Monday, January 7, 2013

Writer's Workshop!

This fall Lilah participated in Writopia, a writer’s workshop program based in New York and expanding into Connecticut.  In a 90 minute session the children work with a published author on a piece of writing.  They access a server and their story can be edited and commented upon as it develops outside of the workshop.  

Lilah loves to write and I believe that she has a talent for it.  She needs to polish her mechanics, as she tends to be a lazy writer, not seeing the need to use grammar until she edits.  However, she has a clear voice, a unique style, and loads of imagination.  

Writeopia was a positive experience.  Having the time set once a week to write with a friend is definitely something to look forward to.  Tucked away in a quaint office surrounded by bookshelves and natural lighting, inspires one to express themselves.  She wrote an excellent story.  Sixteen typed pages and it is still being developed.  Would I recommend Writeopia?  Yes, but not without disclaimers.

It is very expensive for the time invested.  The cost of the course was comparable to her nature class in which she was immersed in nature, led by two guides, for 6 hours a week, over the course of 8 weeks.  For almost the same cost, Writeopia gives a fraction of the time at 90 minutes a week for 10 weeks.  To pay for the course over and over throughout a 30 week school year would be a cost of approximately $1400, just for a writing workshop.  For my family, this is cost prohibitive since we are already paying for piano lessons and now guitar lessons.  Why would I pay this kind of money for something I can run myself?

After putting out a course description on my homeschooling yahoo group I had three families with children ranging in age from 10 to 13 who enjoy writing and wanted to participate!  

I set my back studio up as a writing studio complete with lighting and a power strip to plug in laptops.  I put out pencils and erasers, and of course tissues since everyone right now seems to have a cold.  

A trip to the library resulted in contemporary children’s literature to use as models of different voices/styles/genres.  These books each have something amazing to offer.  Whether it is a great lead as in William Steig’s Brave Irene:
“Mrs. Bobbin, the dressmaker, was tired and had a bad headache, but she still managed to sew the last stitches in the gown she was making.”

or Meg Cabot’s unique voice in All American Girl:
“In spite of the fact that she is dating an artistic rebel type instead of a jock, Lucy remains one of the most popular girls in school, routinely getting invited to parties and dances every weekend, so many that she could not possibly attend them all, and often says things like, “Hey, Sam, why don’t you and Catherine go as, like, my emissaries?” even though if Catherine and I ever stepped into a party like that we would be vilified as sophomore poseurs and thrown out onto the street.”  Whew!  That is one long sentence!

Telling a story through letters is beautifully depicted in Karen Hesse’s Letters to Rifka and the difficult concept of showing rather than telling is perfected by Roald Dahl.

So every Friday for 8 weeks 7 children are going to come together to share in the experience of crafting a story.  Hopefully what transpires will be as magical as the words that are found within the pages of the stories I am going to offer as mini-lessons....

*scans of my notes made with iPad app Scanner Pro


Theresa Novak said...

That sounds great, Jessica. I am going to look for those books, too. My girls are also lazy writers and I have to remind them to go back over their work several times to correct grammatical errors--at least their spelling has mostly improved!

Jessica said...


You can choose any books by any author you like. I wanted a wide range of styles on hand so if a comment or question came up during the workshop I could grab one and refer to it. The most important this is that you are familiar with the work of the author so that it becomes a model for the children. Your girls are such great readers, you could ask them to give you a book list to illustrate different styles of writing! I would love to see what they came up with!

Frogcreek said...

Sounds like a fun workshop! I hope that maybe some of the kids will publish a story on line so we can read!

Jessica said...

I hope they do. I really hope they will do an open mic at a bookstore. We'll see......

Susan Getty said...

This is a fantastic idea, Jess! I would love to have my girls participate in a writer's workshop like this!

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