CategoriesAfter the Kiss
Being Friends with Boys
Drive Me Crazy
Reading & Recommendations
Summer of Firsts and Lasts
Talking with Other Authors
This Is All Your Fault
Writing and Reading
Recently a friend (whose daughter I am tutoring in creative writing) sent me a link to this article about kids and writing. It’s long, and there’s a lot to ponder, but it inspired me to think about the different ways in which I teach and work with kids, and how to best help them with their writing, wherever they’re at. I never actually learned how to diagram a sentence, but I can certainly break them down and put them back together like a car engine if needed!
What do you think? Which tactic works better for you?
Why Kids Can’t Write
Credit Angela Asemota
On a bright July morning in a windowless conference room in a Manhattan bookstore, several dozen elementary school teachers were learning how to create worksheets that would help children learn to write.
Judith C. Hochman, founder of an organization called the Writing Revolution, displayed examples of student work. A first grader had produced the following phrase: “Plants need water it need sun to” — that is, plants need water and sun, too. If the student didn’t learn how to correct pronoun disagreement and missing conjunctions, by high school he could be writing phrases like this one: “Well Machines are good but they take people jobs like if they don’t know how to use it they get fired.” That was a real submission on the essay section of the ACT.
“It all starts with a sentence,” Dr. Hochman said.
Focusing on the fundamentals of grammar is one approach to teaching writing. But it’s by no means the dominant one. Many educators are concerned less with sentence-level mechanics than with helping students draw inspiration from their own lives and from literature.
Thirty miles away at Nassau Community College, Meredith Wanzer, a high school teacher and instructor with the Long Island Writing Project, was running a weeklong workshop attended by six teenage girls. The goal was to prepare them to write winning college admissions essays — that delicate genre calling for a student to highlight her strengths (without sounding boastful) and tell a vivid personal story (without coming off as self-involved).
Ms. Wanzer led the students in a freewrite, a popular English class strategy of writing without stopping or judging. First, she read aloud from “Bird by Bird,” Anne Lamott’s 1995 classic on how to write with voice. “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind,” the memoirist writes. “Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”
It was a quiet winter for me, but things are beginning to bloom here in Atlanta, including summer camps I’m doing for tweens, teens, AND adults!
Two Summer Camps with Decatur Writers Studio
Two sessions only, 12 students each
Camp fee: $400
Email email@example.com for more information.
Tweens Who Write
Rising 6th-8th graders
9 a.m.-4 p.m., June 26-30
Agnes Scott College
This is an all-day summer camp for middle schoolers who love to write (or think they might love to write), and want to throw themselves at words and stories. Campers will learn the basic building blocks of story writing, play with story starting ideas, develop characters, explore setting, build their descriptive muscles, and even dabble in some poetry. Whether you have written tons already, or just have a tiny idea, as long as you are willing to experiment, explore, and share, you are the right camper for this!
Creative Writing for Teens
Rising 9th-11th graders
9 a.m.-4 p.m., July 10-14
Agnes Scott College
Do you have ideas for stories but not the time to work on them? Or ones you’re excited about at first, but can’t keep up the momentum? Want to develop your characters more fully, work on setting and dialogue, strengthen your powers of description and plotting, get feedback on your work, be inspired by other writers like yourself, and in general immerse yourself in a whole week of nothing but writing? Then this summer camp is for you! This camp will be five days of fiction-centric work, though we will touch on elements of poetry to infuse your prose with dynamic language. Open to experienced teen writers and first-timers alike!
Fiction Writing: Devil in the Details
In her book, Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott stresses the importance of keeping your writing “vivid and continuous” to move the reader smoothly through your story. This clarity and specificity is arguably more important than plot, since, as Eudora Welty once pointed out: “There are two types of stories in the world: someone comes to town, and someone leaves town.” Your challenge as a writer is to keep those stories fresh and memorable, regardless of the genre. This five-day workshop will have in-class lectures and exercises that concentrate on specificity of character, setting, language, and story arc, and the time spent workshopping your pieces will be led with an eye toward keeping it vibrant and distinct. http://summer.yale.edu/academics/yale-writers-conference
You all know I work at the amazing bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, in Decatur, GA. But you may NOT know that they easily ship books (for a shipping fee of course) and that I HAPPILY personalize things. So if you are looking for a gift that speaks to friendship, discovering yourself, girl empowerment, and the power of love (of all kinds), one (or all!) of these may be a good fit.
I also just want to say in general that I am feeling very thankful for my readers these days. So, thank you.