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Recently, while discussing poetry with a bunch of 5th graders, I discovered a word that’s pretty much left our daily vernacular: loafe.
Whitman used it in SONG OF MYSELF…
I loafe and invite my soul
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass
…but not a single student knew what the word meant. There were jokes about loaves of bread, and one girl thought she had it, but it turns out she’d gotten it mixed up with loathe. Which, you’ll agree, is another thing entirely.
Once I defined the word for them, they loved it. I said, “Pretty great, right? To be given permission–even encouragement–to loafe about?!” and everybody laughed with relief. (Except for one boy who said, “I try to loafe about a LOT, but my mom won’t let me.” 🙂 )
So I stepped away from the session with kind of a two-part reminder to myself, and since it’s fresh on my mind, I’ll remind you, too:
- Loafe about. Seriously. Creativity can’t be rushed. You need to absorb before you can express. You need to walk and garden and bathe and dream and breathe. These things are the stuff that art is made of, the places ideas come from, the source of a sustained head and heart. Really, loafing about isn’t just important when making picture books–it’s important when living life. Professor Omid Safi asked, in a recent column called The Disease of Being Busy, “When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?” We know this, right? Right. This is just a reminder.
- And here’s the other one. Let’s not let really great words like loafe go by the by. Let’s use them. I snuck the word kin into my book ALL THE WORLD, and strut into NOODLE & LOU. I used crimp in THE GOOD-PIE PARTY and hue in THINK BIG. These words are evocative and specific and rich and onomatopoeic–they’re too good to let go! And, as writers, it’s our duty to make sure that we’re not just left with a bunch of OMGs and LOLs on judgment day.
How about you make a list of words you used to hear and use, but never do anymore? What if you wrote down all the phrases your granddad used to say? And what if one of them gave you an idea? Picture books aren’t designed to dumb down; they’re meant to open up and out. They’re meant to expand the words and the world that a child has at hand. Lucky us to be a part of all that.
So go ahead, make that list.
And then, what the heck, loafe about for a bit.
Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of the highly-acclaimed Caldecott-honored children’s book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, as well as this year’s The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady McDonald Denton. Other books include Happy Birthday, Bunny; Think Big, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, and more. Her next picture book (called In The Canyon) and her first novel for young readers, The Great Good Summer, are both due in 2015. Ms. Scanlon is also a poet, teacher and a frequent and popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. To learn more, visit her web site at LizGartonScanlon.com.
Liz is giving away two copies of her latest picture book, THE GOOD-PIE PARTY! (YUMMY!)
These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!