Friday, November 6, 2009

Ask the TeachingAuthors Question: How to Encourage Young Writers

Today I'd like to respond to an Ask the TeachingAuthors question submitted quite some time ago. A reader named Derin wrote to us about his desire to encourage his 14-year-old niece, a budding fantasy writer. Derin asked:
"I remember reading somewhere on you blog about a book that is written especially for young writers but I cannot find it again."
Well, Derin, part of the reason we've taken so long to respond is that you've stumped us--we can't find it either. Mary Ann Rodman did mention Marion Dane Bauer's What's Your Story? A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction in her September 21st post, but that was after you wrote us. (Perhaps you're psychic, Derin?) In any case, What's Your Story? is a great book, not only for young writers, but for writers of all ages. In fact, when I was at Vermont College, it was required reading for all students in the MFA in Writing program. Two other books aimed at young writers that adults may also find helpful are: Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly, by Gail Carson Levine, and Ralph Fletcher's How Writers Work: Finding a Writing Process That Works for You.

Interestingly, just last week Judy, the mother of a seventh-grader, emailed me with a similar question. She was disappointed that an after-school creative writing class her daughter was interested in had been canceled due to low enrollment. Because young people today have such busy schedules, it's difficult to attract enough students for such classes, at least during the school year. Summer writing programs, like those I teach at the Hinsdale Center for the Arts, tend to be more popular. But that doesn't help this young writer right now. I suggested to Judy that she encourage her daughter to read this blog post, because today I'll be sharing some online resources especially for young writers.

A particularly timely resource right now is the NaNoWriMo Young Writer's Program. In case you haven't heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which occurs every November. Adult writers from around the world attempt to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program allows participants who are under 18 to set their own word-count goals. The challenge began on November 1st, but it's not too late to sign up!

Also, a brand new writing contest has recently been announced especially in honor of NaNoWriMo. The Young Adult Discovery Contest is open to writers ages 13 and older. You need submit only your title and the first 250 words of your novel to enter.

Many published authors also provide links and tips for young writers on their websites and blogs. My fellow TeachingAuthor, April Halprin Wayland, includes these on her "Where Can a Young Writer Get Published?" and "Tips" pages. And just yesterday, I updated the "For Writers" page of my own website, which now includes two dozen links to sites especially for young writers. Many of those sites offer children and teens the opportunity to submit their work for publication either on the Internet or in print form.

Finally, I hope young writers (and their teachers) will find our TeachingAuthors blog a valuable online resource, too. In addition to the many links to writing-related websites you will find in our sidebar, we regularly feature writing tips, author interviews, book reviews, and writing exercises (called Writing Workouts). And if there's a writing-related topic you'd like us to address, you can submit your own Ask the TeachingAuthors question via the link in our sidebar.

Meanwhile, I hope you'll visit us again on Monday, when Mary Ann Rodman will post a follow-up response to Derin's question.

Happy writing!


Paul said...

I taught writing to struggling and reluctant readers and writers for fifteen years. And some of my best memories are from having some days where all of my students were writing their stories. A group of ten or twelve kids who'd been kicked out of regular school all in a room together and you could hear a pin drop.

I know this sounds obvious but young writers need a supportive, encouraging space to write, and time. I was fortunate in that I could give my students all the time I wanted b/c it was an alternative school and I had a lot of freedom.

I think it's great that you are focusing some of your blog on resources for young writers. I certainly would have used it when I was teaching!

Tara McClendon said...

Thanks for the post. My niece is showing interest in writing (she's ten), so I might pick up one of these for Christmas. Have a wonderful weekend.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the feedback, Paul. And you're absolutely right--young writers need time and space to write, something that's hard for many teachers to provide in our testing-heavy school systems these days.

Tara, do let us know if your niece finds one of these books helpful.

I forgot to ask all our readers--if you have a tip for encouraging young writers, do share it as a comment here or with Mary Ann's post on Monday!

Liz Hill said...

Carmela, your web site has some wonderful resources. I tutor older GED students and these resources are helpful for them too. Thanks!

Sheryl Gwyther said...

HI all, I'm very impressed with your site - what a great idea. It's so important to support and encourage children to write. So often creative work is pushed aside in schools by other 'more important' subjects, or teachers finding it too difficult to teach writing or art.
So heads up to you all! I'm an Australian children's author and love visiting schools to enthuse children about books and writing.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, Liz and Sheryl. We're happy to have you here!