Frances has taught Creative Writing to Kids for Years…
Even before Frances became a novelist, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from U-Mass Amherst and taught writing at a college. For years, she was also the editor and publisher an arts magazine for kids, which was chock full of exercised teaching creative writing for kids, interviews with authors, writing prompts, poetry contests… — you name it!
Since becoming a novelist, Frances has continued to work with students — both in the workshop setting and as well as during school and library visits. She has judged student writing contests for publishers such as Scholastic, and had the honor of presenting awards to student winning of state-wide awards.
Frances teaches writing workshops locally, and works privately with a group of advanced older students, and now she has decided to post occasional podcasts highlighting some of the lessons she has developed to teach creative writing to kids.
We hope you enjoy Word! The Writing Podcast for Kids…
Word! The Writing Podcast for Kids
Why a Podcast on Creative Writing for Kids? So glad you asked!
“When Tanesha Jones got home from school on Friday,” you begin, “nobody was there. In fact, nothing was there–no car in the driveway, no furniture in the living room, no food in the fridge.”
This is going to be a great, you tell yourself! What an amazing idea for a story! You are buzzing with creativity! You write a couple more paragraphs about Tanesha’s empty house. You write about Tanesha’s family, about the fight Tanesha had with her mom that morning before she left for school.
And then you stop. You’re stuck. You’ve laid the foundation of your story, but you don’t know what to do next. There are so many possibilities! How do you choose? Where do you go? How does this writing thing work anyway?
This describes me at age ten. I had so many great ideas. Young writers have more great ideas in ten minutes than us old fogeys have in a week. What they often don’t have are the skills they need to get past the initial idea and really build a story.
I believe these skills can be taught. I do a writing workshop for kids where we build a complete first draft of a story in three hours. We talk about how the beginning of a story is like a door you open to your reader (“Hello! Come in, you’re going to like it here”), how stories are like journeys, and the most interesting journeys have bumps in the road.
We talk about the importance of reading like a writer (how does this author begin her story? What are the bumps in the road in the first Harry Potter book?) and writing like a reader (what pulls you into a story as a reader? What makes you keep reading? What causes you to put a book down?).
The workshops are intense. Most of these kids have never spent such a concentrated period writing. But at the end, they’ve written a story. They know what questions to ask themselves to get their main character from one point in the journey to the next. They have tools they didn’t have before.
When teaching or writing or talking to my own kids, I try to remember what I felt like when I was ten, eleven, twelve. (I wrote The Secret Language of Girls because that’s the book I was looking for in fifth grade). When I do creative writing workshops, I think about what I found frustrating as a young writer. That’s my starting point as a teacher.
I know so many kids who love to write and who are ready for a serious discussion about how stories are made. In my workshops, I can only work with twelve kids at a time. But with a podcast, I can reach hundreds (thousands! The whole wide world!).
So that’s why I’m doing a podcast on creative writing for kids. That, and the fact that it’s really fun! I hope you’ll check it out for the young writers you know. Let me know what you think.
WORD! THE WRITING PODCAST FOR KIDS…
Episode 1: Getting Started
Join Frances as she talks about to find the story ideas that are right in front of you (or hiding out in the closets of your imagination). She discusses the importance of paying attention to the details of everyday life and how to find the story in seemingly uninspiring events. She also steers young writers toward the great books of Ralph Fletcher. Tune in for the latest Word! lesson in creative writing for kids. (Music: Cold Funk by Kevin MacLeod-incompetech.com)
Episode 2: Opening the Door–Beginnings
In this episode, Frances talks about the importance of beginning your story the right way. What kind of beginning is going to work for your story? Does your beginning invite your reader in? We look at beginnings by Jerry Spinelli, Cynthia Lord, Amy Timberlake and J.K. Rowling. Tune in for the latest Word! lesson in creative writing for kids. (Music: Cold Funk by Kevin MacLeod-incompetech.com)
Episode 3: What’s Your Problem?
Every story needs a problem, a conflict, a challenge for your main character to overcome. Otherwise, you don’t have much of a story, do you? In this episode, we look at Gary Paulson’s HATCHET and discuss how Harry Potter would be a pretty boring guy if everything went his way. Tune in for the latest Word! lesson in creative writing for kids. (Music: Cold Funk by Kevin MacLeod-incompetech.com)
Frances O’Roark Dowell has taught creative writing for kids for more than a decade. Frances is the award-winning author such novels as Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Children’s Book Award; the bestselling Secret Language of Girls trilogy; Shooting the Moon, which received a Christopher Award; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; the teen novel, Ten Miles Past Normal; and the new Sam the Man series for younger readers. Her most recent book — her first for adult readers — is the quilting novel Birds in the Air. She also hosts the popular “Off-Kilter Quilt” podcast, where she talks about her latest quilt projects with friends and fellow quilters around the globe. Her own little corner of the globe is Durham, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog named Travis. Visit her online at FrancesDowell.com.