing to middle and high school students. We were lucky enough to receive a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and have begun with an after-school program.

The Art of Writing Program meets every Friday afternoon at W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama. The program is team-taught by Ms. Whitney Reed, an 8th grade English teacher at W.F. Burns, and myself, Emma Bolden, a poet and Instructor of English at Auburn University. We’ve had three meetings so far, and the students have produced some amazing work! So far, we’ve been working with imagery, learning about sensory details, and discovering how to show through concrete detail instead of telling through abstraction.

Here’s a brief re-cap of what we’ve been doing so far!

Week One: We talked about imagery and sensory details: words and phrases which show the reader what’s going on by appealing to the five senses. We read e.e. cumming’s “maggie and milly and molly and may” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” (if you follow the link, you can hear her reading the poem! It’s amazing!). We listed the words and phrases in these poems which appealed to the senses and talked about how they showed the reader how the location felt, sounded, smelled, and so on. Then, we wrote our own poems, using concrete imagery to show the reader a location!

Week Two: This week, we moved one step further and talked about ways to show our readers what’s going on by personifying an abstract idea. We made a list of abstract ideas on the board: sadness, happiness, depression, pride. Everyone picked an abstraction. We asked ourselves, if sadness was a person, what would they be like? How would they stand? What would they wear? If Mr. Sadness walked into the room, how would you know it was them? We then wrote poems using personification to show our readers how these abstract emotions feel.

Week Three: We spent a lot of time this week reviewing the ideas we’ve discussed about imagery, concrete details, and “showing” through language. We read Emily Dickinson’s “We Like March” together. Then, everybody took a highlighter and highlighted the images in the poem. We talked about how Dickinson uses these images to show the reader exactly what she sees rather than simply telling them. For instance, she doesn’t just tell us that flowers grow in March: she shows us exactly what those flowers look like by comparing them to shoes (that’s a painting of the kind of flower she’s describing up there!). We then wrote our own poems, using imagery to show and not to tell.

Stay tuned to this spot for updates on our weekly activities as well as examples of the writing we’re doing in class!