While not all avid readers turn into writers, most writers start out as avid readers. If you have a young family member who can’t get enough of books, who seems to gallop from the first page to the last, who wears out her or his library card, and whose bookshelf is crammed, you might possibly be harboring a budding author.
Encourage her or him.
Most young authors have vivid imaginations and have no trouble thinking of a subject to write about, but if your author-in-training’s imagination is slow to ignite, you can strike a spark with some suggestions. Here are a few:
Write a “Cinderella” story in which the main character is a boy, not a girl, who meets a princess, not a prince, at the ball.
Write a story about the child or children of a famous storybook character. Again, Cinderella is a good example: Cinderella’s children, or Cinderella’s daughter.
Write a story focusing on a character in a story who isn’t the hero or heroine of the original story. Friar Tuck from the Robin Hood tales would be an example.
Write a tall tale in the style of the Paul Bunyan or Mike Fink or Pecos Bill stories.
Write a “mash-up,” in which you mix two genres: Cowboys in outer space would be an example.
Of course, not all writers write fiction. Your future author may be a budding nonfiction writer. If that’s the case, he or she can try his/her hand at one of these activities:
Write and “publish” a family newspaper, reporting on the family news. (Wouldn’t Grandma and Grandpa love to get a copy?!)
Interview a family member who has an interesting story to tell and write an article about it. It could be the time Dad’s canoe overturned on a wilderness trip, Uncle Ronnie’s experiences in the Vietnam war, the time Mom was in the bank and found herself in the middle of a robbery, forced down on the floor and threatened at gunpoint, how Cousin Kimberley won the science award, or how Aunt Marian became the first woman on her town’s police force.
Your young author can also write short biographies of famous people by looking them up on the internet, reading about them, distilling what he or she has read, and then writing a lively, short bio that would appeal to other kids his/her age.
Of course, journaling is an exercise in writing, and while diaries are often thought of as girls’ territory, journals are for both sexes. For that matter, even diaries are not really strictly for girls. Such famous male writers as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, and Samuel Pepys kept diaries as well. But whether the young writer thinks of his/her reporting as keeping a diary or writing a journal, writing the day’s or week’s events in an interesting fashion is good practice for any writer, but particularly one more inclined toward nonfiction than fiction.
Do you have a budding writer or potential writer—one who loves to read (or maybe lives to read), or one who makes up stories “out loud”? Encourage him or her!