Archive for the ‘Student Writing’ Category:

5 Rights Teen Writers Deserve

…and teen non-writers deserve them, too.


Teens have taught me a bunch about writing over the last couple of decades–both the teens who have already written five novels and the ones who would rather scrub under the refrigerator than pick up a pen. For a lot of teens, writing was ruined for them by third grade. For others, dutifully writing their five-paragraph essays, their love affair with writing is made up of clandestine moments, stolen from their more “important” term papers and college applications.

The needs of these writers are simple, but those needs often can’t–or won’t–be accommodated in school. They come down to two basic principles: ownership and community. Here’s what I think most teens ask of their parents, mentors, friends and teachers when it comes to their writing.

1. I have a right to secret writing. I may keep a private journal. It may have poems or stories in it; it may have letters I never send; it may have just random thoughts. But it is not for public consumption; it is not for anyone who wants to check my spelling or penmanship; it is not even there so you can read my poetry, celebrate my talent and understand me better. When and if I want to share it with someone, I will. In the meantime, do not ask.

2. I have a right to choose what I write about. I know I’ll have assignments for school that I don’t choose; I get that. But I have a right to channel my creativity in a way that rocks my world–even if my song lyrics make no sense to you or my spokenword piece might shock Great Aunt Betty. I have a right to create my own body of work.

3. If I am part of a writing group or class, I have a right to either share my work or not share it. Sometimes sharing my work with a group is helpful and feels good. But sometimes the writing isn’t yet ready to share. And some writing will never be ready to share. I have a right to know I can write from a deep place inside of myself, or that I can experiment and the teacher will not demand to have the work read.

4. I have a right to accept or reject critique. If I choose to get feedback on my work (and I can choose not to), I am not obligated to change the work in the way the critiquer suggests. Even if the person giving the critique is my best friend. Even if it is my mom. Even if it is an award-winning author. I have a right to decide what is useful to the piece and what is not, and to base my revisions on the advice believe best serves the work.

5. I have a right to be listened to, encouraged, and respected. If I can find a group of people who feel like my “tribe,” because they are just as strange and quirky as I am, I may show them my secret writing–misspellings and all. I may share my spokenword piece with them and hear theirs. I may write weird, experimental collaborations with some of them. I may listen to their critique and weigh it carefully, because not only are we all becoming stronger writers, these people know me. And the real reason I write is to know and to be known.


If you know a teen still looking for a “tribe” of creatives, we’d love to have them at our TEENWrite EPIC overnight May 17-18 at Camp Huston. Our 10th anniversary Summer TEENWrite EPIC camp will be July 8-12 at Fort Casey.


You Know You’re a Fantasy Writer When…

by Kayleen Gill, who is one of my TEENWriters.

Kayleen playing Hanna at the launch party for Janet Lee Carey's Dragons of Noor in 2010. Note baby dragon on shoulder.

Kayleen playing Hanna at the launch party for Janet Lee Carey’s Dragons of Noor in 2010. Note baby dragon on shoulder. Photo by Heidi Pettit, LitArt Photography

