What grown-up writers can learn from third graders
It’s Sunday, which means Chris Coward is here to tell us about the Conference and other things conference, FWA, and FWF-related.
I recently had the privilege of judging a pilot writing competition sponsored by the Florida Writers Foundation. Seven classes of third graders competed at the Belleview-Santos Elementary School in central Florida.
Prizewinning authors (the seven short ones)
From left: Luis Rodriguez, third place; Carlysa Smith, second place; Analeise Ramirez, first place; Jadelyn Snyder; Shayla Green; Kinley Stuart; and Catherine Messina. Adults (back row), from left: school Principal Teresa Forsyth and judges Mary Adair Paisley and Frank Ridge (I was taking the picture).
The goal was to foster literacy by getting the students fired up about writing. Well, when the awards were conferred on May 18 in the school auditorium, it was clear that goal had been met. The room was abuzz with the kids’ sheer joy in expressing themselves through the written word.
And what words they were! I was amazed by the lessons they held.
- Make it fresh: I was sweating like a pig. I had gone from being as fat as a nine monthed pregnant lady to being as skinny [as a] noodle.
- Keep it active: I turned and rocketed to the door.
- Keep it natural: He cackled as he left the room. “Ha ha.”
- Be specific: So I got in trobble for one month and 27 days.
- Make it heartfelt: I was elated to see light again.
Not bad lessons for us grown-ups whose writing may not be as fresh, active, natural, specific, and heartfelt as it used to be.
Incidentally, The Florida Writers Foundation (FWF) is a charitable organization founded to promote literacy. It partners with Lawyers for Literacy, the Florida Writers Association, Friends of the Library, and the Florida Literacy Coalition. Among other initiatives, FWF donates books to schools in underprivileged areas and produces a “Meet the Authors” video series for the Florida Department of Education. FWF raises funds through a Silent Auction conducted during the FWA annual conference, so please bid for a prize while you’re there (it’s a painless way to do your holiday shopping). You can also donate to the Auction; contact Wilma Fleming for details: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out the daylong FWF fundraising workshop in October given by bestselling author Steve Berry: http://floridawriters.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/nyt-bestseller-steve-berry-headlines-fwf-event-oct-20/. Steve will talk about the industry and walk us through some lessons of good writing.
Which brings us back to the Belleview-Santos third-graders. They and their teachers are to be commended for the students’ fresh, active, natural, specific, and heartfelt papers, but most of all for their sheer joy in sharing themselves with others through the written word. Good lessons for us all!