Calling Young Writers!
By Mary Claire Branton
As founding artistic director of Charlie’s Port, I produce creative projects with children who write or perform comedic, religious, spiritual, political, esoteric, avant-garde and barrier breaking material with specific audience targets. Phew. How can children do such things when just reading that sentence is dizzying? Easy. We underestimate children.
Mikayla Lowery wrote over 200 stories and completed her first novel by age ten. A child writing a book sounds unbelievable, but most of her chapters were short stories written in notebooks, one at a time. She fell in love with a certain character that made her laugh. Eventually, Mikayla had penned many quirky adventures of a darling redhead who can’t stay out of trouble. We now have a 40,000-word middle grade comedy to be released in October titled Zoey’s Zany Life. Mikayla is the youngest published author of 2018.
Piano prodigy, Ken Noda, warns that many geniuses undergo midlife crises in their late teens or early twenties if imagination is not replenished with experience. If children can do something well, we should encourage them. Reasonably. Balance is key. In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik points out that “for every prodigy doomed to misery by early success, we can cite another who started off strong and kept going.” It is best to strive for balance in every child, eliminating the teeter-totter between helicopter parents and apathetic relativists. It is one thing to encourage and nurture precocious youngsters with exceptional proclivities. Yet, constructing fascist home environments that demand perfection from every toddler mastering Beethoven in a booster seat is absolutely insane.
So how do we properly encourage tiny authors to write, even those not destined to be the next Ayn Rand or C.S. Lewis? There are many things parents can do that will actually benefit the whole family. Tap into the power of your trusty dictionary. Placing intriguing words on the fridge will improve the vocabulary of any child. A monthly manifest is magnificent, and you only compile it once every four or five weeks. Pick a rainy day and sit at your computer with a cup of tea. Sift through Merriam-Webster and gather a list of 30 to 90 words, cutting and pasting their definitions into a calendar. Print that calendar and talk about the new words on the fridge every night at dinner. Using them in sentences is a fabulous way to improve grammar and spark meaningful conversation. Simple SAT vocabulary like “amiable” will do, but you could go for words like “sesquipedalian” if you want to push the envelope. Think about the power you have, guiding the family dynamic. Oh, the places you’ll go while eating spaghetti!
Ask your children where they want to go. Have them write descriptions of that. Ask them about interesting people they know, or animals. Have them fictionalize those. Ask them to draw fantastic situations and then describe them in words. Drawing is a great way to begin a story, because it can sit as inspiration a foot next to the pen or keyboard. When kids spend time drawing, characters come alive and inspire plots. Read what they are writing and offer wholesome feedback, void of harmful criticism.
No story is a good story without conflict. Generating conflict is also a great way to vicariously overcome obstacles. It is a wonderful way to examine negative behaviors in society, delivering justice and discovering solutions to problems with which kids identify. The best way to encourage, especially improve, creative writing in kids is getting them to read. The more they read, the better they will write. Honestly, the better they will do anything.
Children have a tremendous capacity to communicate complex ideas in many art forms. If your child has a book within, I’m always ready to receive ideas and product that can change the world or launch an early career. It’s what I love and what I do. I will leave you with sage wisdom from Mikayla Lowery. “When you write, you can romp through infinity with just a piece of paper, a pencil, and your mind. The only thing that limits you is your imagination.”
We were honored to meet Mary Claire Branton at Southern Christian Writers Conference. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and serves as an editor and publisher of child authors and illustrators at Charlie’s Port. If your child wrote a book, you can send her a query at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Do You Raise a Prodigy? By: Andrew Solomon https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/magazine/how-do-you-raise-a-prodigy.html
How To Raise a Prodigy By: Adam Gopnik https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/29/how-to-raise-a-prodigy
Calling all Kid Authors By: Mikayla Lowery http://www.charliesport.org/calling-all-kid-authors/