You know you’re a fantasy writer when…

1. …you spend countless hours inventing an Elvish alphabet.
2. …you have an ongoing debate with a friend over whether dragons are irredeemably evil or not.
3. …you’re worried that the FBI might investigate you because you keep Googling things like combat strategy, defenses, fortifications, weaponry, explosives…
4. …you mutter nonsense syllables to yourself, trying to decide if they sound Elvish or not.
5. …you interview an EMT and one of your questions involves a stabbed character in a subterranean environment.
6. …you’re playing capture-the-flag on horseback and think, “Huh, I could use these sensory details for a cavalry battle scene…”
7. …you wear a sword all day just to see what it would be like (annoying, FYI).
8. …you own a long black cloak with a big hood that makes you look like a Nazgul.
9. …you know that it’s really hard to swordfight or run around in the woods while wearing the above cloak.
10. …you are visiting Hawaii and buy a necklace with a pendant that—to you—resembles a dragon’s tooth.
11. …your desk is covered with plush dragons.
12. …your friend gives you a necklace for your birthday and you thank her and exclaim, “It looks so Elvish!”
13. …your friend knows that’s a compliment.
14. …you own both Dragonology and Monsterology and pore over them as if they were ancient texts.
15. …you study other cultures so you can use them as inspiration for your invented ones.
16. …you study history to look for fodder for your books.
17. …your friends tell you that your ears are getting pointier.
18. …you study biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, medicine, and just about every other aspect of science, mining for interesting tidbits of information to use.
19. …you know the definition of words like “ramparts,” “battlements,” “crenellations,” and “portcullis.”
20. …you own a book titled Knives and Swords: A Visual History and regularly flip through it for reference and ideas.
21. …you have a collection of miscellaneous trinkets such as a shiny blue stone, a “dragon’s fang” on a leather chord, and a vial of random herbs.
22. …you pretend that the above items have magical properties.
23. …you build models of palaces on Google Sketch-Up.
24. …someone asks if you can speak in tongues and you want to know if Elvish counts.
25. …cold, misty nights give you wonderful scene ideas.
26. …tombs give you the chills, but in a good way.
27. …someone asks what your favorite animal is and you immediately answer “dragons,” “phoenixes,” or “gryphons” without a second thought.
28. …you have been known to use invented swear words as exclamations.
29. …you’re driving through the desert and envision an army on the ridge above you and decide that this would be a perfect location for an ambush.
30. …also in the desert, you spend several minutes taking pictures of a canyon, trying to figure out how your characters can cross it.
31. …you always have a camera on hand for field trips and vacations because you never know when you’ll find some inspiring scenery or architecture.
32. …the boyfriend/girlfriend of your dreams has pointed ears.
33. …you are convinced that Santa’s “elves” are imposters and are actually gnomes.
34. …you’re taking notes in the middle of church that have nothing to do with the sermon.
35. …your siblings know that your notes have nothing to do with the sermon.
36. …you never, ever go anywhere without a notepad and pen.
37. …you can describe what a dragon smells like.


Spring Vampire Mating Ritual

Sabrina Lowney, who is one of my TEENWriters wrote this, and I just had to share.

Sparkly vampires are actually kind of genius. I mean, Stephanie Meyer took vampires and morphed them into the birds of paradise of the monster world. Can you imagine a short story about sparkly vampires written as though it were a National Geographic/Animal Planet narration? I did, and then I wrote this:

Spring has dawned in the Pacific Northwest, and the mating season has arrived. Our vampire, Edward, is no longer the youngest with the arrival of newly-dead Jasper into the Olympic Coast clan. With Emmett and Rosalie having paired up for the season, Alice is now the clan’s only eligible female. In previous years, Edward would have had a clear shot. But this time, he will have to challenge the younger, sparklier vampire, Jasper, for mating rights.

On a makeshift stage in a forest clearing, the vampires wait for sun. Competing male vampires may spend days in their chosen arenas, out in the elements, as they wait. To leave would be to forfeit mating rights. Edward cannot afford to be alone yet another season. His position in the clan depends on proving himself. After the past few decades of being unable to find a mate, Edward’s standing is tenuous. If he fails again this season, he will be further shunned by the clan, and, if the clan is forced to move to a new den, he may be left behind altogether.

But Jasper, too, needs this victory. As the newest member of the Olympic Coast clan, Jasper must find a mate this season or he will be banished. If he is kicked out, he will either have to find a new clan, and go through the trials of being accepted there, or face the prospect of life as a lone vampire, where he will have to deal with werewolf packs, faerie prides, goblin pods, trolls, and other predators a lone vampire is ill-equipped to tackle.

When sun finally shines on the meadow clearing, Edward, Jasper, and Alice are ready. In order to be chosen as a mate, Edward must prove to Alice that his sparkle is superior to Jasper’s. To showcase their sparkles in the best light, the male vampires must strip and preform a sort of dance for their intended mate.

