The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books


Plot challenged?

Me too!

I tell my students in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature that other elements of writing–characterization, voice, word play, sentence rhythms–come to me much more naturally. Luckily, that means I have lots of ideas for coaxing plots out to play. 

For my first book published by a New York publisher, I brought my writer talents to a retelling of a folktale I had heard growing up in Ethiopia. You can try something similar…whether you teach writing or–like me–are a writer wanting plot practice.

More recently, I did something similar with a familiar story of bread on the run. Apparently the concept makes people smile (and peek) around the globe–even kids displaced by conflict in Ethiopia.

The Runaway Injera bilingual Amharic

It was great fun to play with things like refrains and characterization. (Who was going to outwit the sassy injera?) More discouraging (for a while) was finding the right volunteer illustrator. I was thrilled when Katie Griffing Bradley took up the challenge–she used this photo from her times in Ethiopia for inspiration.

Katie Griffing Bradley illustration

A writing challenge: read as many of the versions of the story as you can find. What’s similar? What’s unique? Use your own clever brain for YOUR version. At the least, you’ll discover things about plot that may be useful–or make you laugh.


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