Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Writing About Monsters

on June 22, 2011

Today’s post on the Teen Poems from Behind Bars: Denney Poetry Blog is The Monster Within Me.  This poem was written during the June workshop in which we incorporated young adult literature and memoirs.  Two of the youth’s favorite books were Ellen Hopkin’s Crank and Glass. These are stories, written-in-verse about Kristina’s addiction to crystal meth which is called “the monster.” The kids in the detention center relate to this “monster” very well! Every time we are able to incorporate the young adult novels into the workshop, Ellen Hopkin’s novels are always the most requested. The day we wrote about “monsters”, we read a couple of the poems from Crank, and then I asked the teens to respond to the following:

Who is the monster in your life? It may be an addiction, another person, some aspect of society, an illness, or a part of yourself which we might think of as a “shadow” self that is always trying to trip you up. The teens didn’t need much prompting for this one before they were off and writing.

Another book, which we did not use in this workshop, that also deals with the idea of “monster” is Walter Dean Myer’s young adult novel, Monster. In this story, sixteen-year old Steve is on-trial for the supposed role of the killing of a convenience store clerk. The story is told in court script and journal entries. In this story, Steve is “the monster.”

(To see the entire list of young adult novels and memoirs we have used in the poetry workshop, check out the page on our blog here)

I’ve also used the topic of “monsters” when working with elementary school kids. This spring, in a six-week workshop with the young writers at Tulalip Tribes, we also wrote about monsters. In that workshop, I read aloud, Where the Wild Things Are, and then modified a drawing exercise, “Picasso Dogs”, from Carla Sonheim’s book, Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists 52 Drawing Exercises.  I asked the kids to draw various parts to a monster (paw, snout, tail, head) and then connect it together. Then, we responded to writing prompts such as: Where does your monster live, what does he want, and what would he tell his human? The second week, we designed a mural setting for our monsters, and cut out the words as well as our monsters to place them in the mural.

Monsters can be great ways to dig deeper into writing–for any age, and I’d encourage you to find the “monsters” lurking in your story. Monsters are usually our best antagonists!

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