On August 18th, Elmwood Park Branch of the Detroit Public Library System held a workshop for young writers aged 10-14 to learn more about “How to Turn Your Adventures into Stories.” Beth Fine, Tennessee author of the middle school mystery series Picaresque of Ímagine Purple, taught the workshop.
Wanting attendees to grasp how observation is a writer’s main tool for capturing details and how details add authenticity to characters and settings, Fine gave a brief autobiography and a summary of a book she wrote in the fourth grade. The kids recognized story details that came from her real life as a Texas tomboy living near a bayou in the woods. Thus they learned a writer’s first rule: “Write what you know!”
Fine used a technique called wagon-wheeling to display the story’s major details and to explore some variations. For instance, when the main character disappeared, the class analyzed how the writer had set a mystery for readers to wonder if the tomboy ran away, escaped to a secret hiding place, got lost, drowned, or was kidnapped.
Then, some kids shared a personal adventure, wagon-wheeled it, and practiced borrowing outside hints to expand their own concept. Fine encouraged the children to resist a stiff, please-others attitude in their writing and to let their imaginations fly freely to release the story within.
Pat Walker, the juvenile/teen librarian, insured a successful workshop by inviting good readers and writers to attend. Knowing how to win over kids, she also provided juice and snacks at the half-time. That really helped because the building air conditioning had broken down. We all did our share of sweating but lost only one kid out of ten.
Those who persevered to the end received a detective’s magnifying glass, a Picaresque E-book, and a label of the mystery series motto: Have Fun. Get Smarter.™ Fine also held a drawing and gave away IMASODES I & II* to the winner. The afternoon proved Elmwood Park has kids eager to learn. http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/branch/elmwood-park
IMASODE I: Last Passenger Train Across Newfoundland
IMASODE II: Scary Ferry to Nova Scotia