Art, I made this, Writer's life

Level Thinking – Merit Badges for Writers, Part 1

1950s Girl Scout Handbook

My old friend

For those of you who don’t remember the dim mists of time, the 1953 edition of the U. S. Girl Scout Handbook was the last edition published before there were Juniors and Cadettes, each with her own handbook. Daisies and Ambassadors weren’t even a gleam of a thought. Nope, back in 1953 you were a Brownie, then a Scout, then a Senior Scout.

I bought a second-hand copy of this book because I’d unearthed a denim jacket on which I’d sewn my badges and other awards; I blush to say I couldn’t remember what all of them were.

I loved merit badges. Not only was earning them fun, but it was neat, at the end of the school year, to hear my name called and receive the badges, a smile, and a Scout handshake from my leader. Then came the fun of sewing them on my sash. Long before there were sewing machines that embroidered for you while you did something else, these 1 1/2” green circles were miniature art.

A few designs, like Adventurer, were ambitious, the entire badge covered with pale blue thread over which a tent and two green trees were embroidered. Most were a colorful symbol on a green background: a telephone for Clerk, a winged ballet shoe for Dancer, or a tea cup for Hospitality. Since the tiny line drawings in the handbook were black-and-white, it was always a surprise to see what color the real badge would turn out to be.

Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas reclaimed the merit badge idea for adults. She began writing what would become the You-Can-Do-It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls. Her idea was that women, particularly middle-aged women, should continue to explore the world in the same way girls explored it by earning merit badges. Lauren died in a plane crash before she finished the book; her two sisters collected her notes and got the book published.

They also founded the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation to provide funding toward activities benefitting women and children’s health, education, and welfare.

I think Lauren was on to something. Goodness knows writers, who labor long hours in solitude, could use a few atta-girls. So this summer, I’m issuing a series of Merit Badges for Writers. My badges will have a purple background in honor of purple prose. Feel free to design and make yours any way you want. If you want some suggestions and instructions, go to the Merit Badge Page on my website.

Writers’ Merit Badge #1: Creativity

Merit Badge for Writers: Creativity

Let’s reward ourselves for our creativity

Award ourselves this badge when we’ve learned to think about writing in a new way.

  • Try keeping an idea journal with images instead of words.
  • Take a creative class, maybe dance or  pottery; make something that relates to the story we’re working on now.
  • Play in water or with colors.
  • Create an inspiration board.
  • Hold a tea tasting.
  • Do all we can to wake up our senses so we’re writing with our whole body, not just part of our brain.

Badge creation should be a fun, community effort. If you design your own badge or have an idea for one, get in touch with me. If we can work out a design, I’ll display your badge on my web site.

Next Thursday, July 31, Part 2 of Merit Badges for Writers: First Aid for Writers and Extreme Reader

But first, on Tuesday, July 29, we’ll continue our critique series with VSOP – Very Special Old Port. This one isn’t as obvious as the three we have done before, so come back next week to find out what that’s all about.


Writing quote for the week:

Ours is a circle of friends united by ideals.

~Juliette Gordon Low, who brought scouting to the United States from Great Britain