How to Learn How to Write

June 6, 2013 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, teaching | By

For three years, I’ve been teaching writing to kids all around Silicon Valley. My students have ranged in age from five to fourteen. I’ve also spent a good amount of time – two years – watching adults learn how to write, since I earned my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

You could say I’ve spent my last five years learning how to learn to write. When I tell people in casual conversations I am a Writer and a Writing Teacher, I often get a fake smile in return, or a more honest, “I always hated writing.”

Lots of people of all ages say they dislike writing.

However, over the last few years of writing classes with kids – and adults – that has not been my experience. Once people have the opportunity to write freely, they often love it.

The remaining pencils after a year of writing. We started with 100.

The remaining pencils after a year of writing. We started with 100.

Over my last few years, I’ve seen Kindergarteners run to class, second graders write novellas, fourth graders outline and write multiple novels, and teenagers suggest meeting together to write – with their free time.

When writing class is fun, anything can happen. Kids can wish everyday were writing class and they write every night instead of watching TV. A second grader can write a true story about a friend who survived a frightening trip to the hospital. A fourth grader can go from weeping at the sight of a notebook to claiming writing as her favorite subject.

Third graders can create entire worlds. Kindergarteners can imagine visiting the moon and Mars. First graders can write a story so sad and scary it will haunt your dreams. Fourth graders can create intricate fantasy worlds, characters who inhabit them, share those worlds and characters with each other, and write highly entertaining stories consistent with those settings. Teenagers can write poetry, realistic fiction, fantasy and science fiction that will make you laugh and think; worthy of publication. This world is full of young and gifted writers.

And it’s easy to nurture them.

First of all, you’ll need a lot of pencils.

After that, I think it boils down to four things pretty simple things: fun, friends, seeds and cookies.

I’m taking the pencils for granted. Those would be element number five. My next four days of blog posts will be dedicated fun, friends, seeds and cookies. I don’t have much to say about pencils, other than: Keep them out of your neighbor’s eye, please.

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