Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Benefits of Introducing Kids to Published Authors

Over the past few years of teaching and facilitating writing workshops for kids, I've noticed there are two kinds of young writers: the underconfident, and the overconfident. This is totally normal. Children lack perspective. (Even adults sometimes lack perspective!) Children often have difficulty imagining that the way they write now is not the way they will write always, and that the older they get and the more they practice, the more their writing is going to change.

(Personally, I was the overconfident type--I was the kid who was sending my handwritten manuscripts to Big 5 publishers and couldn't imagine why they wouldn't publish them! I may not have struggled with getting words on paper, but that didn't mean I was ready, and it was sometimes hard for me to see what improvement was needed. I didn't know any published authors, so I had no way of knowing what the road ahead would look like.)

Amazingly, for BOTH types of young writers, the same approach can work wonders: introduce them to someone who has lived longer and accomplished more, and let her tell them about the changes she had to make along the way.

This is why it's so vital to me in my work as a librarian to not only make a case for kids reading lots of books, but for meeting lots of authors. I do my best to bring published authors to the library at least a few times a year (given budget restraints). It's important to me that kids get moments like this, when they got to see author Kristen Kittscher describe the hardest thing she had to learn as a writer, and how learning this improved her plots.

Then she gave kids an effective, simple formula for crafting better plots:

What if...
And then...

You can read more about her plot exercise and view photos and videos of Kristen and the kids at Pasadena Public Library's Kids Blog.

And if you don't have the resources to be able to hire authors to visit your classes, that doesn't have to stop you from bringing authors to your library or school! Many authors are willing to skype with classes, or do chat interviews or Q&As. Ask around and find out what authors live in your area, and start there. Kristen Kittscher is a longtime Pasadena resident, so we lucked out there!

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