Stream of consciousness can be an effective writing style to use when you have a character who sees and thinks very differently from the other characters. This project is inspired by the language of a very young boy.

In the first years of Stone Soup, in the mid-1970s, we were fortunate to publish poems and stories written by an extraordinary child, James Lindbloom. The works published in Stone Soup were dictated by James to his mother, the author Nancy Willard, when James was between the ages of three and six.

Watch a young child playing a fantasy game and you wonder, where is he? Where is she? What do those eyes see? At least from the vantage point of us older people, it can certainly seem as if very young children have the ability to dip into a world of seemingly magical happenings.

As James simply spoke the words that follow, it was his mother who wrote them down and presented them in the form of poetry. There are some who say that young children can’t write poetry because poetry can only be created by writers who are in full control of the words they are choosing. So, perhaps it might make sense for us to think of these as “found poems” or “accidental poems.” But, what is not “found,” or “accidental,” is the obvious ability James has to use words to express powerful visions. The first work, “Make the Morning,” starts out with the very strong, “I want make it dark/I want it way, way dark.” As you read these two works by James let the words flow through you, and imagine the small child who is saying and feeling these words.

Write a stream of consciousness narrative, as a short story or as a poem.

One thing writers do is explore ideas and problems and life itself through invented characters and invented voices. It can have huge impact to create a character whose unique way of seeing is expressed through a uniquely different way of talking. You can enjoy these two pieces by James as two expressive works of literature, but I’d also like you to think of them the next time you write a story or a poem. James’ style of writing fits into the literary definition of “stream of consciousness.” Create a character whose streaming thoughts introduce us into a different way of thinking and seeing.

Make the Morning
(written at age 3)

I want make it be dark
I want it way, way, way dark.
I gonna get bigger, bigger
and the whole world gonna shine
and I gonna be the sun
and there be lines on me
not any head, not any bottom.
I be a face and I be the dark
and I be the light
and I be the shining
and I be the sun
and shine the people
and they say, there’s the sun max,
make the big bird,
and he’s gonna ride in the train
and he’s gonna hold a little tiny baby,
he plays and frays,
and wash his face,
and plays trucks, and gacks,
and the whole world is proud,
me writing good stories.
I didn’t make it up,
it come from the sun.

Sheep Story
(written at age 5)

Today I went to a man who had some sheep
and I looked at one
and it was a magic sheep
and it had wings,
and the man said this was a very
precious sheep
so when my mom and dad
and the man who owned the sheep
were looking at a different one
I got on, just to see if it would carry me off
and then it went with its little legs outside
and flew up to heaven
and then it fell down, big bump on his head,
then the wings broke off,
his horns turned into a knuckle
his feet were crumpled
he walked on his nails
his neck was torn open
and that’s a very sad story
because he’s dead now.

About the Author

In 1973, I was twenty years old, teaching children's art classes at my college, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and came up with the idea that the best way to encourage children to write was to introduce them to the best writing by their peers. Stone Soup grew out of that idea, and I have continued to publish Stone Soup for all these years.
I am also a culinary historian. I write about traditional foodways. My book, "The Magic of Fire," is about hearth cooking. My book, "Bread, a global history," speaks for itself. I am currently writing a bread history for a University Press. I publish articles on gardening and traditional foodways at Mother Earth News. I also publish on wild mushrooms and other food-related subjects.

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