Saturday, March 7, 2009

Little Writers

I'm doing a mini-writing clinic at my kids' school. I take a group of four kids and meet with them once a week for three weeks, then I rotate to a new group. Heads up, folks, there are some great writers coming down the pipeline! I'm having fun, and I think most of the kids are getting something out of the experience. My one problem is that I am incapable of controlling unruly kids. That's why my limit is four. If they all decided to stage a major revolt I would be in serious trouble. Hopefully, none of them read blogs. They are, after all, only 3rd graders. 

So, my last group had two quiet, compliant kids and two hooligans. Hooligans are AWESOME kids, by the way. The term hooligan, for me, is used to describe a high-energy (and many times highly creative) child that I am incapable of keeping focused on the task at hand for more than a few minutes. About 25% of all kids fall in this category.  So I am just pointing out that my last group hooligan ratio was at 50%. Our discussions ran off topic at times towards subjects such as, "What is that sticky stuff stuck under the table?" My answer: Gum? Boogers? Please just don't touch it. Soon everyone was looking under the table. You get the picture. 

I read from Because of Winn Dixie every week gushing over examples of great writing. I pass around old, edited manuscripts of my two books and let the kids compare them to the finished, published book. On the last day the kids edit an intentionally poorly written very short story of my creation. Before they start in on the last project, they read the story and tell the group what they do not like about it. Now, that's a real Writer's experience, hmmmm? You can never start early enough teaching kids the art of dissatisfaction, criticism, and rejection, right?

The hooligans surprised me at one point in a writing exercise where we were discussing multi-sensory description. We were coming up with different ways to describe flowers that included not just sight - but smell, taste, sound, touch. The two hooligans took a break from flinging their pencils at each other and tipping their chairs back at terrifying angles to start a high-speed brainstorm back and forth on flower description. The ideas were flying. Finally, the discussion came to rest with the angelic voice of The Master of All Hooligans offering to the group that, "the sound of flowers in a meadow is that of heaven touching the earth."