Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Summer summer summer...

Summer is just about officially over. Looking back on the writerly things I did, there are a few that top my list. I was thrilled to be a speaker at the SCBWI conference in Maryland along with David, John, Lauren, Betsy, and Edie. Definitely a highlight of the summer.
At the conference, my editor Liz handed me her revision notes for my novel The Raft. I'm happy to report after all my hard ( okay, perhaps a tad obsessive) work the past month, it went to copy edits on Friday. Whew.
The most inspiring thing I did this summer involved my work as the Harney County Writer in Residence. Since my stint started in January, I've been in schools all over the county. In early August, I did workshops at the Eastern Oregon Academy, a court-ordered facility for boys ages 12-16 who have found themselves in trouble for one thing or another. The boys are there for a year. I wasn't sure what to expect, or if they would even want to do any writing.
I was blown away. They had all read The Compound and had so many questions for me. They were so receptive and engaged, and all are amazing souls with heartbreaking stories. One boy brought his piece up for me to read and I wept, I couldn't help it. Those boys may feel like no one listens to them, but through their words on paper, they have discovered their voice. Many were already poets and writers long before I showed up, and the work they shared with me was so powerful.
The week I spent with them was my favorite of the entire Writer in Residence program and I was sorry to have to say goodbye. To me, they were so inspiring and they made me want to go home and be a better writer. They made me realize that, despite wanting to please my agent and my editor and the reviewers, I need to be writing for my readers. That sounds dumb, I know, I mean, who else would I be writing for? But honestly, in the world of YA, there are so many adults you have to make happy that you forget your actual intended audience. I won't be doing that anymore.


Christy said...

Wow, Stephanie, I wonder if there is a way to collect and publish the writing of the kids from the Eastern Oregon Academy. I know it would be a big job, but so meaningful. Maybe a grant?

One of the books I art directed/designed for Lee & Low, YUMMY: THE LAST DAYS OF A SOUTHSIDE SHORTY a graphic novel by Greg Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke Here's a decription from L&L's site: "is a compelling dramatization based on events that occurred in Chicago in 1994. This gritty exploration of youth gang life will force readers to question their own understandings of good and bad, right and wrong."

YUMMY is widely read in prisons now and generally has received LOTS of attention. So wouldn't it be cool for kids to read a book showcasing the actual voices of other kids? So glad you really listened to those kids' experiences. Maybe some will turn into writers. What a gift you will have given them for their whole lives.

Also, not sure if there is something comparable where you are, but the local public radio features "Youth Perspectives" and it's a wonderful opportunity to hear authentic young voices. Great stuff in both of these links below.

high school kids:

middle school kids (great lesson plans from teacher provided):

Stephanie said...

Thanks for all those. Actually, the writer in residence program is doing an anthology of writing from all the kids I saw this year. Well, selections, not all of them. But the boys at EOA were so excited when I told them that, it was so important to them to be heard.

Christy said...

Stephanie, that is great! I'm convinced that is exactly the kind of stuff that shapes lives.