The Exquisite Prompt Challenge
Linda Sue Park
Prompts and resources:
Linda Sue Park, Korean American author of children's fiction, has been an avid reader and writer her entire life. In fact, she began poetry and story writing before kindergarten — at the age of four. Growing up outside of Chicago, one could often find this notorious bookworm grazing the pages of Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and E. L. Konigsburg. At the age of nine, Park had her first publication — a haiku — in Trailblazer magazine. She received a one dollar check for her hard work, which she gave to her father for Christmas. To this day, the un-cashed check is still framed above his desk. Park's first published work:
In the green forest
A sparkling, bright blue pond hides.
And animals drink.
Park is particularly drawn to historical fiction. Seesaw Girl, Kite Fighters, A Single Shard (2002 Newbery Medal winner), Project Mulberry, Bee-Bim Bop, and Archer's Quest all delve into Korean culture and history — embroidery, kite fighting, celadon pottery, silkworms, and Korean food.
Prompt for grades K-2 (Level I)
In Park's picture book Bee-Bim Bop! we join a young Korean girl and her mom as they shop, chop, and prepare a delicious meal together. Everyone has a favorite family recipe, something wonderful that is cooked up for special friends or special occasions. What's yours? Does it have special meaning for your family? For this prompt, you'll need a kitchen partner — your mom, dad, grandparent, or older sibling — to help you cook this delicious dish. Write up the recipe, the directions, and one descriptive sentence about the experience of cooking and sharing the food with others. Include a drawing if you like.
Prompt for grades 3-5 (Level II)
Be sure to take careful notes as you listen (if you have an audio recorder, you can tape the interview and listen back later). From your conversation, select one story or telling detail that really captured your imagination and write a vivid anecdote that reveals something unique and authentic about your relative. Include a photograph of your relative if you can.
Prompt for grades 6-8 (Level III)
Park's books are a window into her native Korean culture. Tap Dancing on the Roof is a lively introduction to sijo (pronounced see-zhoo), an ancient Korean verse form similar to haiku but with a different structure — and a distinctive witty twist at the end. For this challenge you will write your own sijo, about a very ordinary topic. In Tap Dancing, Parks breathes life into everyday subjects like breakfast, thunder and lightning, houseplants, pockets — even freshly laundered socks!
The structure for sijo is simple: three lines, 14-16 syllables in each line. What makes it complex and joyful: careful word choice, visual imagery, play on words, metaphor, and humor. Here's a sample:
What's in your pockets right now? I hope they're not empty:
Empty pockets, unread books, lunches left on the bus — all a waste.
In mine: One horse chestnut. One gum wrapper. One dime. One hamster.
Lightning jerks the sky awake to take her photograph, flash!
Which draws grumbling complaints or even crashing tantrums from thunder —
He hates having his picture taken, so he always gets there late.
Hurry, wash fast, sister's used up most of the hot water again.
Soap, scrub, rinse. Rub and wrap. Hair shining, skin glowing, smelling fine:
From a tiled cocoon, a butterfly with terrycloth wings.
Prompt for grades 9-12 (Level IV)
Park is a gifted writer of historical fiction. She weaves together powerful storytelling with a deep interest in Korean history to create timeless stories like her Newbery winner A Single Shard (set in the 12th century), Kite Flyers (15th century), and Seesaw Girl (17th century). Historical fiction puts you the reader at the potter's wheel with the young apprentice, on the field at the king's kite-fighting competition, or inside the court walls of the royal palace. Good historical fiction is grounded in facts but not a slave to them — that's where the writer's imagination, sense of place, character development, and narrative arc come in to give the story life.
In this challenge, you will choose a time period, place, and character that interests you and do some background research to create a toolbox of facts and descriptive details. Drawing from your research, identify a primary character and what issue or conflict you want to explore in the story. You might want to use a story map graphic organizer to help you get organized before you write (see link to examples below).You'll write a short opening chapter that establishes the following:
Include dialogue if it helps to strengthen the characters and story