Tink fills pages with words. She explains and expounds and exclaims. Her words are boisterous and vibrant, so eager to tell her stories that I can hear the notebook paper crinkle under the weight of their ink.
“Too wordy” is something Tink’s 5th grade teacher has taken to writing on her school work.
Those words make me angry.
“Too much detail” writes the teacher.
“More detail!” I write on my students’ papers. I want them to tell me their stories. Their stories. Their thoughts. Their ideas. What makes these stories and ideas unique? Their details. I ask for them, beg for them. The details make the writing come alive. “Make your paper crinkle under the wiggling weight of your words,” I want to tell my students.
Tink doesn’t need to be told. She knows how to write. I haven’t taught her. She just feels the story in her bones. She understands how to hook a reader, how to pull you in. She finds just the right word, just the right phrase. She knows that the story is in the details, and she uses them.
It upsets her when her teacher writes, “Too wordy.”
“I don’t understand,” Tink says, “She tells everyone else in the class to use detail, and when I use detail, she says I’m too wordy.”
“She’s wrong,” I tell Tink. “Tell your stories. Use your details. You know how to write.”
Tink smiles and bends over her notebook. She touches her pen to the page and the words begin to unwind across the paper. All the glorious details of her story stream out onto the faint blue lines of the college ruled paper. I hear the crinkling begin and soon that sound drowns out the teacher’s “too wordy.” The criticism is lost in the rush of glorious descriptions and details pouring from Tink’s pen.