For a couple of years running I was hired for two-week “writing road trips” across the southwestern Minnesota prairie. On my daily journeys I often passed within a few miles of the banks of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Plum Creek. But I didn’t have time to stop and visit Famous Author Landmarks. I had been hired on as a “Famous Author” myself, to visit a series of schools and talk to students about writing. I would spend the morning in a school with hundreds of kids packed into the gym, and then charge down country highways to another school so small that the entire 3rd grade was made up of six little boys.
I was on display in these out-of-the-way places as proof that there are real people behind those names on books. But I also wanted to inspire the kids I met to be more enthusiastic writers. I wanted them to see writing as a chance to reach into their deepest hidden selves, and then to reach back out to others with whatever stories they found squirreled away inside. But that’s not always an easy thing to do when you only have 45 minutes and a big group of kids. I had to come up with a lot of attention-grabbing activities—activities that truly taught something about writing, but were also “fun” enough to stick.
Now that it’s many thousands of words, kids, and teens later, I’ve figured out a bit more about teaching kids how to write, and I’m going to share what I’ve discovered—here, on a regular basis. If you’re acting as a “writing GPS,” hoping to guide kids towards writing with more confidence, more imagination, and more finesse—but especially more fun!—I’d love to have you come along for the ride.