Random Category Poetry

WhenYouReachMeThis week at my Waterstones teen book club we discussed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. It’s a brilliant mystery story, the kind you want to start reading again as soon as you turn the last page. You can find out more about the book here or here, but for the purposes of this post you only need to know this bit: the mother in the story is taking part in a television gameshow called “$20,000 Pyramid”. In this game, you’re given a category and you have to name things that fit within it, while someone else guesses your category heading. For example, you might say, “a book, a magazine, a manual, a map, tea leaves…” and the person guessing might shout, “Things you read!”

A lot of the chapter headings in When You Reach Me are categories from the gameshow, and some are truly tricky! We played the game with the book’s categories at our club meeting and we really struggled, in a fun way, with some of these:

Things that turn pink; Things that get tangled; Salty things; Things you hide; Things you line up; Things that heal; Things you push away; Things that get stuck

At the end of the session, we wrote random poetry together using the chapter headings. We picked out a category in turn, quickly wrote down something inspired by it, then folded our paper and passed it to the person on our left. And so on, until we had about six lines each. Have you ever played the game “Consequences”? It was like that, only even more random! When I do this kind of activity with reading and writing groups, I’m usually struck by one piece that seems to fit magically together. It didn’t quite happen this time, but here’s one of the pieces that worked best:

file0001764067669I left my diary on the bed. What happened next sneaked up on me.
My brush got stuck in my hair again – it hurt like
The world when you faint
And a box sprung open, and I was dazzled by the magnificent items – glittering jewels, money, postcards, photos.
The sea spray stuck in my mouth forever.

(With thanks to the book club members for writing this!)

Can you guess any of the categories that inspired the lines above? (Don’t worry if you can’t – I was there and I’m not completely sure anymore!)

Oh, and please feel free to set me a category-guessing challenge in the comments…

Happy reading and writing!


HayFeverP.S. I keep meaning to mention here that I’ll be at the Hay Festival, together with Girls Heart Books friends Sophia Bennett and Sarah Webb, on 28th May. Please do come and see us! You can get more details at The Hay Festival website.

Also, I’ll be visiting libraries all over the country soon. Please check my website to see where I’ll be. I hope I can meet some of you soon!

16 thoughts on “Random Category Poetry

  1. Hi Luisa,
    is it stuff that gets stuck? The brush got stuck and the seaspray was stuck in her mouth…

    • Each line was inspired by a different category, but I’m pretty sure one of them was ‘things that get stuck’. The idea probably stayed (stuck?!) with us for later lines! I think you’re right about the brush line. Very well spotted! πŸ™‚

  2. I’ll make up a challenge. A balloon,a beach ball,popcorn and a bubble. I’m going to try this game if I’m ever on a long car journey.

  3. Hey Luisa! I LOVE writing games! SO FUN! πŸ˜€

    I think my fave is when you start a story and you pass it round the table to see what other people write and when you get it back, everyone has their own plans for the story then you. x

  4. I love consequences! The stories end up so completely random and funny! I also like the game where everyone says one line to a story in a circle. Okay, here’s one… Onions, Good Books, Poverty, kittens

    • That’s a tricky one! I keep thinking of things that fit most of the list but not all of it. Argh… I don’t know! ‘Things that bring tears to your eyes?’ But the kittens…

  5. Sounds good, I may have to use that book with my book group and try something similar. Thanks for the idea.

      • No problem, glad they were helpful. πŸ˜€ If you ever need any more just drop me a message.
        My group is going quite well but need to recruit new members as mine are all growing up too fast! Still fun with the few though. How is yours?

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