Monday, November 3, 2014

Here's to Our Story-Traveling Readers!

I’d like to take a side road of sorts in continuing our TeachingAuthors discussion on writers’ reader considerations.

Yes, indeedy, I agree with my fellow bloggers: writing with passion trumps every consideration when we are writing to tell ourselves the story.
That kind of telling is the stuff of our first draft, our first pass, at who and what grabbed our hearts.

Our second draft, though? 
That’s the draft in which we make choices to grow a story and tell that story the best way possible to our intended reader.
IMHO, the “best way possible” considers where that reader is chronologically, emotionally and cognitively so he or she can easily travel the story, can emotionally connect with the characters, can live inside the story and take its truths into his or her heart.

When I read a student’s or writer’s manuscript for the very first time, when I read my own first drafts readying to finally revise, I read on behalf of the intended young reader.
Both the story and the format must be age-appropriate, of course.
But do I know who claims the story and what it’s about? Am I grounded in the story’s time and place? What kind of story am I expecting?
Left unanswered, those questions will likely force the intended reader to leave the story.
Language must also be considered – word choice, sentence structure, metaphorical language, as JoAnn noted when she wrote about assessing reading levels in her Friday post.
And richness of language need not be sacrificed – ever (!) - for clarity.

JoAnn’s post brought a smile as I remembered my experience this past September attempting to write original poems for the newest addition to THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY series (Pomelo Books), THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS, scheduled for an official April 1, 2015 pub date.  The book features 150 poems in Spanish and English versions for preK and up, covering a wide variety of celebrations: Poem in Your Pocket Day to National Pet Week to Juneteenth to International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day to World Bread Day to Winter Solstice.

Invited writers could choose a day that spoke to them and try their hand at creating a poem.

Hmmm…National Hat Month?
I loved that idea and began fingering my way through my Roget’s Thesaurus, having a high ol’ time.

Here’s the poem I first submitted, in celebration of National Hat Month:

             Mixed-up Mad Hatterisms to Celebrate Hat Month

             Bees in your beanie.

A feather in your fez.

Pass the fedora.

Bearskin in hand.

Tom scored a tam trick!

Talking through your cap.

Tip o’ my turban.

Pass the sombrero.

Helmets off!

At the drop of a wimple.

Home is where you hang your beret.

              (Copyright 2014 Esther Hershenhorn)

The anthology editor Janet Wong returned the poem, kindly reminding me of the designated preK-and-older audience.  

Hmmm…National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week?
That’s the ticket! I thought.
I brainstormed all sorts of letter-writing possibilities and settled on our TeachingAuthors Thank-u’s.

Here’s the second poem I sent off to Janet:

             A Haiku Thank You

            Dear (fill-in-the-blank),

You knew how to make me smile.

Thank-u very much.

(Copyright 2014 Esther Hershenhorn)

Janet remained kind while again reminding me of the designated preK-and-older audience.

“How about St. Patrick’s Day?” Janet wrote me.  “There’s St. Patrick and everyone dressed in green and folks even dye their rivers green!”

I think I got this now! I thought.  And I was off and running.
This time, though, after brainstorming All Things St. Patrick’s Day, I thought about my pre-K and K readers.  I even Googled “St. Patrick’s Day curriculum for preschoolers” to learn the top 3 take-aways for little ones about this day.

I’m currently unable to share my finally-accepted poem, “St. Patrick’s Day.”
Suffice it to say, I again had fun writing about my suggested green  March 17 celebration, but…
I was extremely aware of my audience’s needs.

Happy Writing!

Our young readers deserve our passion, our best writing – and – IMHO, our consideration of their chronological, emotional and cognitive needs.

Esther Hershenhorn

P.S. from Carmela: Rafflecopter has chosen the winner of our giveaway of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. If it wasn't you, don't despair! We'll be having a Second Chance opportunity beginning this Friday. 


JoAnn Early Macken said...

Hooray for you and your St. Patrick's Day poem, Esther! I'll have a poem in that anthology, too, and I agree that the age of the audience was tough--and critical--to keep in mind.

Carmela Martino said...

Great post, Esther--very practical. And I look forward to reading your St. Patrick's Day poem. Congratulations!

Bobbi Miller said...

Esther, I so love the Mad Hatterisms! What a grand discussion! Thank you!

michelle kogan said...

I'm tipping my chartreuse hat at you Esther, and will await the long winter for your St. Patty's surprise! Many thanks for your thoughts.