Tips From Young Writers - The Missourian: Feature Stories

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Sights and Insights Tips From Young Writers

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Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:00 am

Some weeks it’s difficult to come up with a topic for my column. After 15 years, this is to be expected, but it isn’t anything I’ve ever discussed with Avery, our 6-year-old granddaughter.

She and her little sister Parker spent Sunday with us. As soon as they tumbled in the door, they had to see the new TV, and the horse photographs we just hung in my office.

The office is lined with bookshelves, crowded with titles for readers of all ages. Being surrounded by all those stories must have inspired Avery to launch into a detailed explanation about a book club she and her friend have started.

They are writing a book together too, one first-grader serving as the illustrator, the other as author, and so on and so forth. The book club, complete with Book Buzz Books, meets in an upstairs nook off her room.

“Mee Mee, good writers need to think,” she said, touching her pointer finger to her temple for emphasis.

Recently, I talked about this very thing at an elementary school in Fenton where I was making a presentation on “Twist of Fate.” These book talks are lots of fun for me. Kids are so incredible, the things they come up with are enlightening, especially when the children are in small groups, which sets the stage for intimate back and forth conversations.

The first question I usually ask is “Are any of you writers?” The age of the students determines the number that raises their hands. The older the children, the less likely they are to see themselves as writers.

“And how many of you are readers?” I ask next. That question draws raised hands with fingers all atwitter. Students of all ages are anxious to share the scoop on their latest favorite read.

My point in both of these questions is to focus on the fact that all of us are writers, no matter our age, or vocation, and that readers make writers.

“We’re all in the writing boat together,” I like to say. And at times, we all struggle to get our sea legs as we work through the process — coming up with ideas, writing a first draft, turning off the voice in our head harping, “who’d want to read that,” and revising, revising, revising. Sadly, many children already know about that annoying editor.

My two-day visit to the school couldn’t have been more pleasant. The students were respectful and had really great questions and comments. I always take away something from these book talks that fills me up.

Alex, a little guy, blew me away with his comment, one that came when I confessed not having a subject to write about in an upcoming column.

Alex suggested that I visit the produce section at the grocery store with my pen and pencil in hand and just observe. You’ll be sure to get some ideas there, he said.

That launched us into a giggling fit about “rabid rutabagas,” and an explanation, on my part, regarding “bubble and squeak,” an English recipe Mother makes with leftover Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes, which are formed into patties and sautéed in a skillet. Yum.

As Alex’s class was leaving the library, another little boy hung back to talk to me. “You have to go to the store,” he said. “And don’t forget to write about those Brussels sprouts when you do.” His comment made me bubble over with laughter.

I’m not sure how I can include the “squeak” in the conclusion of this column. I’ll just have to take Avery’s advice and think about that a little bit more. But not until 1 a.m., that’s for sure.

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