In our classes this year we have spent a lot of time talking about authors—the real people who write the text we read. Authors make choices as they are writing that affect what we see in their final text. We have been practicing making writing choices ourselves, as we have written narratives, informational text, persuasive essays, and now as we are writing fairy tales.
We have been lucky enough to hear from some famous authors by Skype, videoconference and webcast. Every time we do this we listen for advice about how we can make our own writing better. Here is some of the good advice we have heard.
During the Global Read Aloud, the author of the Marty McGuire, Kate Messner, kindly agreed to Skype with our class. We asked her all kinds of questions about the writing process. She showed us her writer’s notebook, where she writes her ideas and first drafts, and even showed us a draft of her newest book with some of the early illustrations. One of our classmates asked her, “What do you do if you are stuck and can’t think of anything else to write about?” Her advice was,
Sometimes I have to walk away from a project and write something completely different for a while, but usually what happens when I get stuck is I give myself permission to write any old thing, without worrying about whether it’s good or not. I find that usually what comes out is just fine. It’s going to need to be revised later, but if I just keep writing I can get my ideas going again.
In January we participated in a worldwide event called Reading Discovery which was broadcast from the George Bush Library in Houston. Along with kids from all over the world, we listened to former First Lady Barbara Bush, who has written several books, talk about the importance of reading and writing. When a student in another class asked her what kinds of books you should read if you want to become an author, she said,
All kinds of books! If you want to write about history, read about history. When I was a little girl all I wanted to read about was dogs, and when I grew up I wrote a book about dogs! Read about what interests you.
We watched a live webcast from New York City featuring two of our favorite authors, Jeff Kinney (who writes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series) and Dav Pilkey (who writes the Captain Underpants series). Both of them are authors and illustrators, so we wondered what they thought was the most important part of their work, the text or the pictures. We were surprised to hear both of them say they both put the words first. We thought Jeff Kinney’s process was interesting:
I sit on the couch with a blanket over my head so I won’t get distracted by anything, I try not to fall asleep, and then I think of jokes…I write down a bunch of jokes and then I think of the story.
The whole webcast was fun to watch. You can watch it here:
We all finished the story they started in the smash-up. Here is one of our classmate’s illustrations of the ending of the story:
Who are your favorite authors?
If you could ask your favorite author for some writing advice, what would your question be?