My Journey as a Writer

Growing up, I loved reading books and magazines, writing in my journal, and English was my favourite class; however, it never occurred to me that writing could be my career. I thought the only way to become a writer was to come up with the next Harry Potter and become an overnight success.

Since then, I’ve realized writing is everywhere. From tweets to advertising to websites to articles to blogs, words are an essential part of our day-to-day life. Across industries, there is a demand for writers.

I had my first taste of copywriting when I was working my way through university at a local restaurant. My boss asked for my help with social media, so I began posting on Facebook and Twitter about our menu offerings, events, and specials. Within a year, I doubled our Facebook following and gained valuable experience in community management and copywriting. I dabbled in journalism at the school newspaper, submitted poems to the university’s annual publication, and wrote press releases for the campus reading series events.

After graduating from university, I went on to work at an advertising agency where I wrote websites, commercials, and brochures for clients in real estate, finance, hospitality, and more. Today, I work at a fashion company where I write ads, social media posts, and scripts for video and radio. It’s a lot of fun!

Despite what some might say, there are many career opportunities in creative fields such as art, design, and writing. Look around: the books on your shelf, the name of your hand lotion, the voiceover in your favourite video game, and the dialogue in movies are all made possible by writers.

Don’t get discouraged. As a professional writer, I’m learning every day. I sometimes still have to look up spelling and grammar, and I welcome feedback from others. You don’t have to be perfect.

If you get writer’s block, try flipping through a magazine or book. Take notes on your favourite words, themes, and ideas. Expand on those with related words, connecting themes, and bigger ideas. Mix and match them to see where they lead.

The deadline to enter Kids Write 4 Kids is on March 31st, 2018 and it’s a great opportunity to get creative and practice your writing. I encourage all youth with an appreciation for language and storytelling to enter and show off your skills.

The March Break Literacy Race

March Break–it’s a great time to relax with your family, catch up on sleep, and make room for recreation. However, amongst the fun and games during a week off, kids tend to lose their motivation to accomplish anything school-related. That’s where the March Break Literacy Race comes in! This race challenges participants to complete a new literacy-related task each day, and offers opportunities to develop both reading and writing skills. The best part? It feels like fun, not school!

This race is adaptable to nearly anyone’s March Break schedule. Kids who are relaxing at home can challenge themselves when they start to feel bored with their newfound free time and kids on exciting family vacations can busy themselves when the beach gets too hot or the lines get too long. Encourage your kids to stick with the race by getting the whole family involved, or suggest they use it to stay connected with their friends. Kids can share what they read and write with each other, allowing them not only to develop their own literacy skills, but learn from others as well. Additionally, by challenging their friends to participate, kids’ competitive natures will kick in and motivate them to see the race through to the very last day.

Day One:

March Break is just beginning and the possibilities are endless! Being as creative as possible, write a short paragraph detailing your dream vacation. There are no limits on time or money spent on this vacation and it does not have to be realistic.

Day Two:

Read something non-fiction for fifteen minutes. It can be anything from a book, a newspaper, a magazine, or even a brochure. Get comfortable, find something that interests you, and focus completely on enjoying and absorbing what you are reading.

Day Three:

Find a friend or family member who can help you out. Together, you will co-write a twenty-line story. Alternate contributing single lines and do your best to work with each others’ ideas. Try to create a clear beginning, middle, and end to your story. The catch? You cannot communicate with your co-author in any way outside of providing your lines for the story.

Day Four:

March Break can be full of new experiences, so take this opportunity to learn a new word. Have a conversation, flip through a book, and look at billboards. When you come across a word you don’t know, find out the definition, and try to use it in at least two sentences throughout the day.

Day Five:

Teach someone else a new word. Sharing is instrumental to learning, so today, you will help spread some knowledge. Think of the most interesting word that you know, and tell someone who does not know that word. Share the spelling and definition, and show them how to properly use it in a sentence.

Day Six:

Read aloud to someone else. A great way to practice both literacy and communication skills is by reading out loud. Pick something that interests both you and the person you are reading to, and have fun playing around with things such as volume, tone, expression, and character voices.

Day Seven:

The week is coming to an end, but hopefully, it has been a lot of fun! Write a poem detailing your favourite experience of this March Break.

While this race is specifically designed for March Break, it can be adapted to any time off. You can make it an annual challenge, and compare the progress made on each task year-to-year. March Break is a great time for kids to improve their reading and writing skills, but oftentimes, that can be difficult to do. This race is both manageable and engaging, so it won’t feel like another tedious school assignment. When kids are faced with the inevitable, “what did you do over March Break?” assignments upon their return to school, this literacy race will give them something interesting to write about.

Share in the comments below if your family plans on participating in the March Break Literacy Race!

The Twelve Days of Creative Writing Challenge

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a festive writing challenge! The holiday season is in full swing, and while it’s a busy time, it’s also a great time to get creative. There’s something quite inspiring about the love, joy, and sparkle of this festive season. The challenge below is perfect for kids who have started to get restless with their time off from school. It’s a great way to keep them busy and stimulate their minds in an exciting way. Even better, the whole family can get involved, starting a new festive family tradition!

