Monday, June 29, 2015

Can Kids Write Books?

Whatever your views are about the Common Core, I have to say there is definitely a lot of focus on writing! My daughter’s first grade class had Writers Workshop and even had a special event for parents to hear their opinion pieces. (I learned A LOT about why Minecraft is awesome and how beautiful cardinals are.)

This focus sparked some questions from a pal of mine.

“Miss Lauri, can kids write books?”

“Anyone can write a book.”

“Yeah, but can 7-year-olds write books?”
My illustrations when I was a kid are
not as good as Josie's!

“I happen to know some very cool kids who write. Like Erik Weibel, who is 13 now, but used to be 9 when he started blogging and well, I’m sure he was 7 before then. His sister Josie is an illustrator and his friend Felicia wrote a book, or well her pets did.  

“We had an author visit the school which was so cool!”

“Yeah, that was totally cool. Erik and Felicia interview real authors in videos at The Write Chat. Sometimes they are ridiculously silly. Isn’t that so cool??”

“So cool, but how do I become a writer?”

“You write.”

“Miss Lauri, I mean really.”

“First, you need an idea. There is a cool Kids are Writers Summer Camp which will have daily prompts. Prompts are like little idea starters.” 

“I’ve got a million ideas!”

“Okay, okay, just start with one. Then figure out what happens. My friend Carrie has a worksheet to help you figure out what happens. She calls it her Plot Connector. It’s really easy to fill it in with ideas.” 


“Let me read it. The dog wants more than anything to see his friend Chipper the chipmunk but his owner won’t let him out. So he tries to sneak out, break the door, and bark really loud, but it doesn’t work. Then…he says please and the owner lets him out! Oh, this is quite good.”

“I know. Thank you. It was pretty easy.”

“Would you like to read this story again and again?”

“Well, I dunno. I already kind of know what happens.”

“Hmm. Well, then this is called a first draft. I have some ideas to help you edit. Would you like to hear them?”

“Oh yes, and give me a huge stack of paper please. And sharpen this pencil. And are there any goldfish to eat?”

“Yes, yes, of course. *scurries around house for a few minutes* Okay, the first tip is to find the right word and be specific. So instead of dog, you might say Woofers the dog. Or Woofers the Great Dane. Or Tiny the Great Dane.”

“No, no, no. His name is Charming the Chihuahua!”

“Oh, yes that’s very good. Chihuahuas are always funny. That brings me to the next tip. When you want to think of something really good, write down seven ideas. By the time you get to the seventh it will be the best one. Do you know why I picked seven?”

“Because I’m seven!!”
“No, because it’s my lucky number. Now, go practice those tips until that Chihuahua really comes to life.”

“Okay, Miss Lauri. Can I bring my goldfish?”

“Yep, just get out of here, I’ve got a million ideas I need to write down.”

Happy Summer and Happy Writing everyone!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Metamorphosis Procrastination

We got 10 visitors for my daughter's birthday – caterpillars! Just like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, these critters start out tiny as a pin head and are huge (in a small sense) within a week.

Then the calls from down the stairs begin, “Mom, one is in j-formation! J-formation!” So you watch and you think you will catch it spinning its chrysalis, but you get distracted and when you come back it’s all tucked inside its new apartment.

We observed all of the caterpillars do this. Well, not all. Not George. He just kept climbing around, maybe wondering why no one would answer his request to play croquet. Maybe he just wanted to be a little fatter. Maybe he was the shy one and enjoyed having a little space to explore without his sister giving him caterpillar wedgies. Maybe.

Or maybe George had a case of Metamorphosis Procrastination.

He would worry about not knowing how to make a chrysalis. “What if I accidentally do it upside down and then I can only fly with my head down for the rest of my life?”

He would shiver with the thought of being a pupa. “Pupa? Like I turn into Poop? Ack!”

George would declare, “I never wanted to be a butterfly anyway. No thanks. You guys fly around for a few days until a blue jay snaps you up for lunch.”

He would question nature. “But I’m perfect just the way I am. Lady Gaga told me so.”

George is in the left container,
crawling around the top. 
This continued for two days in the quiet solitude of the caterpillar enclosure. I can’t imagine how creepy it would be to crawl in and out of the stoic, hanging forms of all his friends frozen in time. Alone. Surrounded by other caterpillars poo balls.

But this morning the calls rang out again, “George is in j-formation! He did it!!”

And I said, “But George, I thought we were going to hold out on this! Tell nature to shove it. We were going to explore the world together, me on my two feet and you on your, um 32 or something. Baby, you were born this way!”

George just said, well, he couldn’t say anything because he was all j’d up. Plus, he’s a caterpillar, and you know they can’t actually talk. But I think he would have said, “I was pretty good at being a caterpillar, but I will be excellent at being a butterfly.”

So what have you been procrastinating? Well, take George’s lead and get on it with it! (For me it’s writing my pitch for this weekend’s NJ SCBWI Conference…yay!)
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