Posts Tagged ‘Jane Yolen’

Young Writers

May 25, 2011

On Saturday,  May 21, the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch held it’s annual Young Writers Contest Banquet at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant in Pleasant Hill.  The twenty-seven award-winning students along with their teachers, family and friends were invited to eat the delicious banquet Tony and his efficient staff prepared, receive their cash, and their lovely awards created by Joanne Brown.

Guest speaker editorial agent and former Tricycle editor Abigail Samoun spoke about actually being an editor.  To the threatening sounds of  the music known from JAWS, we saw on the screen before us an actual room filled with slush pile manuscripts. (Yes, we WERE frightened!  We could have gotten smothered by those stacks of large manilla envelopes!)  The young writers discovered that slush refers to  manuscripts sent to the publisher without an agent.    The audience learned how busy editors really are, and found out it can take years for a manuscript to turn into an actual book and appear on bookstore or library shelves.

Congratulations to all of the winners of this contest, and to everyone who took the big step and risk of putting pen to paper and writing.  Each time you bare your soul on paper, it is a risk.  You are brave!   Congratulations to everyone who entered the contest.  Each time you do something brave like this, you learn and grow.  We hope if you are a Contra Costa middle school student next fall, you will enter your short stories, poems, and personal narratives again.  It doesn’t cost anything but the postage.  And you can start writing this summer!  Hope to see you at our FREE July 27 writing workshop at the Clayton Public Library!

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On Tuesday, May 24, I visited Mrs. Laird’s fourth grade classroom and the students impressed me with their intelligent questions, comments and ease at writing.  The moment Mrs. Laird turned on classical music, the kids’ pens hit their paper and didn’t stop moving until the music came to an end. 

Wow!  Very cool!  Most classrooms I visit today don’t have time for writing, and when I ask them to pick up their pen to write, kids are plain stumped.  “How shall I begin?”  they may ask.  “What if I spell something wrong?”  They don’t realize that first drafts are the place to make spelling mistakes!  It’s okay!  It’s fine to be messy or to make a punctuation error.  In a first draft, you just want to WRITE! 

I was very proud of how well this class wrote, and how eager they were to share their writing.  It was wonderful how they included their personal thoughts and feelings in their words. 

At one point in my talk, I mention an author I interviewed for my book, The ABCs of Writing for ChildrenJane Yolen likes to say BIC is the most important rule for being a writer.  I agree!  What did the kids think BIC stood for?  They talked with partners and came up with some possibilities:

Brain in classroom

Butt in conversation         (Hmm.  This could be a funny story, but I’d hate to assign it . . .)

Butt idea chair

And finally, one group got the answer Jane came up with:  Butt in chair! 

How can you be a writer?  Sit down and write!  Turn off all of the distractions in your life and pay attention to the sounds in your head!  Write your thoughts, feelings, senses, and memories.  Create characters, stories, poems and combine them with art if you can.  Let your imagination run wild!  But you can’t do that if you don’t take time. Sit. Let you mind wander and pick up a pen.   

As one student told Mrs. Laird, “Now that Liz came to our school, I know what to write:  moments from our lives.” 

They don’t have to be big moments.  Some of the best writing can be a small detail that makes all the difference in your world.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write about one small (or big) thing that happened today to make you smile.

2.  Take out the last story or piece that you wrote.  Now add a sensory description.  Is there a sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell you can add that will give your piece more depth and make the reader feel like he or she was really there?  Can you add more than one?

3.  Recently, I posted a photo of a gopher that my husband took onto an online sharing site. I thought a couple of people might think it was cute.  Twenty-five people began a discussion about it! Who knew so many people could talk so much about a little gopher?  Something so un-important became a heated discussion!  Write a conversation where you say one little thing and suddenly people react in ways you’d never imagine!

4.  Keep a diary/journal for one week.  You don’t have to write everything that happens to you.  Just choose one thing each day that you want to write about. What will you choose?  Whatever you choose, make the reader feel like he or she is right with you by writing your thoughts, feelings, and a sensory description.  You can even put in some dialogue!

5.  Write about an animal you have met or known.  Make that animal come alive!  Describe it.  Make it move.  How did it make you feel?

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The Owls in My Life – – The Universe Speaks

October 7, 2009

Many years ago, my mother gave me a stuffed owl for Christmas. He is perched on my bookshelf in the living room. She knew how much I loved Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon. Soon afterwards, I found a tiny stuffed owl for her.

At that point, we began noticing them everywhere. Although unfortunately I never saw them living, other than in a wild animal museum, I’d see figurines, insignia, stickers, or toy versions here and there.

The live owls in my backyard seemed to know when I’d need comfort, for they’d choose those nights to hoot a personal greeting to me. Like the day my mother passed away.

Last week my walking friend and neighbor, Hilde, and I discussed this and how sad we were about it.

The next day, a Great Horned Owl sat serenely on a tree stump in the open space behind our houses. His gray and white striped feathers blended in perfectly with his surroundings. He seemed unpreturbed that we stared at him with binoculars and then even my husband’s telescope.

Magnificent.

And then it hit me.

“The universe was listening!” I said to Hilde.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“We were just talking yesterday about how we have never seen one in person and now here he has come for us.”

A favor granted; a blessing bestowed. The universe is listening. All you have to do is ask.

Exercise: 1. Are there moments of serendipity in your life? What is your special animal, symbol or blessing you find comfort in receiving? Remember to send it into the universe.
2. Play the Universe Library Game. Go to your library. Close your eyes. Randomly let your hands search for ANY book. Pull it off the shelves and open it to a page and point. What is the universe’s message for you today? Feel free to share here!

Mine: Mary Poppins Comes Back
“And all the time she felt astonished at the way she was behaving. It was as if there was another person inside her – – somebody with a very bad temper and an ugly face — who was making her feel cross.”

*I have to write a scene with some internalized emotion today. AND I felt this way just the other day. Two messages in one.