A friend of mine introduced me to the book The Best Story, by Eileen Spinelli.
It’s a cute story about a young girl who enters a writing contest at the library. The prize is winning a trip to an amusement park with her favorite author. She goes about asking her family members what would make the best story. Her father tells her stories that are humorous were the best, so the girl tries to make her story funny. Her brother suggests a story with a lot of action, so she revises her story with more action. Her sister tells her the story must have romance. Again, the girl revises her story again. When she finishes, she reads her story aloud to the family. Up to this point her mother hasn’t said anything, so the girl asks her mother what she thinks. Her mother says that the best stories are the ones that come from your heart. They are the stories that are important to you. The girl revises her story a final time and turns it in to the library. The story ends without us knowing if she wins the contest or not.
I read this story to my students this year and I asked them why they thought Eileen Spinelli wrote the book. They came up with good ideas, but the final conclusion was that we need to write what we know. We should write stories we care about. After reading the story, I had each of my students create a heart map. Inside the heart they made lists of things that they could write about during writer’s workshop. We keep this list in our writing folders and if we cannot think of anything to write, we take out our heart map and find a topic. We will continue to add to it over the course of the year.