Writerly Play Kit 021

Writerly Play: Dear Mr. Henshaw 

Writerly Play for Educators

Dear Mr. Henshaw

In Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw, Leigh Botts sees himself as the “mediumest boy in the class.” While corresponding with an author, Mr. Henshaw, Leigh becomes inspired to write in his journal, to “read, look, listen, think, and write.” Eventually after entering a writing contest, Leigh says, “‘I just got honorable mention,’ I said, but I was thinking, She called me an author. A real live author called me an author.”

Yes. They’re authors. We see your authors. We believe in them.

It takes courage for youth to put their hearts on the page, but the payoff is priceless. At Society of Young Inklings, we’re honored to partner with you, especially at this time when you’re giving so much energy, love, and over-and-above support to your students and their families.

We are very grateful to you for those exceptional gifts, and we want you to know that we’re here for you now, as this unprecedented school year wraps up. We’ll continue to be here through the summer and new school year begins to take shape. We know that your students (and all of us, really) need more than learning opportunities. We need someone to see us, to believe in us, and encourage us to use our voices to express our feelings and experiences. 

In this WP Kit, we’ll give you a quick overview of resources and opportunities designed to support you and your writers in these last weeks of school, over the summer, and as we look toward next year. Know that you can also reach out to us directly at any point for a personal recommendation.

Resources to Support You NOW

Are your students finishing up a writing project to culminate the year? Here are a couple revision strategy mini-lessons to try with them:

Find the Heart of the Piece

This revision strategy helps writers find the heart of a narrative and weave that purposeful heartbeat throughout the piece. This activity was developed as part of our Personal Narrative collaboration with Stone Soup, but the strategy works well for any narrative piece.

Show Don’t Tell

This revision strategy helps writers get practical about how to find moments when they’re telling in their writing, and then guides them step-by-step through transforming those moments into well-crafted scenes. 

Resources for the SUMMER


This summer, we’re encouraging writers to consider taking on a passion project. Whether they choose to craft a collection of poetry, a picture book, a novel, a play or film, a podcast … the possibilities to engage their creativity and stretch their skills are endless. It’s an unusual summer. We’re inviting writers to see it as an opportunity to strap on creative wings and fly.

We’ve developed a reflection process to kick off a passion project which writers can access at the link below.


You’ve been pouring out your heart in support of others. What do you need this summer?

Writerly Play brings energy and joy to your writing classroom, but it can also give YOU creative momentum, too. Why not try a sample Writerly Play exercise for yourself this summer and see where your muse may lead you?


One of our board members, Tracy Piombo, is also an educator and librarian. She and I sat down for a conversation about using Society of Young Inklings’ resources in support of Writer’s Workshop and other writing curriculums.

If you’d like a personalized recommendation catered to the needs of your classroom, share a few details with us and we’ll respond shortly with a video recorded just for you.

“I didn’t start out writing to give children hope, but I’m glad some of them found it.”

-Beverly Cleary

What’s Up At SYI this Month?


Prose to Verse

This month, Sonja has challenged us to write in verse:

Sonja’s new book When You Know What I Know, is unique in that it is written “in verse”. Sonja says this means, “the language is poetic and sometimes on the page, it looks more like a poem than like prose. That’s not to say that it’s written like a structured poem – it’s free verse and I used a lot of poetic techniques in the writing.”

Have your students choose one of their own short stories or finish the classic fairy tale below, and make it poetic. Play around with how to turn the story into a more abstract poem, “in verse”. Use punctuation! Play with words sounds, and sentence structure. Have fun with the 5 senses! Aim between 350 and 1,000 words.


Little Red Riding Hood
Red, cape
Long path. Just like any other day.
Sweet smells and tastes for Grandma!
Sudden rustling
Meet a friend, Say goodbye. But it isn’t….
Knock three times, “Come In!” and sit next to the fire.
Notice something different about her.
She looks bizarre.


Your students can submit responses HERE and they might be published on our website!



Sonja K. Solter

This month, we talk to author Sonja K. Solter about her new middle-grade novel, When You Know What I Know. In this interview, we learn about writing about heavy topics, and her favorite things to do when she gets stuck writing. 

Here’s a peek:  

When‌ ‌I’m‌ ‌feeling‌ ‌stuck,‌ ‌I‌ ‌also‌ ‌try‌ ‌to‌ ‌pay‌ ‌attention‌ ‌to‌ ‌my‌ ‌energy‌ ‌and‌ ‌mindset.‌ ‌If‌ ‌I’ve‌ ‌got‌ ‌some‌ ‌sort‌ ‌of‌ ‌critical‌ ‌energy‌ ‌going‌ ‌on,‌ ‌feeling‌ ‌rigid‌ ‌about‌ ‌writing,‌ ‌then‌ ‌I‌ ‌know‌ ‌I‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌loosen‌ ‌up‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌different‌ ‌way‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌come‌ ‌back‌ ‌later.‌ ‌In‌ ‌those‌ ‌cases,‌ ‌I‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌use‌ ‌mind-maps.‌ ‌But‌ ‌some‌ ‌days,‌ ‌I‌ ‌know‌ ‌I‌ ‌just‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌keep‌ ‌writing‌ ‌until‌ ‌I‌ ‌get‌ ‌there.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌if‌ ‌it‌ ‌doesn’t‌ ‌feel‌ ‌like‌ ‌there‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌good‌ ‌flow,‌ ‌usually‌ ‌there’s‌ ‌some‌ ‌nugget‌ ‌I‌ ‌get‌ ‌from‌ ‌just‌ ‌writing.‌ ‌



Join us September 13 and 14 in Portola Valley, CA for our 2nd Annual Inklings Conference!

Featuring a keynote with author Joanna Ho, this conference includes creative writing breakout sessions in our beautiful redwood grove, workshops on using improv to step into a character’s shoes, experiments in word play, a storytelling workshop, and reflective writing to tap into your unique voice.