posted by Beret
Seeing as I can’t grow a mustache this month (c.f. Movember), I’d like to focus on writing instead. November’s actually the easiest month of the year to do so.
Writing is often a solitary activity, and left to my own devices, I am easily mesmerized by videos of adorable animals frolicking, or meatheads having staple gun fights. Any time outside of teaching, parenting, and editing would be easily devoured by YouTube and Iron Chef.
Consequently, I am a huge fan of writing groups, writing classes, National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), National Blog Posting Month, and all of those organized writing extravaganzas. I thrive with structure and community, deadlines and systems of accountability. I like having someone looking over my shoulder–not annoying people, mind you, but the delightful, word-loving types.
The year I did NaNoWriMo was crazy and fabulous, with pep talks from Jonathan Franzen rolling into my inbox, videos to entertain and encourage me, forums, essays, and write-ins at local coffee shops. It was all designed help build and maintain my momentum, and I loved it. I wrote more that month than ever before or since. Some of it’s a load of crap, but nestled in there are nuggets I never would have created watching Maru.
There’s a lot going on for adult writers. But let’s say you have a non-adult or two around who likes to write. What’s out there for them?
What resources are available to support young writers in their endeavors?
Here are just a few:
1. Did you know that the Office of Letters and Light–the incubator of NaNoWriMo–has a young writers’ program?
In November, they run a smaller-scaled NaNoWrimMo geared to middle- and high-school-aged students throughout the month of November. Once a kid (or class!) signs up, they are guided through the process of setting word count goals for their novels, and tracking their progress. The site is aesthetically pleasing and done with some humor. It includes pep talks from young writers as well as published authors–including one from Wendy Mass–plus, forums to meet other young writers to discuss the progress of their novels or issues they encounter along the way. There are writing “dares” and procrastination games for when they need inspiration or a break.
The Young Writers’ Program also hosts Camp NaNoWriMo–“an Idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.” Camp NaNo has a similar structure of online support and tools to track one’s progress. As far as I can tell, the only difference is it takes place in April and/or July instead of November.
On the YWP website, you can find awesome writing workbooks for elementary, middle, and high-school aged students–free to download as pdfs, with hard copies available for purchase. These workbooks help them to plan out their novel: creating characters, building a setting, and assembling the plot. I sent one to my niece for her 15th birthday, because that girl has about six novels trying to get out! Let’s make it happen.
2. 826 Valencia.
If you live in the Bay Area, chances are you’ve heard of Dave Eggers and his literacy project/pirate store located–you guessed it–at 826 Valencia Street. This organization has just received the Library of Congress American Literacy Award. I’d been in the shop before, looking for eyepatches and cures for scurvy, but finally got to go in the back with my daughter’s second grade class a few months ago. Amazing. Highly recommend for teachers in search of an educational and fun field trip.
But did you know 826 also offers all kinds of workshops for writers from ages 6-18? Just this Fall, there’s a workshop on creating comic books, one on writing sketch comedy–that’s right, for 11-14 year olds!–one on journalism, which produces work for a website, and one that pairs writing professionals with young people to help them achieve their creative works. Last, but not least, they have started Working Draft Writers’ Club, an evening writing club for young adults as well as adults. Word is, they actually advocate pens and paper!
Let’s say you live somewhere else, though…like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan, or Washington, D.C. At this point, 826 National has chapters in all of those cities, as well. Check it out!
I found the Young Authors’ Guide on http://www.NewPages.com. This is a great stockpile of resources for young writers including writing contests, publications which accept submissions from young writers, lists of workshops, indie bookstores, alternative magazines, and literary magazines.
(Here’s where I would paste their adorable logo if I were allowed.)
I haven’t been on the PBS Kids site for a while because thankfully my kids outgrew Max and Ruby years ago. Ruby was always henpecking in a patronizing tone, and Max refused to say more than one word for the entire episode. That show made me crazy.
So glad I went back to take a look, though, because there are ongoing writing contests for kids in kindergarten through third grade. A child can easily navigate this website to read others’ submissions, make his or her own books using a KidPix type program, and submit to the website.
5. Kits of all sorts.
Hunting around online, I found a host of bookmaking kits–often with envelopes to mail away the pages and cover designs. These are then returned as a professionally typeset, hardcoverbook. Illustory A+ and My Comic Book Kit are examples of these.
Create Your Own 3 Bitty Books is really just three small blank books, with matte paper on the cover and spine so markers, pens, and pencils can draw and write on every surface. Still, there is something so much more exciting about working in a blank book than on a piece of paper.
There is also software for kids to make books: Story Wizard is the one that looks most promising, but I haven’t yet tried it. Let me know if you have!
Like Shutterfly, Blurb is a great place to take your images and ideas and make them into a tangible book. The only downside, perhaps, is that the free, downloadable software is too complex for little people. This is probably for high school and up, and it is geared more toward images and text as opposed to novels. But in fact, many artists I know make frequent use of Blurb to put work into book form. It is an incredible tool out there, just waiting for creative people.
I’m sure there are a million things to add to the list. This is just an appetizer.
Feel free to add ideas and resources in the comments!