Jasper proceeds to frolic around the field, while Edward goes for a more stationary approach. He clasps his hands together and swings his arms in a similar fashion to that of a human with a baseball bat. Edward finishes his routine with a 360 degree spinning jump-hop, keeping his arms out to his sides for balance. It was an admirable effort, but Alice chooses Jasper instead, marking her territory by licking the younger vampire’s neck. Once again, Edward is without a mate.

Steampunk/Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia, Go!

Written by the Scenes and Dreams class (One more Teenage Novelist class to go).  Anyone care to continue the story?

The cobblestone walk was hard beneath my bare feet. I knew this road; it was an old one leading out of town. Shabby Victorian buildings lined the way. Moss and ivy crawled up the faded pink wall of the house on my left. Was this the house Emers had been talking about? There was a sound of breaking glass; I turned my head towards it and in a few small steps, I was up on the broken porch.

“Ehh! What are you doing here! This is private!” The voice seemed to come from inside the house.

I was confused. This property was so dilapidated that nobody could be living here; the holes in the roof were as big as bomb craters.

“Excuse me? Who are you?” I called tentatively. “Emers sent me. Do you know him?” I opened the old oak door, which creaked ominously, like a bad horror movie. Well, this was certainly sketchy

Before I could even take a step inside, he appeared. “Did you say Emers?” He was old and wore a white lab coat made out of gears, which were covered in strange stains. He had goggles on his head, which pressed down his bushy, white hair. “Sorry for the harsh welcome,” he held out his hand, “My name is Dr. Hiram Myers.”

Run, run, run, was my initial thought. But I shook his hand anyway. Emers had mentioned Dr. Myers once. He was a brilliant inventor, but all of his inventions usually managed to blow up–which explained the holes in the roof. I was definitely going to need a Red Bull. “Can you help me with something?” I asked him. “Emers wanted me to get some kind of medallion here. I know that’s kind of a cliché. Creepy house, mad scientist, mysterious medallion–”

Dr. Myers waved his hand dismissively. “Emers is dead,” he said.


Truly Awful Stories #3

Here we continue our series and allow writer Chandler Cook to have a crack at plumbing the depths of awfulness. This one has shades of Peter Shaffer… 

Horse Horse Heaven

By Chandler Cook

        There once was a boy named Ted. Ted liked horses. Ted liked horses so much he loved horses. Ted loved horses.

        The horses were Ted’s god.

        “Who’s there?”

        “It’s me horses, I love you.”

        “We love you too Ted, kiss us.”

        Ted kissed the horses. He braided their hair and put flowers in them. Ted’s head was filled with horses, he thought about them all day long in his brain and he never wanted to be away from his horses, especially the pretty brown one Ted called Queen Horse because she was royalty of Horse Land and she liked to be called that so Ted called her that and Ted was happy because the horses were happy and so was his best friend Mabel who was a cloud shaped like a horse.

        But Mabel wasn’t really happy she was actually a bear who just looked like a horse cloud. Mabel was angry because Ted never told her jokes anymore.

        “Tell me a joke” Mabel said.

        “No,” Ted said, “I’m worshipping the horses,” he said, “especially the pretty brown one called Queen Horse because she likes it.”

        “You’re a horse now Ted.”

        And Ted was a horse. Ted galloped to the horses and told them he was a horse then they said he was a horse and he was a horse so he was a horse.

        Ted was a god now. Ted was an angry horse god because Mabel didn’t believe in horses and neither did his mother who he hadn’t seen since he became a horse.

        Ted killed everyone because he was mad at Mabel. Mabel was a bear so she ate Ted and then Ted was dead.

        The End.

        P.S. Ted came back to live with Mabel and they had babies.

Truly Awful Stories #2

Here is the second in our series–in which we see more of the awfulness a writer can achieve if she truly applies herself.