This challenge involves writing a short piece of writing progressively over twelve days. For each day, a festive word has been provided, which your child will have to incorporate into their writing. The piece can take on whatever form you choose: a short story, a letter, a diary entry, or even a poem–the possibilities are endless!

Words

Day 1: Celebration
The word “celebration” is a perfect fit during the holidays. What might be celebrated in your writing?

Day 2: Joy
Feelings of elation are constant throughout the holiday season. Why might your characters be joyous? Why might they not be?

Day 3: Food
It wouldn’t be the holidays without endless festive treats. What role does food play in your writing?

Day 4: Sparkle
The holidays are full of glittering imagery, from lights to tinsel. What sparkles in your piece?

Day 5: Wonder
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! What might be wondrous in your writing? Might a character be wondering something?

Day 6: Snow
Snow is one of the most iconic aspects of wintertime, and allows for endless fun. Is snow important to your characters? How might it benefit or challenge them?

Day 7: Wish
This season is certainly a hopeful one. Do your characters have something to wish for?

Day 8: Beginning
Approaching a new year means new beginnings. While it does not have to be the New Year in your story, what might be beginning in your plot?

Day 9: Sleep
During such a busy season, everyone is bound to get a little tired. How might sleep contribute to your plot? Why might a character want to or not want to, sleep?

Day 10: Giving
It’s fun to receive, but it’s rewarding to give to others. What might be given in your piece?

Day 11: Spirit
The term “holiday spirit” is often heard this time of year. What does this mean in the context of your writing? What does it mean to your characters?

Day 12: Family
At its core, the holiday season is about togetherness and family. How does the concept of family play into your writing?

Prompts

If you’re having trouble getting started, try using one of the following prompts for this writing challenge:

  • “It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa is sick! How will everyone in the North Pole come together to save Christmas?
  • Someone is trying to get home for the holidays, but they encounter an obstacle that prevents them from doing so. What is this obstacle? How might they overcome it?
  • Everyone has forgotten that it’s the holidays! Your main character, however, remembers. Can they convince everyone to celebrate with them?
  • What is life like for an elf or reindeer during the holidays?
  • The snowmen and snow angels that the children make during the holidays have come alive! What might they do?
  • Retell a favourite holiday memory in a creative format, such as a poem, song, or letter.

This challenge doesn’t have to end with the writing. Once the pieces are complete, you can have fun sharing them with family and friends. You could host a cozy literary evening, complete with hot chocolate and holiday snacks, where each family member reads their composition aloud. If your family tends to be a bit more dramatic, you could create theatrical renditions of each piece with creative costumes and props. These are great ways to spend time with your family over the holidays, beyond the typical dinner and gift exchange.

Feel free to share your experience with this writing challenge in the comments below!

The Impact of Creative Writing on Child Development

The winter holidays are here and there is so much to look forward to: snow, presents, skating, a Christmas tree and creative writing! While it might seem that creative writing does not quite fit, there are so many benefits to including it into your holiday plans!

Research shows that there are many. A study carried out at the University of Sydney, Australia, shows that the development of creativity is fostered by five elements: imagination, collaboration, intuitiveness, discipline, and persistence, and creative writing happens to target all of them. The study points out that regular engagement in creative writing leads to significant improvement in writing quality, enhanced organization of ideas, greater ability for self-reflection, as well as increased confidence when working in teams. ( https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2015/10/20/creative-writing-boosts-kids-confidence-and-creativity.html)

“In many schools storytelling and creative writing are not prioritised as much as they should be… These interim findings suggest that providing time for the creative writing process is imperative in every classroom. Strong creative thinking and learning skills are critical to students’ social and emotional well being, academic achievement and lifelong learning,” said Professor Ewing, the lead researcher of the study.

According to another research study conducted in Turkey, writing helps kids make sense of information while aiding in the development of important language aspects such as grammar, vocabulary, phonology, and discourse. (Lawwill, 1999; cited in Demir, 2013).

“It [creative writing] requires learners to manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways in attempting to express uniquely personal meanings. In doing so, they necessarily engage with the language at a deeper level of processing than with most expository texts (Craik & Lockhart 1972). (http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042815008678/1-s2.0-S1877042815008678-main.pdf?_tid=07020a46-bf22-11e6-8a4e-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1481406534_74966573a4176b02bf317121233de5d6)

So maybe the best gift for kids and youth this Christmas is actually our 12 Day Creative Writing Challenge! Find out more on our blog and let us know how creative writing has impacted you, your kids, or your students.

Creative Writing Prompts and Challenges

Let’s face it: inspiration can be difficult to find. Most writers, old and young alike, have found themselves at a loss for ideas when trying to start a new project. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can help encourage writers’ imaginations. Listed below are some creative writing prompts and challenges that you can pass along to your kids to help them get started. These can be used for school projects, recreational writing, or to help them write an entry for the Kids Write 4 Kids contest!

