Skip to content

Insights from an Author and a Giveaway

I am participating in the blog tour of the just released middle grade fiction book, Write This Down.screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-3-22-11-pm

Write This Down, written by Claudia Mills,  is a story about 12 year-old Autumn’s quest to be published. Like many writers, Autumn struggles with how much to share personal elements of both her life and the lives of her family members.

Author Claudia Mills shared some of her challenges and reflections about her process in writing and revising this piece, and her thoughts lend themselves incredibly well to some important lessons most of us teach or could teach during a narrative writing unit.

Claudia writes:

Write This Down saw more drafts than any of my other book, even though I had 56 earlier books to practice on!

An important teaching point for developing narrative writers is that revision is just as important to drafting. The idea that an author writes several drafts–even when that author is published and has written so many other books–is a powerful message for young writers. Revision involves far more that capitalization, punctuation, and correct spelling, and often involves whole new drafts!

Claudia writes:

The real revision, however, begins when I get feedback on my work from others. I can’t stress too much how important it is to find out how actual readers react to one’s work. How can I know if I was funny unless I know if a reader laughs? How can I know if a scene was touching unless a reader chokes up with tears?

In case you missed it, my co-authors Dana, Beth, and Deb presented at the #EdCollab Gathering on Saturday. Dana’s portion of their program focused on feedback, her message being that the most effective feedback is feedback that inspires meaningful change. Her wisdom pairs perfectly with Claudia’s reflection that she needs to know how readers react to her writing. This quote would be a fabulous companion to the slide Dana shared having to do with teaching students about feedback:

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-3-28-41-pm

Claudia writes:

I initially began the book with what is now Chapter Five: the scene where Autumn is riding to her orthodontist appointment with her brother, Hunter, at the wheel. I fell in love with my original first line for the book and didn’t want to give it up: “I’m sitting in the backseat of my mom’s Subaru Outback, eyes scrunched shut, seat belt tightened over my churning stomach, waiting to die.” I still think that is a great first line. But I realized that I needed to start the book instead by introducing Autumn as a writer, as that is such a huge part of who she is.

All of the teachers in our district teach about leads and their critical importance in luring readers into the stories. I know students would love to hear that even experienced authors grapple with not only first scenes, but also opening lines. This passage would also lend itself to teaching students about what they can do with favorite lines or passages that they write insofar as working them into the text of a piece.

Claudia writes:

I did a lot of trimming to streamline Autumn’s first-person narration, which often went on too long. Once I was inside Autumn’s head, I was having too much fun sharing all her thoughts and feelings. But enough was enough! So I cut ruthlessly.

At a certain point in many writers’ lives, we all struggle with going on too long. We all struggle with writing enough, but not too much. We all struggle with whether the details/dialog are moving the story forward or just boring our readers. Another great lesson for narrative writing workshops.

You can follow Claudia’s blog tour as it wends its way. Tomorrow she will be featured by Niki Ohs Barnes at https://daydreamreader.com/.

 

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Write This Down by Claudia Mills.  Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Write This Down, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, October 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, October 5th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Farrar, Straus and Giroux  will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – (Write This Down). Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Melanie Meehan View All

I am the Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, CT, and I love what I do. I get to write and inspire others to write! Additionally, I am the mom to four fabulous daughters and the wife of a great husband.

56 thoughts on “Insights from an Author and a Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. Feedback is so important. Student to student feedback is a focus for me this year. I plan to use the graphic as an anchor chart.

    Like

  2. I’ve been trying to train my students to give positive specific feedback (What they like and why) to other writers when they share their drafts-in-progress to the class. But they often “go rogue” and say other things, not negative, but not exactly what I was wanting. I let it go, hoping it would evolve into something more like I want if I commented positively on the responses that were more in line with my expectations. But when I read the 3 Ways to Give Feedback, I realized that my students were doing these things! They were making connections, they were were telling the writer how the writing made them feel, they were telling the writer something that they noticed. They weren’t always explaining their comments in words, but I had been noticing, that their nonverbal language was far more eloquent and effective. The writers were encouraged and hungry for responses. In fact, when we do quickwrites and share, I don’t have a formal commenting session afterwards, but kids can’t help but emotionally react if the writing makes them feel or think. It’s one of the most energizing and positive parts of my class–they make each other want to write.

    Like

  3. Seems like a great example of a growth mindset! Thank you for sharing this example of writing process. I was especially interested that Chapter 5 became Chapter 1. That reminded me of Ralph Fletcher’s lesson about where to “jump in the river.”

    Like

  4. I learned a similar coda of response to Writing via the Amherst Writers and Artists Guild- Their response guidelines are: Say what you like/love in the piece; Share what you will remember; and/ or What stands out to you.

    Like

  5. Ok, I just want to say that I am very inspired by the book and your blog! I am going to continue following you as part of my Student teaching experience.
    I am about to start a 10 unit lesson on genre, writing and at the end we will write our own narratives with the class. It is 3rd grade.
    I have a lot to learn! I really want to inspire the kiddos, and be the best at it.
    Thanks for all of those ideas and good vibe !
    Lily

    Like

  6. I plan to share this article with my students as many struggle with even the idea of revision. I love the three feedback suggestions. Can’t wait to read the book, too.

    Like

  7. Some very powerful lessons for young readers. I was planning with a team of 3rd grade teachers and I suggested starting in the middle. Great to see this strategy used by a “REAL” author 🙂 Also, so important to teach kids when to cut! Looking forward to reading it!

    Like

  8. I’m working with a school struggling to get everyone on board with the writing process. This book would be great for students to see themselves as potential authors….great ideas!!!!

    Like

  9. I am so excited to read this book! I currently have a student who has an older sister (Who I had 6 years ago) who is in the process of self-publishing. She is going to come next week to be a “Guest speaker” in my class!

    Like

  10. Thanks so much for hosting me today. You picked out all the best bits from my reflections to help inspire kids to revise, revise, revise! I’m grateful for all you do to foster a community or writers, readers, and teachers.

    Like

  11. Some of my students are budding authors. This would be a great book to show them (without telling them) the realities of being a writer. The feedback advice would work well for blog posts, too. Thanks for this opportunity.

    Like

  12. This is our first year of Writing Workshop, and each day brings new insights. While observing a “museum visit ” in a first grade room, I was amazed to see and hear students give each other valuable feedback! Some kiddos were anxious to begin revisions immediately!

    Like

  13. This is a perfect post as most of our teachers are getting ready to revise in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for the thoughtful post and introducing me to the new book that I now must have!

    Like

    • I agree with Claudia, my students often ask me, “Is this enough? Am I done?” because they are concerned with the length of their piece. I look forward to reading Claudia’s book!

      Like

%d bloggers like this: