Most kids HATE writing. I did. I'm pretty sure it had a lot to do with not being able to spell. I'm still an awful speller. I remember my teacher saying, "sound it out" or "look it up."
Both were impossible to do. When I sounded a word out, I never seemed to sound it out the way the word was spelled, which leads me to the second part, how do you look it up in the dictionary if you can't spell the word? It all was a mystery to me.
Now you’re saying, “What about spell check?”
Spell check and computers and all the technology that you enjoy today weren't available when I was a child.
I'm not sure when I came to realize that maybe some of this writing stuff could lead to something. It might have been when my mother encouraged me to enter a contest being offered by Kool-Aid.
If I remember correctly, they were looking for a creative new flavor name and flavor personality. They invited children to come up with a name, character traits, and something of a jingle using a very limited word count. I entered, and remarkably won third place. The prize was a set of walkie talkies. I was beyond excited!
Not long afterwards my brother entered and won a similar contest where the prize was a kit to make a dinghy. Yes, there was something to learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives, punctuation, and making sure you have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
So, I have to admit I kind of got hooked on writing. In high school, Mr. Marshall was very encouraging. He even suggested I pursue a career in writing. I thought he was crazy. Yes, I enjoyed the creative part of writing, but I still didn't always get where commas should go, or how to keep the correct tenses.
In college I decided on a degree in early childhood education. I minored in English. Thank God my roommate was an English major, or I may not have graduated...Thanks, Gail! But along the way I was beginning to get it.
I went on to teaching elementary school. Most of my teaching career I was a kindergarten teacher.
I also began writing for my students when I couldn't find a book about a subject we were discussing. Again my inability to spell, and weaknesses in grammar and punctuation hindered me. Thank goodness for my patient critique partners, who would catch my mistakes. Yes, I still made mistakes. But I was getting better.
I am now 45 books into my writing career, and I’ve taught writing classes all over the United States. These are the truths I've learned about writing.
So from one kid who "hated writing" to another, I think you need to give this writing thing another chance. As an author, I've been to places I never imagined---28 states, Mexico, and Canada, speaking about writing.
Think about all the things you could do. I've gotten to go boogie boarding in the Pacific, panned gold in the Black Hills, stayed on a Lakota Indian reservation, traveled in a steamboat on the Mississippi, and worked a round-up in Wyoming. These are all adventures I never would have had if I didn't follow a career in writing.
Think of the satisfaction at seeing your words printed on paper, or on the Internet, being read by other people. You can follow any passion you have with writing as a tool to get you there. All kinds of opportunities are waiting for you if you change your attitude about writing and give this writing thing another chance. I hope you do. I now LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, writing!
What I learned from a pirate about writing:
Every pirate needs:
1. A Hook: Hooks grab the reader in the first few sentences or can be found at the end of a chapter to keep the pages turning. EXAMPLE: Captain Hook stood on the edge of the plank. Below swam a wide-mouthed crocodile, chomp, chomp, chomping at the air between Captain Hook and the sloshing sea.
2. An Anchor: A ship is afloat without an anchor. Your anchor is the story question. The story question keeps your writing focused. Will Hook make it out alive?
3. Navigation Tools: A pirate needs to know how to navigate the genre. Know your story structure. A play structure is going to be entirely different from a picture book structure. But each will have:
4. A Hearty Fight: A pirate cannot collect his bounty without first having to fight every step of the way. Conflict makes for a good story.
5. A Plank: Every story must reach the point where the main character’s toes are hanging over the edge of the plank with nowhere left to go. This climax should have your reader feeling that sorry bloke’s anxiety. Tick, Tick, Tick!
6. A Cutlass: A pirate has to be willing to use his cutlass. Once your story is written cut, cut, cut, down to the briny bones of a swashbuckling seafaring story.
7. A Treasure: When your reader closes the book make sure he leaves with a treasure he will want to come back to again and again.
Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton grew up on Lake Erie as a Rocky River Pirate. Her latest book, PIRATES DON’T SAY PLEASE, was recently released through Pelican Publishing. You can find Laurie at www.laurieknowlton.com. Or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COPYRIGHT: LAURIE KNOWLTON. Contact for permission to share or reprint.