My dad is a gifted writer, so it wasn’t too difficult to imagine myself doing what I’m doing now. Our house was a writing house. I grew up watching him outline books on craft paper on the dining room table with complex mind maps that looked like alien spaceships. I watched him take thinking walks around the block, strolling slowly and deliberately, as if he were moving the ideas through his body so that they could leap out of his fingers. I watched him clickety-clack on an ever-evolving succession of keyboards: first on that delightful typewriter, then on a word processor, and later on a computer. Oh, that computer! How did it work? My dad encouraged me and, most importantly, let me sit at those keyboards and pound away at the keys. I loved the sounds they made when I created stories.
She might love to write more than I did.
DollyBear is just as enthusiastic about her writing. She takes it very seriously. She says that she’s inspired to write books for other people to enjoy.
“I started writing books when I was three,” she told me. “I tried to do a ton of them. I haven’t finished any yet except for one of them.”
The story DollyBear has finished is a beautifully illustrated one called “The Mother Rabbit.” It’s written on white paper and stapled into a book. It's lovely.
I noticed right away that DollyBear already does what writers do. She writes down her ideas and “fixes them up” on her computer. She crosses things out. She starts new stories when she gets stuck or bored with the one she’s writing. She has a particular space – her bed – where she likes to write. When she doesn’t have her notebook, she thinks of stories anyway. She shares what she’s written with her parents, teachers, and friends. She even showed me some notes a friend had written in one of her stories. I love thinking of these third graders giving feedback like members of a critique group on their own time. How great is that?
Here’s my favorite writer-y thing that this young fellow writer shared with me: “Sometimes when I get stuck and I just want to keep writing and I have no more ideas, I get mad.” I hear you, sister.
Nancy says that she doesn’t do much in terms of her daughter's writing, but I think that she’s doing the best, most perfect thing – she lets her write. She buys her notebooks. She gives her space and reads her work and tells her how great it is. She’s even given her a formal venue for her writing by allowing her to write book reviews on a blog.
That’s what you do for young writers. Let them develop a love for writing. Encourage them. Help them a bit if they ask for it. Sure, grammar is important (and we know I love the stuff), but that can come later and school has it covered. Just let them write.
DollyBear's advice for kids who don’t like to write is this: “They don’t have to write but they should learn to. They might want to write when they get older, so I encourage them to want to write just to practice and get better at it.”
I also asked her what she’d tell other kids like her who love to write. She said they should “keep writing because someday their stories might become published because of all their hard work as a child.”
I felt really old.
Technology might change, but some things don’t. I saw quite a bit of myself in this sweet young girl and her passion for writing. She inspired me to keep going. I did work pretty hard as a child, and I’m trying to recapture that determined spirit now.
Here’s to writing, reading, smiling, and being inspired by kids. Because there are some really cool kids out there.