Ways to Support Your Young Writer

A lot of parents are home with a lot of kids right now, trying to figure out how to fill the time. Relax. There’s always this weird adjustment period where the hours — no — where the minutes — no — where the seconds creep by. After a week or so you’ll fall into a rhythm. (Although, I know, that’s a lot of seconds.)

Here are some tips for encouraging young writers:

Make sure you catch Mo Willem’s wonderful “Lunch Doodles” every day. He has great crafts and advice for very young writers. (Although I admit that I wanted to print out the worksheet and make toilet-paper-tube people too. I still might go back and do that.) You and your kids will love Mo’s crafts.Start at the beginning. Earlier episodes are on YouTube. 

Young writers need to write. Strangely enough, learning to write fiction is not that different from playing soccer or an instrument. Practice. The more your child writes, the better they will become. (This is true for adults too!)

 

Beginning writers need encouragement. If your child chooses to share their story with you, focus on what is working. Remember that you never got to see your favorite writer’s early drafts. First drafts can be really rough. The more your child writes, the more characterization and imagery will begin to appear in their work. (Above is Ernest Hemingway’s first story.)

Model the behavior you want to see. Remember how your math teacher always worked the first problem on the white board? Consider writing with your children.

There is a place for spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and that place is not in a first draft. When someone is being creative — and this goes for adult writers too — many of the ‘edit’ functions of the brain turn off. Or maybe they are overpowered by the sheer joy of creation. Let first drafts revel in their messiness. As Ernest Hemmingway once said:
“The only important thing about a first draft…is to finish it.”

Write about a stolen dog...

Write to prompts. This is one of my favorite activities. Starting May 20th I’m tweeting (@LoisBrandt1) a kid-friendly writing prompt every day. Write to a prompt with you child for 10 minutes. They can write longer if they’d like. Even those 10 minutes a day will improve your child’s writing.

On a personal note I’d like to thank you for parenting during these difficult times. My own parents were part of the Greatest Generation, who lived through the depression and World War II. And as I look at parents now, I see great strength and determination. We will all get through this together. We will be stronger. And our children will be better people.

Hunger is…

This week I’m giving over my blog to some talented writers.

The students at McDonald Elementary School in Seattle has been studying hunger. Here are similes and metaphors from Ms. Roughton’s 3rd graders.

“Hunger is like walking through a desert with no end.” – S.

“Hunger is like a river with no water.” – anonymous

“Hunger is like a stray cat sitting on the streets having no food to eat except litter.” – M.

“Hunger is like when you take off on a plane when you are sick.” – W.

“Hunger is like the rain falling down on a fire.” – W.

“Hunger is like an empty table at dinnertime.” – S.

“Hunger is like a sickness with no end and no medicine.” – G.

“Hunger is like a dinosaur roaring in your stomach.” – O.

“Hunger is like a fruit tree you can’t climb.” – J.

“Hunger is like a fire without a flame.” – E.

“Hunger is an apple out of reach.” – E.

“Hunger is like a hamster that has no home in winter.” – S.

“Hunger is like a hiding place that does not hide you.” – L.

“Hunger is like a school without a cafeteria.” – B.

“Hunger is like a puppy at a puppy mill.” – G.

“Hunger is fear following you around.” — M.

“Hunger is your empty plate you have every day.” – M.

On September 11th, Write About a Peaceful World

star trek

Several years ago the theme of the Highlights Fiction Contest was to write a story set in the future. I’ve always enjoyed entering this contest, and sat down to write my sci fi short story for young children.

The page stayed empty. Not for a few minutes, or hours, as sometimes happens. The page stayed empty for days. I thought of several dystopian story lines, but nothing suitable for very young readers.

It was a few years after 9/11, but I discovered that the hope I had always held for the future (I’m a huge Star Trek fan) was gone. It took me several days to calm my fears and find in my heart a story that envisioned our grandchildren and great-grandchildren living happily in a peaceful world. The story had conflict, of course, but not the dark images which had haunted my mind since the moment the towers fell and continued well into our generation’s endless wars.

Since that time I’ve stretched the ‘hope’ section of my brain by spending ten minutes each September 11th envisioning peace. What would our lives look like without war? What would be on the news? What games would our children play?

If we imagine what peace looks, smells, feels, sounds and tastes like, we’ll know how to get there from here.

You don’t need to be a “writer” to participate. Ignore grammar, spelling, all of those boogeyman that slow down even the most accomplished writers. Lock your editor in a drawer (internal, not the one at your publisher). Set a timer for ten minutes. Pick up a pen or sit at your keyboard. Dream.

If you like, you can post your writing in the comments section here on my blog, or go to the event page on Facebook.

live long and prosper