Quarters of Conversation

Two of my most favorite pieces of descriptive writing. Oh, that I could learn to write like this!

"Around the watchers, the city still made its everyday noises. Car horns. Garbage trucks. Ferry whistles. The thrum of the subway. The M22 bus pulled in against the sidewalk, braked, sighed down into a pothole. A flying chocolate wrapper touched against a fire hydrant. Taxi doors slammed. Bits of trash sparred in the darkest reaches of the alleyways. Sneakers found their sweetspots. The leather of briefcases rubbed against trouserlegs. A few umbrella tips clinked against the pavement. Revolving doors pushed quarters of conversation out into the street."

-Let The Great World Spin, Clum McCann

"There were many seas. The sea roared like a tiger. The sea whispered in your ear like a friend telling you secrets. The sea clinked like small change in a pocket. The sea thundered like avalanches. The sea hissed like sandpaper working on wood. The sea sounded like someone vomiting. The sea was dead silent."

-Life of Pi, Yann Martel

I think writing like this comes from being able to observe the city or the sea with such focus that these details become apparent and can be recorded. Or can you sit at a desk and just imagine them? And then choosing just the right words- thrum, sighed, touched, sparred, pushed quarters of conversation...whispered, clinked, hissed. I just noticed that these are all verbs, not adjectives. I always thought to be descriptive you had to choose the right adjectives. Hmmm. Does this come naturally to these writers? Or do they have to work at it?


What Should Your X-Year Old Know?

A friend sent this to me and I think it's great. You know all those "What your 5-year old/kindergartener/2nd grader should know" books? Here's the answer to what your kid should know.