The Finish Line

I periodically remind my students—and myself—that the point of learning to become stronger writers is not so that we can show off by performing a series of fancy writers’ tricks. The point is to create the best magic we can; magic that awes and astonishes the reader.Noth­ing is a big­ger thrill for the young writ­ers I men­tor than what we have come to call their “pub­li­ca­tion par­ties.” For my reg­u­lar ses­sions with the three of them, I plan a mix of writ­ing warm-ups and short and long-term writ­ing projects. When the long-term projects are final­ly finished — often after months of draft­ing and revis­ing — we invite their par­ents to a for­mal read­ing. Dur­ing our tougher ses­sions, when the kids are bored with revis­ing, look­ing ahead to this par­ty is a great incen­tive to keep them push­ing through this tough stage of writ­ing. Instead of giv­ing up and say­ing their work is “good enough,” they keep pol­ish­ing because they know that the pub­li­ca­tion par­ty is always so much fun. And it’s not just because we have piz­za or cup­cakes: they beam with pride as their fam­i­lies lis­ten to and cel­e­brate the writ­ing they’ve worked so hard on.

Any­one with kids has like­ly attend­ed a piano recital or the school play or a sport­ing event. But as the sis­ter to two hock­ey-play­ing broth­ers (back in a time when there weren’t girls’ teams), I can tell you that there are far few­er for­mal chances for young writ­ers to read their work out loud to an audi­ence — to have their achieve­ment cel­e­brat­ed in a pub­lic forum. If you have young writ­ers at home, why not plan ahead for a pub­li­ca­tion par­ty of your own? Invite Grand­ma or the neigh­bors and make it a true event!

Or if you have a class­room, I’ve put togeth­er a Pin­ter­est board with many sug­ges­tions for cre­at­ing a writ­ing unit. It plays on the “cook­ing up a sto­ry” theme that I use through­out my book You Can Write a Sto­ry: A Sto­ry-Writ­ing Recipe for Kids, and my Pin­ter­est board includes ideas for an official pub­li­ca­tion par­ty. But you can also use the board to inspire you in brain­storm­ing ideas for total­ly dif­fer­ent writ­ing themes that you might use in your class­room or home.

Stick­ing with the process of revis­ing their work until it’s tru­ly pol­ished is a daunt­ing prospect for most young writ­ers. It’s not so dif­fer­ent than musi­cal kids play­ing scales over and over, or ath­let­ic kids doing end­less drills for their sport. Why not make the process of “rinse, repeat” more tol­er­a­ble for young writ­ers by pro­vid­ing a spec­tac­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion par­ty “fin­ish line” they can race towards?

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Lynne Jonell
5 years ago

Lisa, I love this idea!