Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Writing Workout: The Cinderella Trifecta: Is Writing on Assignment Right for You?

Today, I'm happy to welcome back former TeachingAuthor Laura Purdie Salas with a guest Wednesday Writing Workout tailor-made for our current TeachingAuthors' series on how we each "Make a Living as a Writer." Laura was one of the authors I interviewed for my article of the same title that appears in the 2016 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, edited by Chuck Sambuchino (Writer's Digest Books). If you haven't entered our drawing for a chance to win your own copy of the 2016 CWIM, be sure to do so here, AFTER you try Laura's eye-opening writing exercise below.

Wednesday Writing Workout:
The Cinderella Trifecta: Is Writing on Assignment Right for You?
by Laura Purdie Salas

Hey, it’s fun to be back here at TeachingAuthors I was honored to be interviewed for Carmela's terrific article in the 2016 Children’sWriter’s & Illustrator’s Market.

BookSpeak! - trade market
You know, I make my living as a writer, and I love writing the books I choose to write (my trade market books), like BookSpeak! Poems About Books and WaterCan Be…. But, so far, the books I’ve loved to write have not exactly brought in millions. Or enough to keep my family in groceries. That’s OK. They’re books I had to write, and I adore them. 

But, I do need to pay bills, and one of my major sources of income is writing on assignment. I write books and short passages for publishers who hire me to write very specific works for particular age groups and, sometimes, reading levels.
Water Can Be... - trade market
If this is something that sounds interesting to you, you might want to give this exercise a try. Even though the majority of writing I do on assignment is nonfiction, I also do some poetry and fiction that way, too. We’re going to use fiction here, so that you don’t get caught up in research and getting your facts right (which is, of course, extremely important in nonfiction books!). 

For this exercise, we’re going to use a story we likely already know, and we’re going to shape it in three different ways.

I would like you to use the tale of Cinderella as the basis for your short works. I’ll use The Three Little Pigs as an example for each one. Don’t be nervous! This is just to see IF you’re comfortable with this kind of writing and, if so, what age range might work best for you. Ready?

Part 1: Retell the complete tale Cinderella in 150 words, for 1st graders.

My example, based on The Three Little Pigs:

Once, there were three little pigs. They were brothers. One day, the pigs went out into the world. It was time to build their own homes. 

The first little pig built his home out of straw. The Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew the house down. 

The second little pig built his home out of sticks. The Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew the house down. 

The third little pig was a hard worker. He built a strong home out of bricks. The Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed. But he could not blow it down.

The wolf was mad. And hungry. He came down the chimney to eat the pig. But the third little pig was also smart. He had built a fire in the fireplace. The wolf yelped in pain and ran away.

And the three little pigs lived happily ever after.

Colors of Fall - education market
Part 2: Retell Cinderella for 4th graders in 400 words, and emphasize narrative voice and theme.

My example is just the first couple of paragraphs (130 words) of such a passage, based on The Three Little Pigs. 

Once up a time, there were three little pigs. They were brothers, and two of the pigs were oh so lazy and not very intelligent! The third little pig, however, was not only a hard worker, but he was also very clever.

One day, it was time for the three little pigs to go out into the great wide world and build their own houses. The first two pigs did not want to put much effort into anything, so the first one built his house out of straw! The second built his house out of sticks! They should have known better. They had just finished when a big, bad wolf came along. This wolf was drooling and snarling and hungry. He thought a little pig sounded like a scrumptious treat.
Do you see the difference? Let’s try one more.

Part 3: Retell Cinderella for 7th graders in 600 words from the point of view of a wicked stepsister. 

Here’s my example, just the first few paragraphs (111 words), from the point of view of the big bad wolf. It’s a little low on readability, actually, so I’d have to make sure to use longer paragraphs and sentences here and there and keep the reading level up a bit higher.

You can’t blame me for trying. Really, who would be ridiculous enough to think that some insubstantial straw or rickety old sticks would be tough enough to thwart my attempts to enter? Oh, you haven’t heard about my adventure? Well, let me explain…

I was just wandering along the boulevard one day, minding my own business.  Suddenly, I heard a clattering sound further down the avenue. Then I spied three little pigs, all hard at work constructing residences. At least, one of them was working diligently. That one was mixing mortar and placing bricks and building a proper, sturdy house--I despise that. But the other two were much more promising.

So, how do you feel? Did at least one of these three pieces feel somewhat natural to you? Did you enjoy the puzzle of trying to tell certain information in a very specific way—as dictated by someone else?

Y Is for Yowl! - education market
If the answer to at least one of the above is yes, then you might want to try writing on assignment, too. If you’re interested in learning about writing for the educational market, you can check out my book, Writing for the Educational Market: Informational Books for Kids. And Lisa Bullard, who was also interviewed in Carmela's article, and I offer critiquing/coaching services for children’s writers at We have worked with a number of writers who have subsequently broken into the educational market. We’d be happy to schedule a consultation to answer your questions or review your introductory packet. I also sometimes discuss educational writing in my eletter for writers, A Writer Can Be…

I’d love to hear in the Comments what your experience with this Wednesday Writing Workout was like. Was one part super-easy for you and another part impossible? Were they all equal? Is this a market you might be interested in pursuing? Inquiring minds want to know:>)

Laura Purdie Salas

P.S. from Carmela, if you haven't entered our giveaway yet, be sure to do so by Oct. 10. And, in case you missed it, Esther has a great post on the creative ways she's found to supplement her book royalty income.  


Keri said...

Your examples really make the difference in illustrating what each assignment would be like. Well done!

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Keri. I wanted to take the easy way out and not write any samples, but I felt too guilty to do it. :>)

Linda A. said...

Thanks, Laura. I've written teacher guides for Cobblestone magazine. I'd like to learn more about writing books for the educational market.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Laura--wonderful to have you in the TeachingAuthor's cottage again! Great exercises. They reinforce what my gut knows--that writing for the educational market may not be for moi ~

laurasalas said...

Hi Linda and April--thanks for commenting. Yep, writing for the educational market requires a really specific skill set--totally unrelated, in some ways, to how wonderfully you write in other genres/situations. It's great for some writers and a horrible fit for others! Linda, I hope you did the exercises:>)

Charles Waters said...

Thank you for such an informative article, Laura! SALAS POWER!