Speaking to Children About Writing
Posted on October 4, 2013
This morning I had the pleasure of speaking to two fourth grade classes about writing.
I agonized for two days over what to say and how to say it.
I agonized once I realized that Blessing of the Animals happened right before those two talks and I had promised my daughter that she could have her pet fish blessed. I agonized about having to bring the fish to my talks, and about whether I’d trip and fall or mess the fish up once I left.
I’m clumsy like that. But the good news is that I only have a little bit of fish water on my pants.
I choose not to think about what could be in that water.
But back to writing…
This morning, my plan was to give both classes a good recipe for writing. The recipe began with ingredients (the research that gives writing its authority), then moved on to well-structured sentences full of CUPS (or Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation and Spelling). Then, I advised them to sprinkle their work with detail to make it pop, before revising, revising, revising and turning it in.
We talked about things they struggle with during assignments, and I hope that I was able to help them with advice on working through those problems. I didn’t answer everything as well as I would have liked, but I volunteer in the school library once a week and offered to help them if they had questions about their work while I was there.
Both classes wanted to see my web site because I think they actually wanted proof that I do this for a living. Now that they know how to find it, I can only hope that they either forget the domain name, or don’t click on anything I’ve written on this blog about “Mad Men.”
I’m begging you, kids. I don’t want to be getting in trouble with any parents.
Other than that, both classes had a tremendous number of questions about the writing life, how to revise, why I have so many pictures of Paris on my web site (I like to go there from time to time so I can look at old things), whether I draw pictures for the stories I submit (I don’t, but maybe I should), and why I’ve only written for TIME for grownups instead of TIME for Kids (I have nothing against kids, sir. It’s just how it worked out). One student even gave me a story idea to pitch: “Did you know there’s a tropical storm headed this way and I might not be able to play in my soccer tournament?”
It was a good, lively discussion and before I knew it, I was carefully navigating the sidewalks of downtown Baton Rouge with a pet fish. A big thank you to St. James Episcopal Day School for inviting me this morning and to all the wonderful and curious students who made the experience such a delight!