Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “revising”

Julie Gets To Be A First Grader: What Your Kids Are Capable Of Learning

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon Pecan. Sounds fancy, right? IT IS.

By Julie

I don’t even know where to start with how awesome this is.

Yesterday I spent a half hour talking to my son Bennett’s class about being an author, editing and revising. As if that isn’t cool enough, it wasn’t just like “bring your mom to school day.” This is actually in my first grader’s curriculum right now.

There is so much awesome about this, I can’t handle it. First off, what I love is that my son’s school is in the lowest income neighborhood in Plymouth, arguably and yet they have the most forward thinking curriculum I’ve ever heard of. It’s the most multicultural school in our large town as well. It’s also such a small neighborhood school that there aren’t even any busses that go to it; walking school only. So, all of our families, from different backgrounds, some of which don’t even speak the same language, feel like family. The teachers walk the kids into school in the morning, and dismiss them one at a time in the afternoon. Every teacher, no matter what the grade knows the names of our kids. It’s this intimacy that has helped make this advanced curriculum so successful so far, I think.

Bennett’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Albert, shares my amazement at the complexity of this curriculum. The kids are learning to not only write creatively, but are being taught to edit. The fact that “editing and revising” are words they know just flabberghasts me. They understand the importance of going back over your work to look for places to add more detail and to remove extra words and phrases that don’t contribute to the text. While it excites me to have Ben be even more a part of my writing process in this way, I can see the big picture enough to know that this is a lesson that means more in his life than just about writing. I have to think that this careful attention to detail about the written word is going to help these kids really think about what they say in life in general. To think harder about the quality of person they put out there.

After editing and revising their work for these points, the kids then exchange their work for proofreading. They’re learning that an outside opinion of their creative work and another point of view on something that’s personal to them is valuable. It’s much different than when I was their age and would write to be judged by the teacher on whether or not it was good enough. This gains them the approval of their peers, encourages openness about feelings and opinions, causes them to accept one another’s interests and open their minds to new ideas. When I was a kid I was overprotective of my writing, hid it from view, never shared it and thought for sure I would be openly ridiculed for what I  liked. If I’d had this kind of support from school, I don’t think that would have happened.

All in all, the point of teaching the kids about editing, revising, and getting feedback is so that by the time they go into second, third and fourth grade, they hand in quality work. That they own their creative process enough to not need the correction of simple things. This will translate into every aspect of their lives when it’s supported at home, I feel.

Also, THOSE KIDS THINK I’M AWESOME AND I LOVE THAT.

To be able to field questions about how I come up with my ideas and listen to how they come up with their own fiction was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. One little girl told me about how she sometimes pictures dragons with her when she gets ready for school, and she’s writing about it in her diary. I got to tell that kid she just made up an urban fantasy story just like I do. (She then turned to Bennett and said, “We definitely need a playdate. Your mom’s cool.”) Telling them how I edit and revise, how Ben sees me do it at home, and how I’m doing the same thing that they do was so much fun. They’re doing the same thing as me and I write books. Which means they can write books.

I got to tell them about how Kristen and I would pass a notebook back and forth when were not so much older than them, and how we’d write a line of a story one after another, making a whole story together. Now we still do it, and we both write books, and we love to get each other’s feedback. I had no idea it would become such a monumental part of my life now, make me so much me. They asked me if I know a lot of authors, and I had the extreme pleasure of saying, “yes, I do.” They thought that was amazing. I think it’s pretty amazing, too.  

Something that wasn’t even anywhere on my radar at their age was the publishing process. These kids GET IT. Weird as hell. One kid asked me if a company published my first book or if I did it. I got to tell him that  a company published mine, but that anybody that practices what they’re doing right now can self-publish a book, do the whole thing from the ground up. Anyone can be an author. What an amazing thing to be able to tell a bunch of bright eyed kids filled with creativity and love of getting feedback from their peers. I love that not a one of those kids was too shy to talk about what they write about, the things that they find exciting to read. That fear of acceptance was nowhere in the room. I love it more than I can say.

And when one little girl told me how when she’s in karate class, she imagines she’s in a book about karate class, I got to tell her that there was karate in my book, too. EVERY KID GASPED LIKE IT WAS THE COOLEST THING THEY EVER HEARD. So, mostly I feel like a rock star right about now.

It’s important to me to point out that the entire country is irritated by the cutting of programs in schools. I get it. But what we don’t look for often enough is the ability to integrate what we find missing in our school curriculum into the current curriculum. (Yeah, you do have a say in it, folks. It isn’t just about being on the PTA.) Not to mention, never in my life did I imagine that my seven year old would be learning about editing and revising. It’s not something I ever thought was missing from his education, but now that it’s there I see how incredible it will be for his class. Look outside the box, parents, and think of what might be beneficial to your kids that can be implemented in your school. Suggest it. Offer to go in and help out with it. Anyone can do this. When you show your kids that anyone can introduce something new and help, it makes them believe they can do it, too, and it shows them that you care enough to support them in it. It’s a little bit of “quit your bitching and make lemonade” philosophy. Being progressive is about losing some of the old and creating some of the new.

Yeah, I learned that from editing and revising.

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Taking Myself Out of a Teeny Tiny Little Box

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Hazelnut. Or “The Kristen Killer.”

By Julie

 

Stuff has been weird! After finishing The Animal, I had a countdown until the day when I would open it back up to start editing, 2 weeks later.

THIS IS NOT A BREAK FROM YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

This is waiting for the moment when you can admit you never really wanted to finish it in the first place. This does not give you clarity of thought with which to face the second phase; this is never really finishing the first phase.

I only realized this when I picked up Running Home  again, which I have been allowing to collect dust for a few months. No revisions, no edits, no reading of excerpts, no querying. Just sitting while I focused on the very demanding Trent Dixon.

Querying is my arch nemesis, or at least it had been for Running Home, and I didn’t even give it that much of a chance, being able to count on 2 hands the number of them I sent out. But I just couldn’t feel the query, couldn’t make it work the way the storyline did, couldn’t capture my voice in it.

It was not until I gave myself this long break, wrote another novel, wrote countless short stories and blogs that I understood I did not even know exactly what my voice was to write the query. If I was asked what my writing style was like, I couldn’t have accurately answered. That’s all changed and changing now. I needed some more experience. And I needed to beta read for some other people, to make comparisons.

So, sitting down on our Monday drinking night with Kristen and a batch of homemade brownies, we took a fresh look at the query for Running Home. I surprised myself by realizing that it wasn’t a hard novel to write a query for. I was looking at the structure of the story as some convoluted mess of conflicts, which is ridiculous when I know better than anyone that it is about a series of events caused by my characters’ decisions in a world where there may not be any real choices.

All in all, I was too close to the frigging thing, and I am probably still too close to The Animal  to do it justice, too.

Now I am toying with the idea of leaving The Animal alone for a month to pursue a different project, as yet TBD. There’s no set time limit that’s right to let your work alone. For me, it has to feel like it went away to camp. Like I sent it off somewhere, missed it, didn’t know I missed it, but was really happy to see it come back.

Time to open up my mind and take the unplanned path again. Time to be a creator, and know that in creating new things, I will see a different side of my finished works. It’s a learning process. So, Trent, sit back for a while. Be ready to be ignored.

 

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