“Get in Late, Get Out Early”: The Young Writers Learn Revision Techniques, Develop Dialogue, and Reveal Their Artistic Talent

The penultimate day of the 2022 Young Writers’ Workshop passed too quickly! Today’s morning question was: What book do you want to see made into a movie? From middle grade fantasy to adult historical fiction, our young writers have great taste in books!

Riley got the young writers up and moving for our first writing activity of the day, which focused on revision and strengthening their work. They practiced the art of the elevator pitch, giving each of their peers 60-second summaries of the pieces they’re working on for tomorrow’s reading.

After the speed meetings, Riley had each young writer randomly select a genre (such as horror, comedy, and romance) and rewrite their piece in that genre. Then, they chose a color, each of which signified a second rewriting activity such as “Write your piece backwards” and “write prose as a poem or a poem as prose.” These activities helped the young writers see their work in a new light, pushing forward the process of revision.

Today’s visiting writer, Tyler Downey, a filmmaker, eased the young writers into several activities designed to increase their skills in writing dialogue. Each person named anyone in the world they would like to have as a dinner guest. Then, they created unique scribble drawings of birds and came up with their bird’s backstory. After some breathing exercises, they went into the museum to draw inspiration from the artwork, this time using not just their eyes, but also their ears. Then, they spent time writing about their dinner guests or scribble birds, prompted by the starter: “The         changed their life forever.” Finally, they paired up and read each other’s work out loud. Tyler left the young writers with three solid pieces of writing advice meant to improve their work on scene and dialogue: 1) Listen; 2) Get in late, get out early; 3) Show, don’t tell.

After lunch, the young writers participated in a comic activity based on an anti-love poem. First, Traci and the young writers brainstormed words that might be found in traditional love poetry—and then identified words that evoke the opposite feeling (such as black hole, Venus Fly Trap, toes, mushrooms, and poison ivy). Each writer composed a seven-line poem based on one of two prompts: “I will never kiss you again because…” and “My love for you is bigger than         ‘s love for         .” Then, they exchanged poems and created drawings for each line, one line to each panel of a comic. Finally, they swapped comics with a new partner, whose job it was to turn the comic drawings back into lines of poetry. As the young writers compared the originals to the final versions, giggles filled the room.

At the end of the day, the young writers spent time exchanging peer feedback and revising their pieces for the reading tomorrow.

Today’s ending question was: What is your real-life superpower? Answers included such gems as “I can read my parents’ minds” and “Tell me your b-day once and I’ll always remember it!”

Tomorrow’s the big day—time for the young writers to read their work to an audience! They’re going to do wonderfully!

— Adrien Sdao, Program Assistant

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