Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet, artist

PSSSSTT, Teachers!
Please help yourself to these handouts!


Sketching with Words

Just as an artist sketches a model or a scene, a writer can work on the heart of a story with broad, quick strokes.

Try it: Think of a character or a place you'd like to write about. Instead of worrying about perfect sentences, jot down quick descriptions of the pictures in your mind.

Your "sketch" might look something like this:

Young girl - hair blowing in breeze - reaching out to stray dog - storm clouds brewing in sky

That's not a complete story, of course, but it could turn into one, right? An artist's sketch contains the potential for a finished drawing or painting. In the same way, a complete story might just grow from the seeds of your word sketches!


Since a new school year has started, why not try this idea from Wishes, Lies, and Dreams by Kenneth Koch? Begin every odd line with "I Used To" and every even line with "But Now I"... Try it:

I used to

but now I

I used to

but now I

I used to

but now I

Pssst... Teachers - Check out two more great books on teaching poetry: POETRY MATTERS by Ralph Fletcher and POEM-MAKING by Myra Cohn Livingston (available used online).


Writers wouldn't have stories without characters. Think of a favorite character you've made up.

Now try this:

1. Make a diary entry for your character. What are they happy about today? Afraid of?

2. Pretend your character's friend is describing him or her. Write that down.

3. Pretend someone doesn't like your character. What would they say? Write that.

4. How would a teacher or boss describe him or her?

Read your answers again. Is your character more real now?

Teachers May Reproduce this Page

Click over to my POETRY page to see my poem in a past issue of LADYBUG, with a link to LADYBUG'S Teacher's Guide for the issue.

HAIKU HOW-TO resources:

(Print all or simply highlight selection you need.)

FOR ARTISTS - Sketch Pad

Robyn Hood Black

It was always easier to sketch the wolves when they were asleep! This is Luna napping, the week of her first birthday. Try it with your own dog or cat or guinea pig! (Little brothers and sisters work, too.)

Robyn Hood Black

What does it mean to "sketch from life?"
It just means drawing directly from an object in front of you rather than from a photograph or other reference.
I sketched these two wolf pups at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve. Of course, sketching animals is MUCH easier when they are asleep! I could now work from this sketch and photographs to make a finished drawing, or I can use it as a learning exercise.

Now you try it: Quietly sneak into a room where your pet is sleeping and see if you can sketch him or her. The trick is to work fast and fill in large areas; don't get too bogged down in details. If you don't have a snoozing pet, try a stuffed animal. (Then you won't have to worry about your model getting up and walking off!) Have FUN!


For centuries, artists have sketched or copied the works of masters to improve their own skill.
This rough sketch from my sketchbook was copied from a book by Konrad Gesner from the sixteenth century (!) as printed in Seahorses by Catherine Wallis.

Now You Try It

Do you just love a particular artist's work? On a piece of paper or in your own sketchbook, try your hand at that artist's style by copying part of a drawing or painting you love. Make sure to give credit to the original artist by including "after Picasso" (or whomever you choose) beside your own name.

Robyn Hood Black
Here is a rough sketch from a story I am working on. How do you think this little fellow is feeling? How do you know?

Illustrators wouldn't have pictures without characters. Pick a favorite person or animal you like to draw.

Now try this:
1. Draw your character.

2. Now draw your character when he or she is alone at home and a scary storm makes the power go out.

3. Now draw your character after he or she has just won a special award.

I'll bet your character looks proud - and so should you!

Quick Clicks

bio, photos, interview links, etc.
Explore a poem or two or five....
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
Author visits
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
Nonfiction, interactive book on wolves featuring giant pop-up and tons of info!