Uncovering Craft

I was fortunate to attend ELAC a few weeks ago in Banff. The highlight? Penny Kittle, a fellow observer and lover of craft, talking about the craft of one of my favourite creators, Lin Manuel Miranda. Pure joy.

One of her slides read, “Study, imitate, transform.” Lin Manuel Miranda did just that in creating Hamilton. He was inspired by everything from Harry Potter to Macbeth to The West Wing. He studied, imitated, and transformed.

It’s what I do with my students through mentor texts during mini-lessons. It’s also what I do within my own writing. When I’m reading, listening, and watching favourite books, music, and shows, I’m looking for craft moves, sometimes consciously, often not.

Consider these examples:

The engagement and humour created by the smashing of genres in Hamilton becomes a history lesson like no other. The shifts in time, and parallel themes across time, in This is Us lead to connection, reflection, and realizations in our own lives. Neal Shusterman–without the reader even knowing at first–puts us in the head of one with mental illness, enabling us to experience what we might not otherwise.

Studying the craft moves of text in any form leads our students to more creative, more interesting work.

Study. Imitate. Transform.

By the way… connecting Hamilton to lessons in literacy, why did I think of that?

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