Along with writing and editing, I’ve coached writers one-on-one off-and-on for the last couple years. I’ve presented writing workshops and made author visits to groups even longer than that, but those groups always consisted of school children. Yesterday, for the first time, I combined the two and taught a writing workshop for fledgling writers aged 15 and up. Actual grown-ups attended!
The Crash Course
Since my greatest area of expertise is writing for tots, tweens, and teens, I decided to offer a three-hour crash course in writing for those groups. My husband agreed to whisk away the kids who weren’t in school (some Jewish day school kids attend on Sunday mornings), and I prepared materials and advertised.
I thought three hours would be enough, I really did. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fill the time, honestly.
Instead, I ran over (with the students’ permission) and still didn’t cover a couple major subjects, at least in any detail.
Now, part of the reason I didn’t hit those topics is that the participants asked a lot of questions about other things and made a lot of comments that took me away from what I was originally planning to teach. Two of the attendees in particular were much more interested in writing for teens and above, and we talked a lot about writing for teens and adults in magazines. I barely touched on picture books or chapter books. I also only briefly covered the submission process, but didn’t go into anywhere as much detail as I had planned to.
The Up Side
The good news is that all the participants left with smiles on their faces. While I wish that I could have more fully covered certain areas of the topic, they certainly came out of the workshop with a lot of new information. I made parts of the workshop very interactive: I pretended I was a magazine editor assigning them a topic and had them brainstorm ideas in different formats after showing them lots of options for prewriting, we did a couple fun writing activities including newspaper blackout poetry, and I let them figure out most of the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of writing for kids on their own. Despite a wide age range for participants, they treated each other with a lot of respect and camaraderie. I got a lot of pleasure watching them think things out, teach each other, and bond.
I’m hoping to stay in touch with my newest students and maybe offer some additional workshops to broaden and deepen their knowledge of kid lit. One of the participants wanted more information about picture books and chapter books than I provided, due to those other questions I handled, and I actually dropped a book by her house earlier today so that she could get some of the information she needed from there.
Learning from experience
I enjoyed myself, I really did. I felt a little nervous at first, but when I realized that I knew this stuff cold, everything just flowed.
In the future, I think I’ll leave Q & A at the end, so that we hit all areas of the syllabus before carrying on with the special interests of attendees. Also, I think I may pick narrower topics, or plan for four- or five-hour crash courses that include a lunch break. Alternatively, I could plan for a two-part crash course.