Friday, January 10, 2014

Question: My student should be a writer!

I am a 9th grade English teacher.  I have a student who is a gifted writer. It is my greatest wish that she one day becomes a prominent young adult writer.     I must admit my ignorance when it comes to the publication of books.  Any assistance you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

There are lots of ways to help your student without swimming in shark-infested waters.

For writers of all ages and experience levels, one of the best places to start is The discussion boards there are populated by generally much nicer, much friendlier and more helpful people than my office. (Especially when I'm there alone!)


Colin Smith said...

Actually, there are a couple of pieces of advice Janet has given a number of times that I think applies to your student:

1) Read and write a lot. Hone your craft. When you have a story that you, and people who don't mind being brutally honest with you, think is the very best you have to offer, query it.

2) When querying, don't mention your age. In the case of minors, age is only relevant when it comes to signing contracts... and then perhaps after the novel has sold as a marketing thing.

Craig F said...

Be very careful to encourage and not push. The direction that your question pointed looking closer to you living vicariously through your student. That could be a very dangerous thing.

I don't know about your school system but where I live 9th grade is a year removed from being king of junior high and a step into the peonage of being a high school underclassmen. That is a very shaky time for self esteem and the strength of the opinions of your peers.

Make offers of help and do not push her into a corner.

Jane Lebak said...

1) Read your student's work. Offer compliments and constructive criticism at her level.

2) Give her good books to read.

The forums at QueryTracker are also supportive and we have a few high-school-age members. http://

Elissa M said...

"It is my greatest wish"

Like Craig, I'm a little worried about your motives. Is it your STUDENT'S wish to become a writer? If not, anything you do is likely to be a turn-off. Even if your student does want to be a writer, you must be careful only to encourage, not push.

That said, the advice offered by others here is spot on. Guide your student to helpful sites and encourage her to read, read, read, and read a little more.

Michelle Kollar said...

The Query Shark academy! I've been learning how to break the rules since 2008! :P

Erica Eliza said...

My advice for young writers:
Find out which of your favorite authors have blogs and read them regularly
Write write write all the time
Go to conferences for young writers. (Psst, teachers, this is a good extra credit project)
Make friends at school (also online) who write and swap stories
Educate yourself on the publication process but don't worry about getting published now. If you've only been writing seriously for a year or two you're not ready. High school is a great time to develop writing habits, learn how to love a story, and decide what kind of writer you want to be. I'm 17 and I told myself I won't query until I've graduated. Reading sites like this helps you build up query knowledge so you have it when you need it.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

My writing partner and I both teach writing. Once or twice a year we find a stellar writer. We encourage them to write. We encourage them to read widely, including books they wouldn't ordinarily read.

Rarely, we find an upper-grades student ready to publish. There are many e-zines and small press magazines out there who will take submissions. They pay nothing, but it is an introduction to the agony of the submission process.

(Thinking of my first exposure still gives me headaches!)

We encourage them to share their writing. We teach four grade sets: 2-3, 4-6, 5-7, and 7-12. I read to the second and third graders. This last semester I read Wizard of Oz to them, using it to show how to create a hook and how to write dialogue, and simply to entertain them with a book. My writing partner starts a story and lets his lower-grades classes build on it. We use a writing prompt of some sort in all the classes except for the High Schoolers.

I bring things that prompt imagination. A small flattened volcanic bomb from Mt. Mazama turned into "dragon poo" in the collective imagination of one class. A decorative porcelain ball turned into a giant eye. Sometimes I write a story for my elementary classes. (Gives me good feed back too.)

I have a novel out there. My writing partner has children's stories. But we write history these days. (We both teach that too) Non-fiction writing requires the same imagination and talent that fiction writing does. Imagination plays out at the research stage, driving one into areas others might not have explored.

In each class, at all grades, we read the stories in class. Critique becomes more serious the older the students are. We take student writing to the white board and let the class "edit." Good feedback grows good writers.

So ... this rambling post sums up this way. 1. Keep her reading; 2. Prompt her imagination. 3. Encourage her to write regularly and share it with others.