Author Unleashes Imaginations and Inspires Young Readers

Wild, crazy ideas? Yes, but also the start of what could be some wonderful writing by TK Middle School students.

Grand Rapids author David Stricklen enthusiastically shared his love for reading and writing with sixth-grade students, encouraging and motivating them to use their own creativity and imaginations. “You never know where a story idea will come from,” he said.

He is the author of middle grade books including the Blackwater Pond three-book series “Beneath and Beyond,” “Through the Eyes of the Beast,” and “The Heart of the Swarm.” Each of his books feature mystery, fantasy and adventure.

 He gave students four unrelated pictures of mud-covered shoes, a hot air balloon, a scuba diver, and an astronaut's boots walking on another planet. It was his way of giving students jumping off points for writing. “Start a story using the mud-covered shoes and the astronaut. How can we make a connection between these two and what can that story look like?” challenges Stricklen.

A flood of hands immediately reaches to the sky with students eager to share their ideas. One shares the beginning of a story, then others add to it until a plot begins to form. Stricklen encouraged each original idea and didn’t dismiss any no matter how wild and crazy they may have seemed. Somehow, he wove the ideas one by one into the start of a story demonstrating how students can use their imaginations to write original stories.

“Make up stories together or on the fly. Just be as imaginative as you can be but think about the story having a beginning, middle and end. What’s the worst thing that could have happened to this astronaut, how did he get here, and how is his situation going to be resolved?

Conflict, rising complication, climax and resolution are four components of a good story, he told the students. “All stories have a beginning, middle and end just like this piece of rope,” he said, showing the students a length of plain white rope. As he tied a knot in the middle of the rope, he reminded students they can always go back into their story and add details, just like the knot in the rope. Even with changes, in the end the story’s beginning, middle and end are still one connected rope and with a bit of magic he released his knotted rope to show one straight piece again.

“When you start writing, have your framework and just write. Make a sloppy first draft. Just get your ideas out of your head and onto the paper. Then write, rewrite and rewrite,” he said.

He also told students it’s important to “hook” their readers right away and make them want to read more. After reading an excerpt from one of his books he asked, “Do you feel the hook? Do you wonder what’s going to happen next and want to keep reading to find out?”

As a writer he encourages students to mentally put themselves into the action. Once a writer has put their beginning together with a good hook to motivate the reader to continue, there must be a rising conflict. Then, Stricklen said it’s time for the big bang ending to wrap up all the questions and resolve the ultimate conflict.

“I love to inspire readers and writers. There are some pretty creative minds in these groups and I hope I’ve encouraged them to write and to find books they will love to read,” said Stricklen, who is a retired airport police chief.

That’s just what TK English teachers hoped for their students as well. “Our goal in bringing in a local author, artist, and speaker, was to help inspire our readers and writers. The feedback from our students was overwhelmingly positive and exciting. Dave’s presentation and creative writing prompts were a ton of fun for the students,” said English teacher Wanda Blair.