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59 ways to get writing

messner_59 reasons to writeThe Internet is full of writers talking about writing. Plenty of authors support each other and exchange advice online. But not all of these writers share wisdom extensively enough, or in a format organized enough, that those thoughts can be gathered into a book. That’s what Kate Messner’s done — with the help of fellow authors including Jo Knowles, Linda Urban, and A. J. Paquette — in 59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers (Stenhouse, January 2015).

Prolific kids’ author Messner started an online summer writing camp for teachers in 2012. The idea behind Teachers Write! was that teachers who walk the walk, who write for themselves instead of just giving writing exercises to their students, become better teachers as well as better writers. With the help of some writer friends, Messner created a weekly schedule: Mini-Lesson Mondays, Quick-Write Tuesdays and Thursdays, Q-and-A Wednesdays, and Writing Happy Hour on Fridays. Messner and guest authors contributed content, and campers were free to participate as frequently or infrequently as they wished.

59 Reasons to Write consists of fifty-nine mini-lessons that grew out of Teachers Write! The lessons, some by Messner and some by other authors, are grouped into chapters by topic, including some process-oriented chapters (from “Getting Started” to”I’m Stuck!” to “Revising and Critiquing”), and some focused on specific story elements or genres (“Characters,” “Plot and Pacing,” “Poetry”). The lessons come with “assignments,” usually writing prompts, to get creative juices flowing. Jo Knowles chimes in with “Morning Warm-Up” activities, and lots of authors’ advice is featured in “The Best of Q-and-A Wednesday.” How do you choose a point of view? How do you maximize your research time?

If you’ve been to a writing workshop or conference, a lot of the discussions will sound familiar. If you haven’t — if, say, you’re a busy teacher — this is a great resource to help get you thinking about what writing entails and how to approach many of its conundrums.

Is 59 Reasons to Write only for teachers? The advice is general enough for teachers to be able to apply it when they teach their students, and unlike many writing guides, the book spends virtually no ink on the subject of how to get published. But there’s very little here that’s only applicable to a classroom. If anyone in your life is looking to give creative writing a try, 59 Reasons to Write might just give them a few more reasons to get started.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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