Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


The Andreson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies

I am fortunate to be spending two weeks on a residency in Red Wing, Minnesota at the Anderson Center. I am interviewing Robert Hedin who is a distinguished poet and wants to get his words just right. I will post the interview next week. In the meantime I will say that the Anderson Center welcomes applications from writers for children, provides board and lodging at no fee, and is a wonderful place to work.


Inspiring the Writers of Tomorrow

Everyone knows the importance of reading in a child's life, but Chadwick Gillenwater, aka Professor Watermelon, inspires kids to use their imaginations and write their own stories. I asked Professor Watermelon to share some of his vision with our blog.

Why the alias, 'Professor Watermelon'?

When I decided that I wanted to teach creative writing to children, I wondered how I could inspire them best. I figured that becoming a character would certainly be the best place to start. After all, one of the major components of creative writing is creating memorable characters. My students see my example from the beginning and are inspired to create their own characters from day one.

What classes do you offer to children?

Like most writers, my philosophy is that “The more you know, the more inspired you will be to write.” And this is the focus in all of my classes. We learn the nuts and bolts of basic plotting and storytelling – but we also learn about people, places, and things from this world and beyond. One week we may learn about plastic flamingo yard ornaments and how they became so popular in America. We may learn about Venetian Masquerades or Louis Armstrong. From all of these topics, children will inevitably find a muse and want to create a story of their own. Using this method, children understand that knowledge can become inspiration, and inspiration becomes art.

What is your favorite part of working with kids on their writing?

At least twice a month we have “Open Mic.” I love to see the confidence in children’s faces when their audience smiles and claps for their story. I love to see the “aha” moments when children get a concept and then use it successfully in their writing. I also love seeing students get lost inside their mind and retrieve some of the most creative morsels that would make any adult writer jealous.

Can you tell us a bit about the 'I Chronicles'?

The “I Chronicles” make up my curriculum. Each Imagination Chronicle will explore a writing concept or a possible “muse” topic. A muse topic can be anything from Jupiter to Eleanor Roosevelt. Say for example we use Jupiter - the Imagination Chronicle would contain the most interesting and inspiring facts on Jupiter so that a student may chose to use Jupiter as their muse. They may choose to use Jupiter as a setting, or maybe they will be inspired to create their own planet as setting in a story. The Imagination Chronicles give students a jumping-off point into their own imagination.

How can kids get their stories published in The Watermelon Press?

After a student completes a second or third draft of their story, they may turn it in to me, Professor Watermelon, for publication in the Watermelon Press. The Watermelon Press is an online ezine located on my website. http://www.professorwatermelon.com/. This is a perfect way for students to share their stories with family and friends who live in other parts of the country or world. It also gives students the satisfaction that their work is out there for the world to see. At that point, they are technically a published author.

Your website says you offer students 'melon money.' What the heck is that?

Melon Money is created by me and kept in the Melon Money Vault in the back of my classroom. They are small dollar bills with a slice of watermelon on them instead of George Washington. Melon Money is earned by completing drafts of stories. At the end of each class, I auction off items that will inspire more creativity. Some items include: writing supplies, art supplies, books, movies, family movie and/or museum passes, etc.

As you can tell from his answers, Chadwick's -- er, I mean Professor Watermelon's -- passion and enthusiasm for teaching the craft of creative writing to children is evident in every line. Check out his website when you get a chance. Better yet, tell a child you know to check it out!!