I always find books for aspiring young writers just as fascinating as the books writing for adult who aspire to be writers. Two new-ish titles have been on my “to-read” list for awhile.
Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly
By Gail Carson Levine
Levine, the queen of princess stories, encourages young writers to practice their craft and SAVE EVERYTHING. This book is full of writing exercises that she encourages young writers to try and SAVE. There is nothing new or earthshattering in this book. If you have read many writing books before, you will hear some of the same advice. But it’s worth hearing (or reading) again. In fact, the good thing is, Levine gives some of the advice I learned in graduate school and provides it to young writers.
Her first chapter includes Rules for Writing and The Writer’s Oath. She wants young writers to take their writing seriously.
Here is some of my favorite advice she gives:
-Writing: “The best way to write better is to write more.” p. 5
-Details: “The right details plunk us down inside the story and put us in our characters’ shoes.” p. 37
-Your brilliant words: She mentions that sometimes we write beautifully, but it doesn’t always make the story better. She says you should cut even the brilliant words because: “Do not do not DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT bend your story to accommodate your brilliant words.” P. 93
I loved this book, but I must admit, it probably won’t appeal to many adolescent boys. However, adolescent girls who want to write, or love Levine’s books, will probably pour over this book and try her many exercises.
How to Write Your Life Story
By Ralph Fletcher
Ralph Fletcher adds to his series for young writers in this book about writing about your own life. He has written other books for young writers: Poetry Matters, How Writer’s Work, and A Writer’s Notebook. All of his books are written for middle grade readers. This is the age when students know how to write but have the developmental capability to really move their writing to the next level.
Fletcher’s recently published memoir, Marshfield Dreams, is mentioned frequently throughout the book because he shares his own writing experiences of how he went from memories to the published memoir. Marshfield Dreams would be a good companion read if teachers of serious young writers really wanted to study his techniques along with his finished product.
Other famous children’s book writers who also wrote memoirs are interviewed in this book. Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, and Kathi Appelt talk about their experiences writing about their lives.
Memoirs aren’t the only genre that Fletcher talks about. He shows kids different genres they can use to write about their life. He teaches them how to mine their memories through neighborhood maps and heart maps (two techniques that I use every year with my fourth graders that I have read about in other writing books). He also recommends writing poetry about your life (like in "Where I’m From" poem by George Ella Lyon—another idea I do with fourth graders every year).
Fletcher gives practical writing tips to young writers. If you like Fletcher’s previous books about writing for young writers, add this one to your collection. It would be great to study along with some of the memoirs he mentions in the text.