Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Revision Week, Random Acts of Publicity, and Blogosphere Buzz

The International Reading Association (IRA) has declared Sept. 5-9, 2011 to be "Revision Week." Visit the IRA's Engage: Teacher to Teacher Blog this week to read/hear comments about revision from several well-known children's authors, including Cynthia Lord and Kate Messner.

Classroom teachers often tell me that one of their greatest challenges is helping students understand that a first draft is only the first step in the writing process. And many adult writers also dread the "R" word: Revision. Yet, as Kate Messner says today on the Engage: Teacher to Teacher Blog: “Revision is where writing really happens.”
(In the audio interview, Messner also talks about making time to write while working full-time and raising a family.)

One of the best ways I've found to help writers of all ages appreciate the benefit (and necessity) of revision is a bit of "show and tell." I "show" the drafts of my novel Rosa, Sola with all the post-it notes from my editor and I "tell" about how that feedback helped me polish that story. You can see some photos of one of my drafts and read a bit about that process in this post from last year.

For both young students and adult writers, it's often difficult to look at our own work objectively. Below is a revised version of the Writing Workout I shared last year. (Yes, even blog posts and writing exercises get better with revision!) The Workout is intended as a way to help trick ourselves into reading our work as though it were written by someone else.     

Speaking of revision, the next session of my Craft & Critique Workshop, which is held in Oak Brook, IL, begins on Tuesday, Sept. 27. That class is ALL about revision. For more information, see my website. If you don't live in the Chicago area and are looking for some feedback on your writing, check out the Blogosphere Buzz below for help finding a critique partner.

In addition to Revision Week, this is the third annual Random Acts of Publicity week, a chance to celebrate and publicize the work of our fellow authors. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that THREE of the TeachingAuthors have new books out this year. If you're new to our blog, please read these posts to learn all about them: JoAnn Early Macken's Baby Says "Moo!", Mary Ann Rodman's Camp K-9, and Esther Hershenhorn's Little Illinois.

I'd also like to celebrate a wonderful new nonfiction book by my friend, April Pulley Sayre: Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant. This book is a fun way to introduce children to the beauty and wonder of vegetables. (And maybe even get them to eat a few!) Click the photo below to learn more:
April Sayre’s Book Rah, Rah, Radishes: A Vegetable Chant

Blogosphere Buzz
  • If you're looking to connect with a fellow writer to get feedback on your manuscript, check out agent Mary Kole's "Critique Connection" post on her blog.
  • There's a brand new Carnival of YA literature site, courtesy of Sally Apokedak. The TeachingAuthors have a link on the inaugural roundup, which you can read here.
  • A member of my critique group sent me a link to an interesting blog post by an Australian writer on Whither the Children's Book? Some good food for thought.   

Writing Workout:
Revision=Re-seeing (Revised edition!)

To gain perspective on a manuscript, it helps to let it "cool off" by putting it away and not looking at if for awhile. After you or your students have completed what you believe is a polished draft of a piece of writing, try the following:
  1. If the work is on a computer, print it out in a font you don't typically use. For example, if you usually print in Times New Roman, try an Arial or Verdana font, and maybe change the font size to slightly smaller or larger, too. If you're working with students who have written something by hand, have them type up and print out their work. If possible, print the draft on colored paper. I picked this suggestion up form Newbery-winning author Sharon Creech, who blogs about it here and includes photos of her drafts.)
  2. Put the work aside for awhile, preferably, at least a month.  No matter how tempted you are, do NOT look at the manuscript at all during this time.
  3. While the work is "cooling," keep reading and writing. Read the kinds of things you like to write and/or books about the craft of writing. At the same time, start a new writing project, brainstorm future writing topics, or write daily in a journal, even if for only a minute. (See April's post about this.) This step is VERY important--you want to continue your growth as a writer while your story cools.
  4. At the end of the month, pull out your "cooled" draft. When you read it, pretend it was written by someone else. What do you like about the piece? What don't you like about it? What would make it better?
Happy writing (and revising)!


April Pulley Sayre said...

Wow, thanks, Carmela, for the Rah, Rah, Radishes mention!

Carmela Martino said...

You're most welcome, April!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yes, yes--I love this Writing Workout--I always tell kids in assemblies that I put my book aside for awhile (only I say that I let it cook on the back burner, rather than cool). Excellent advice.