The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager

Velveteen Rabbit Revisions: How to Bring Your Writing to Life (with a Whole Lot of Love!)

Have you ever tried to solve a What’s Wrong With This Picture dilemma? Where you stare at the image for an hour straight without seeing a darn thing, but when you walk away for a while and then take another look, the answer jumps right off the page?

Color Illusion

Welcome to the Revision Process.

Today’s REVISE post is about gaining new perspectives on your writing, so you can bring it to life on the page.

Kate Messner In her blog post, 65 Off-Draft Writing Prompts to Kick-Start Revision, Kate Messner provides over two months worth of daily revision quick writes for all ages. Each prompt provided is sure to take your writing – and your students’ writing – to a whole new level of real.

The term “Off-draft writing” means exactly what it says: writing that’s completed away from your draft, but which both informs your story and enhances its depth.  As Messners says, “Sometimes, the very best ideas for revising a piece of writing happen not when we’re staring at that piece of writing but when we’ve set it aside to write on a different sheet of paper or type in a new document.”

Messner points out: “The word REVISION breaks down into re-vision… or seeing again.”

See Again When you look at your piece from various angles and ask yourself the right questions, you’re able to crack open your story to see your ideas in new ways, and love your story all the more. The more you study your characters, the better you understand their motives and conflicts and can ratchet up the suspense. The more you observe your settings, the deeper each outer landscape reflects a character’s inner one. Knowing your writing intimately is what makes your story believable and real.

 

How real is your story right now? 

Whether you’re in the throes of revisions or helping your students through the process, if the believability factor is anything less than 10, then consider some of Messner’s refreshing, creative, off-draft writing prompts:

Let’s start with the main character.

  • 1. Describe your main character’s bedroom. Don’t forget to look in drawers and closets, and under the bed.
  • 10. Write your main character’s obituary.
  • 14. Write a letter from your main character to you (the author!) Start like this: The thing you’re not understanding about me is…

If you want each of your characters to leap off the page in 3-D, then you must consider all facets of their personality as vital to your story:

  • 12. Write about your antagonist’s greatest regret in life.
  • 23. Create a music playlist for your antagonist.
  • 28. What’s in your antagonist’s refrigerator?
social media Forming a new perspective does not always mean writing something new. Creative knows no bounds. Try developing a social media page and profile for one of your characters and let the revelations roll in. Consider a few more of Messner’s related prompts:

 

  • 39. Make an imaginary Facebook wall for a character you need to understand better.
  • 52. What would your character’s Pinterest boards be about?
Velveteen Rabbit and Skin Horse Finally, examine the deeper meaning of your writing, its theme and purpose. Only when the boy loved the Velveteen Rabbit with all his heart, bit by bit for a long time (not all at once) did the cherished, shabby toy become Real. And according to the Skin Horse, who was always truthful, “Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

The time and care you take – bit by bit – to imagine and craft truly authentic stories is what makes your fiction and creative nonfiction Real To Readers. Contemplate Kate Messner’s final prompt to get to the heart and soul of your writing:

  • 65. Stephen King said that, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” What is the truth your book is telling, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction?

 

When you’re stuck inside the revision process, W.O.R.D. Ink highly recommends using Messner’s 65 invaluable revision techniques to help you think in different directions and spark your creativity. Taking another 65 looks at your writing will no doubt trigger new approaches and modes of thought, presenting opportunities to turn a decent piece of writing into dynamite!

 

Kate Messner is an award-winning children’s author and National Board Certified teacher of fifteen years. For a full reveal of her 65 revision prompts, check out her awesome blog post: 65 Off-Draft Writing Prompts to Kick-Start Revision

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