Today I am lucky enough to welcome published author, Shannon Wiersbitzky as a guest poster on Diapered Daze and Knights. I finished her book, The Summer of Hammers and Angels,
last week and loved the unlikely friendships that developed between the characters. Let’s give Shannon a warm welcome as she kindly provides us with 10 ways to encourage our own young writers!
If your kids are like most I know, writing a story isn’t exactly topping their list of fun things to do this summer. Writing gets a bad rap. I’ve never met a kid that isn’t brimming with creativity. You’d think they’d be getting up in the morning begging for a piece of paper. But most don’t. When thinking about fun things to do, writing falls way below kickball, swimming, and video games.
Part of the problem is school. Yep! In class, kids aren’t usually asked to write. They’re told to write. And they’re told to write about very specific topics. I get it. The point is to expose them to different types of writing, and to give them practice in each.
As a writer, I have to admit, for me, there is nothing that kills creativity faster than being given a specific topic. Ask me to write sci-fi. I’ll probably stare at my computer all day. Or a biography. Yawn. My passion is realistic fiction. That’s what I love.
So how do you engage your child?
1. Pay attention to what they read. In most cases, the type of story they’re drawn to read will be what they like to write. Suggesting they spend a sunny afternoon writing poetry when all they read is fantasy or historical fiction might get you a death stare.
2. Play mad-libs. Mad Libs can be a terrific way to begin engaging a child who doesn’t like to write. Why? Because it’s fun. And it focuses both children and their parents on thinking up interesting, unusual words. The crazier the adjective, adverb, noun and verb, the funnier the story.
3. Cliffhanger stories. These work well at home, in restaurants while waiting for a meal, and can even be done without paper at all, sitting in a car or snuggled in bed. One person starts. The sun was just beginning to set when there was a knock at the door. When Maxie opened it she saw… and then the next person continues. Go back and forth, creating new twists and turns.
4. Let them dictate while you type. Younger children can often be frustrated by writing because they have a hard time spelling or are simply slow with their letters. Set them free. Have them verbally tell the story while you type. Seeing their own words on the screen and then printed on a piece of paper can be thrilling.
5. Ask questions. Helping someone write is like a good gossip session. Its filled with questions like What happened then? How did that make her feel? and What did she say when they did that? So ask away.
6. Brainstorm. Once you have a story or two sitting around, encourage your children to add to it over time. New ideas brew when you’re not sitting at a desk or a table, so think aloud, together, about what might happen to the characters next.
7. Praise. Encourage them. Youíll quickly find what your child is particularly good at. Maybe they notice interesting details. Good for them! Or they write with humor. Laugh! Or maybe they’re adept at action sequences. Exciting!
8. Write together. When was the last time you picked up a pen and paper? Modeling that for a child can be valuable. Sit down together and set a timer. Write for a set amount of time, maybe 15 minutes, then trade stories and read them aloud.
9. No grades. Don’t judge the stories your child writes at home and don’t let your preconceived notions of what a story is or isn’t get in the way of their creativity. A story that ends after a half page might still be a great story. Or it might turn out to be a great start.
10. Read! Every professional writer will tell you that a key to good writing is reading. So if your child isn’t reading, well, get them to a library! Librarians are magicians – they can find a story that speaks to every child.
This summer set your young writer free to explore whatever it is that inspires them. It may not be the same thing that inspires you, and that’s okay! Encourage them where they are, in what they love, and they will love you for it.
Shannon Wiersbitzky is a published middle grade fiction author, teller of stories, and early morning writer (really early!). Her book, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was a 2013 Walter Allen White Award nominee. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, three fish whose names she can never remember, and one quirky rescue dog named Benson. Connect with Shannon on Facebook, Twitter, and at shannonwiersbitzky.com.
Shannon has generously offered one Diapered Daze and Knights reader the chance to win a signed copy of her book. Enter using the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!