Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nurturing your budding writer

A reader of this blog contacted me asking for tips on where young people can publish their writing.
I thought of the piece I wrote back in 2011 for Home Education Magazine called 'Nurturing your budding writer,' that relates to her request (still have not been paid for it!!).
Here it is below:
Since my 15-year-old daughter Eva is a young writer, I'm always on the lookout for mentoring and writing opportunities for her. Because for years we had a weekly radio show (Radio Free School was our family's radio program--by, for and about home based learners), she had the chance to interview some of her then favorite authors such as Gordon Korman and Kit Pearson. She's even met J.K. Rowling and received an autographed book (this as a result of a draw we won).

Eva has had her work published in various local papers such as the Hamilton Spectator and its Power of the Pen competition and many on-line websites. Her most recent poem has been published in Teen Voices.http://teenvoices.com/2010/11/28/poem-eternity-and-the-art-of-falling/#comment-532

Eva has written two novels (not yet published), a collection of poems, and is currently working on another poetry collection. In turn, she has encouraged her youngest sister to complete a short novel too. Eva and her two sisters all keep blogs of their own where they share their ideas and thoughts on topics they are interested in.
My experience supporting my children's writing interests continues to be so rewarding that I'd like to share tips on how to go about nurturing the young writer in your care.
Read
If you want to be a writer, you have to read. Make sure that your young charge has plenty of time to read, read, and read some more.
Read to your child
When my children were very small, in fact when they were no older than six months, I started reading to them (to be honest, because I love reading).
It was always a favorite time for us, and going to the library almost every day was a routine of ours. The bottom of my stroller fell through because of the number of books we carted back and forth.
My oldest had memorized every rhyme in My Very First Mother Goose by Rosemary Wells well before she was two. By the age of six, she was already a fan of the Lord of the Rings--the book that defined her life for the next seven years.
Amusingly enough, despite her love of literature (she had memorized reams of Shakespeare by age six) she didn't actually learn to read by herself until she was eight.
As for reading to kids, I still read to my youngest who is twelve, simply because she enjoys it so much. Browse reading lists such as Hoagies' Gifted Education Page for general exposure to good writing http://hoagiesgifted.org/hoagies_kids.htm
But remember, don't be too quick to denigrate writing that is considered "bad." Writers can learn from poorly written novels what makes a poorly written novel!
Seek exposure to other writers
Get to know the local writers in your community. My daughter has recently been taken under the wing of a well respected local poet who offers her constructive feedback. Although my daughter doesn't always use the advice, she appreciates an experienced pair of eyes on her work. Take your young writer to reading events where published authors share their work with the public. Libraries often host writers' events and so do local book stores.
Small press fairs are some of the best events that you can plan to attend. And they are so much fun! On a few occasions, we, as a family have rented (for a very affordable price) a table at the fair and have all enjoyed selling our wares--usually poetry collections or handmade zines. Zines are do-it-yourself home made publications written in a variety of formats from hand-written to computerized, to comics and combinations of these.
My youngest daughter started a zine called Kitty Corner when she was seven and has just recently moved on to other projects. The zine was about all things "cats"--cat jokes, cat facts, cat stories, cat drawings. We would photocopy the original pages, and she would hand color all her drawings so that each copy was unique. Over the years she earned quite a bit selling Kitty Corner.
Attend workshops
These are low cost ways to learn more about the craft of writing, to actually write, and to meet other writers. Local colleges offer day-long courses.
For more regular support, getting involved in a book club or a writers' group to discuss books and receive ideas on work in progress can be both helpful and inspiring to the young writer. The library and community center often advertise meetings in their bulletins or websites.
Find writing opportunities
Young writers with something to say will often be met with encouragement from editors of local papers; a simple letter to the editor expressing concern or support in a topic of interest is a good place to start.
Starting a blog is a very accessible and easy way to maintain a writing project. My daughters all have their own blogs where they express their views and opinions pertaining to their current interests.
My oldest also writes on deviantart, an online community of peer writers--an excellent way to get her work out there and to learn from others as well as support other writers. The website is http://www.deviantart.com/ .
Develop writing buddies and use NaNoWriMo
Eva has a friend who shares the same passion for writing, and they've collaborated on many projects. For the past two years, they've participated in the National Writers Novel Month challenge (NaNoWriMo). A fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing, participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel by 11:59:59, November 30 (approximately 175 pages).
To learn more, go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/ . Each girl has completed two 50,000-word novels. Last summer, they had great experience collaborating on writing a play.
I should add that their friendship originated out of a writing opportunity; all three daughters had expressed interest in having pen-pals and a call to the homeschool list I was on at the time resulted in Eva connecting with this very special friend out in California (we're in Ontario). This was five years ago and their friendship has since blossomed and deepened.
Use the internet
The internet is a world of wonder for resources and online writing courses. Check out these links as a starting point:
Competitions and writing challenges are all great ways to get sharpen writing skills. As mentioned above, the NaNoWriMo competition is worth , and they have a children's challenge of 10,000 words.
Provide the young writer with plenty of time and space in which to write, to dream, to think, to talk over their ideas or to simply let their ideas percolate.
© 2011, Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko



2 comments:

Sue Dolamore said...

I could relate to this and have a few suggestions to add; a key element being the selling of your self and your work, but before I get into that let me share some background. My daughter was unschooled for the most part and is now over 30. She began writing short stories at the age of 2 and continued to develop her writing skills throughout her childhood. You may find her published works by searching for Jaclyn Dolamore. She is currently working on her 5th book, a sequel to her 4th, both to be released in sequence in 2014/15 by Disney/Hyperion Publishers. We did some but not all of those things mentioned in this post. We read a lot, we role played a LOT, listened to music, went to art museums and historical sites and all of these things contributed greatly to Jaclyn's writing. The inspiration that comes from exploring the world and all types of creative works enhances the writing process. She had a writing mentor for a year or two and participated in on line forums for writers as a young adult. I don't remember taking her to meet any writers nor to any workshops. One key piece of advice for all unschooling parents is that following the voice of your own heart about what is supportive for your unique child is the MOST important thing. There are infinite ways to get there. All of my 3 daughters are creative and are pursuing this as a career path. One of the most important things for the success of one choosing to live as an artist is business and sales experience and money management. I feel that my children are able to do what they love as creatives because they learned how to sell, promote, manage, and communicate about their skills and abilities. They learned to manage their money well. I also see many other people not survive as artists because they do not know how or have the confidence to do that other essential part of this career path. So in addition to supporting their writing development, I would suggest that you say yes to every request for lemonade stands and the like. Jaclyn, her sister and I ran an ebay poster selling business when they were 10 and 12. Jaclyn sold booklets and newsletters to friends and family; volunteered to work at comic conventions in the sales booths; sold quickly drawn caricatures at conventions for a few dollars a piece, and many other things. Share with them how you manage your money, make the budget work and perhaps give them responsibility for managing part of this on their own behalf at an early age. My children had a clothing budget from early on. Once Jaclyn went without good shoes for several months because of a poor decision to purchase a very expensive t-shirt. It was a meaningful lesson that was not repeated. These ideas might be obvious to many, but from my experience in homeschools groups, it is not common enough in practice. For your creative child, it will serve them well for you to be aware of and supportive of the acquisition of these complementary skills. Sales, selling themselves and their work (prep for that query letter), and wise money management are essential. (You might also help them get good at accepting rejection and criticism in a constructive way) Best of luck to all the young creatives out there!

beatrice ekoko said...
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