September-October 2011 Selected Content
Nurturing Your Budding Writer - Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko
Taking a Stand Against National Standards
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 drawing 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.
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.
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