Encouraging a Young Writer
Here are some suggestions for encouraging your budding author:
- Explore ideas and writing styles. Encourage your child to keep a notebook of ideas and things that interest him. This is what will feed his imagination and give him topics to delve into once he's ready to start putting pen to paper (or typing on the keyboard!). Also, have him pay special attention to authors he enjoys and to think about what techniques they use to engage, entertain, and inform. He needs to reflect on what he wants to communicate to others and how he wants to communicate.
- Read about writers and writing. If your child enjoys writing, have her read books about writers and how they got started and learned their craft. A good selection for her is 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola.
- Start small. Encourage your child to find ways to get published locally. For example, he might start by writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper. He might also write books for younger students. Invite him to print out copies of his manuscript from your computer and distribute them at school or to friends. It is motivating and exciting for a young writer to see his work "in print" and to get feedback from readers. Scholastic also has two great resources for student writers: At Write It your child can talk to other kid scribes and even submit his work for possible inclusion on the Web site. And at Writing With Writers, pros offer tips on writing in a number of styles, including descriptive and news writing. As with Write It, student work may be submitted for possible posting.
- Consider writing competitions. Once your child has started to write and begins to develop confidence in her work, you might suggest that she enter favorite pieces in a competition. Sometimes, community organizations hold contests; your local librarian may be able to direct you to them. Your child might also consider entering The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which is held each year for students in grades 7 through 12. Past winners have included best-selling writers such as Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, and Bernard Malamud.
- Understand that it is difficult to get published — but ultimately worthwhile. When your child has a deep understanding of how books are made and has a manuscript that is ready for publication, there are two routes he may pursue:
1. Find a publisher by consulting Literary Marketplace, a directory that is available in the library. While your child could certainly send his manuscript directly to a publisher, such unsolicited manuscripts are not typically considered a high priority, and there is a chance that his manuscript will not be read.
2. Find an agent to help your child get her manuscript to a publisher. If an agent agrees to represent her, her work will definitely be read by the editor to whom it is sent. You can find an agent who handles children's work by consulting Literary Marketplace or the Association of Authors' Representatives. Information is also available from The Children's Book Council or the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.