Frank Murphy

The Legend of the Teddy Bear


2001 IRA/CBC Children's Choice Award Winner

This article appeared in Instructor magazine in 2001 and details how I researched The Legend of the Teddy Bear.

Putting It Together

Instructor Magazine, April 2001

Tips and tools to help students organize and refine their writing

Ever try to start a game but no one can agree on who should go first, or who should play which position? Chaos, and not much fun. Writing is the same way, because a little bit of organizing makes it go a lot better. Students' writing will improve when they make informed choices about how to organize it.

Organization is both global--how thoughts are organized to create a cohesive piece of writing--and local--how writers use sentence structure, including punctuation, to communicate effectively for different purposes.

In the pages that follow, share what second-grade teacher and children's book author Frank Murphy has to say about organizing a story even before pencil meets paper. Mini-lessons on text structure, transitions, and out-of-the-ordinary sentences give students more tools for becoming better writers.

Meet the Author: Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy spent three years writing The Legend of the Teddy Bear (Sleeping Bear Press, 2000). Most of that time was spent "organizing," but not what is conventionally thought to be organizing. Share the author's thoughts with your students. They'll love to learn that writing isn't always done sitting in a chair

THE IDEA TO WRITE The Legend of the Teddy Bear came from a postcard I found in a restaurant. Isaw a picture of a teddy bear; I flipped the card over and read a blurb about Teddy Roosevelt and about bow the teddy bear got its name. I kept it! That card was my first step in organizing my story. From there I began a three-year process of organization: I interviewed experts. I found old newspapers. I searched the Internet. I read books that I thought I might like my book to be like. I read books that described the settings of that time period (including Laura Ingalls Wilder's hooks, for the first time in my life). I read biographies of Teddy Roosevelt. I made lists of favorite words. I watched and read everything with the eyes of a collector first, a writer second.

Long before pencil hits paper or fingers tap a keyboard, a writer has to, simply stated, search for stuff.  This makes a story come to life, whether it's fiction or nonfiction This means active organization--collecting facts, artifacts, words, and more; making lists; talking through ideas with others. I have never started actually writing a story as soon as I had an idea. Instead I get busy gathering as much as I can find that will bring me closer to my idea, so that it will eventually make a great story.

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