Night of Endless Sadness
by Sapphire Hotlips (also known as Marie Guenette)

      How could he betray me like this? Oh sorrow, great sorrow! My heart is broken, I feel empty, like a hollow object. That isn’t filled with stuff. The tears fall from my eyes in an endless stream like a waterfall.
            My boyfriend cheated on me. At a party. With another girl. Has anyone ever suffered as much as I am suffering now? I think not. I’ll never love again! I walk out of the room I caught him in, mascara all over my face like a river.
            Then I walk quickly and with alacrity over to the red, big, glass, and massive punch bowl. Then, I see this guy. He smells so heavenly, I can smell his scent better than all the other scents in the room. He looks like one of those guys on the cover of romance novels, with giant, rippling, totally awesome muscles and a white smile. I look at my reflection in the mirror. I see the same girl I always have, big blue eyes, straight blond hair, and perfect teeth. I wonder what I did to deserve being hurt so. Then I think about the guy again. Who is he? I have to know. With his totally rocking bod, it could totally be love at first sight. Then, I think about maybe going to talk to him. Then, I bite my lip and sigh. Then , I think about him some more. Then, I think about how totally awful Tammy King looks in that dress. Then, somebody taps my shoulder, breaking me out of my reverie. Then, I turn.
            Then I see him. It’s the guy. You know, the one that smells good. He smells so good, like some awesome, spicy, woodsy, addicting, amazing cologne. It’s not like any other cologne I’ve smelt before. It’s so overpoweringly amazing that I can’t think of anything else. Scent, scent, scent. Scent.
            “Hi” he then says, his voice, deep, low, and growly, like some snarling, raging, panting, jungle beast. He still smells delicious. And has totally awesome arms.
            Then, we totally talk for a whole five minutes. I totally think we’re in love. I can’t even remember why I was so sad anymore. Ohmigod, he smells so good and he is so hot! Scent!

Truly Awful Stories #1

Beginning with the idea that good writing comes from bad writing, my students in Teenage Novelist were challenged to write the worst story ever. I’ll be posting the results, beginning today.
The Story of How I Single-Handedly Fended Off A Zombie Attack
by Ban L., a.k.a Stormy D. L. B. M. M. Graves (also known as Isabelle Liu)
My name is Stormy Dragoness Lightning Blackie Midnight Mermaid Graves. I am 17 years old and I go to a school. I’m also like the most popular girl in school. But the one thing that they don’t know is that I’m a vampire that goes to school. Not like the school-attending Twilight vampires. I don’t sparkle. Instead, I glow in the dark.
“Zombie attack!” Someone says. People are running around like big bunch of dragons are chasing them. I’m also part dragon, too. I’m part dragoness, so I can fly and have impenetrable skin. I don’t breathe fire. Instead, I can snap my fingers and fire will appear in my hand. I can also control the weather. My favorite kind of weather is the stormy kind, so when someone ticks me off, I can call down a lightning bolt to fry them. I’m powerful like that.
A zombie comes walking toward me on the sidewalk. “Oogh,” he murmurs.
“Hi, Panther Quietus Darkness Nephilim.” I murmur. I know his name because I can read minds. I smile sweetly at him and use my gorgeous, beautiful, stunning, elegant purple wings to rise a few inches above the sidewalk. I flap them a couple times to make the zombie take the full force of my strawberry-scented armpit perfume. No one has ever been able to resist the heavenly scent of my strawberry-scented armpit perfume before.
The zombie smiles. “I like your strawberry-scented armpit perfume, Stormy,” he murmurs.
“I know, Panther,” I murmur back. I take him to a graveyard and bury him.
“Wait, Stormy!” The zombie murmurs breathily.
“Yes, Panther?” I murmur and flutter my long, glittery eyelashes gracefully.
“Let’s watch the stars and talk about love and life for a while, before you bury me, Stormy,” the zombie suggests, murmuring.
I murmur eagerly. So we lie on the lush green grass of the graveyard and talk about deep stuff like love and life.
Finally, I see the sun rising in the distance. “Panther Quietus Darkness Nephilim?” I murmur. (That’s the zombie’s name.)
“Yes, Stormy?” he murmurs.
“Kiss me, Panther,” I whisper in a murmur. And we kiss. Later, I bury him and cry and murmur over his grave.