Short Story Concepts:

Short stories are arguably one of the most universal forms of writing. They can be enjoyed by all ages, provide a temporary escape from reality, and often teach important lessons. Writing short stories can also be a great way for kids to develop their creativity. The ideas below are great for getting started, but feel free to encourage your kids to take them in different directions.

  • Write a short story about a typical day in your life. Now, imagine that you have a magic power. Rewrite your story about what would happen during that same day if you were able to use your power.
  • Your pet or favourite animal can now talk! Write about what you would do with them for a day if you could speak with them.
  • You are an astronaut who just discovered a new planet. Describe what this planet is like, and what you find there. Write about what you decide to do on this new planet.
  • One day, you wake up to find that you have suddenly become famous! Write about how this happened, and what you decide to do about it.
  • Imagine that you and your best friend have swapped bodies. You wake up to find yourself in your friend’s body, what happens next?

Week-Long Writing Challenges:

These week-long writing challenges can be a great way to encourage your kids to practice their writing. They are fun and spontaneous, so it won’t feel like just another homework assignment, but sticking with them for the entire week will be very rewarding. Try doing these challenges alongside your kids, as a way to boost your own creativity while motivating them!

  • Each day, write a poem in which you use a metaphor to explain something that happened to you.
  • Choose a different object each day of the week. For each object, write a description of it without ever saying what the object is. If you are doing this challenge with family members or friends, swap descriptions and see if you can guess what it is about!
  • Take on a daunting writing task by breaking it down. Every day, write one half page of a short story. By the end of the week, you will have a three-and-a-half-page-long story!
  • Try keeping a personal journal for one week. Write daily about things that have happened to you, your thoughts, and your feelings.
  • Create a unique character, and pretend that they are with you as you go about your daily life. Each evening, write about how the character differs from you, how they are similar, and how they would react in whatever situations you experienced that day.

Inspiration from the Outside World:

The best ideas are often hiding right in front of us. From the news, to popular culture, to our own backyards, the opportunity for imagination is everywhere. Encourage your kids to look for things that inspire them in their everyday lives and write them down in an Inspiration Journal. The following ideas can help them get started, and soon enough, they will be coming up with plenty of their own!

  • Choose characters from your favourite books, movies, and TV shows, and use them in your own writing.
  • Write a new ending for a story you have read or a movie you have seen.
  • Write a short sequel to a book you have recently read.
  • Pick an event that you hear about on the news. Use your imagination to continue the story.
  • Expand the theme of your favourite song into a short story.

These ideas are a starting point for endless creativity! The Kids Write 4 Kids contest is now officially open for entries, so this is a great opportunity for your kids to challenge themselves to write. If you or your kids feel inspired and come up with any original prompts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

6 Engaging Activities For Creative Writing Class

Making writing fun for a 4th to 8th graders is a combination of engaging their senses as much as possible and breaking down the semantics of writing into its smaller chunks. After scouring the inter-webs for ideas of fun writing exercises, I cherry picked my favorites to share with you. Without further ado, here they are!

  1. A great way to appeal to students’ creative side is to encourage them to write together.Already enthusiastic writers will encourage others and those who did not realise they cared will have a chance to shine. Give this game a shot to inspire teamwork in creativity: start with a prepared beginning sentence for a story, then divide students into small groups and ask them to complete the story together, with each person contributing a sentence. This will fuel their creativity as they have to build off of others’ ideas and get peer support.
  2. To focus on writing basics, you can try this grammar exercise with your students: write a sentence on a piece of paper, then circulate it around, asking each person to change only one word in it. Once everyone is done, read the sentence out loud. That’s right, it’s totally different! This exercise will improve students understanding of the parts of speech and their use in a sentence.
  3. Use technology to make writing more “cool”: ask the students to download a free app Next Sentence Lite on their smart phones, then divide the class into groups of four and have them create a short story together one sentence at a time. Have them share their creations with the rest of the class and together you can correct the grammar and sentence structure of their stories.
  4. Most of these are group exercises but of course students also benefit from thinking through ideas on their own, whether they discuss it with others before, after, or during the process.This activity works to encourage individual thinking: have students write a letter to a character and then reply on behalf of that character. It fully engages the students with the writing process and allows space for individual personalities to stand out.
  5. Trisha Fogarty’s Friendly Letters helps cultivate creativity through peer and teacher feedback. It is a more commonly used method of engagement that prompts students to give their classmates feedback on creative writing assignments. To assess a classmate’s assignment, students will have to fully understand the requirements–is it to learn verb tenses or avoid the passive voice? Students will also need to give at least two positive comments for every criticism they provide. All students will receive feedback from the teacher(s) as well. With this activity, you get the students actively participating in the editing aspect of writing; being a critic will help them pay more attention to similar problems in their own work.
  6. Another very useful motivator for creative writing is competitions. What can encourage a student to write more than knowing their story can get published for the whole world to read? The Kid’s Write 4 Kids creative challenge gives your 4th to 8th graders this chance! The added bonus? The winning story gets published both online and in print.

How do you get your students to engage in creative writing work? We’d love to know, so please share them with us in the comments below. Happy creative writing!

How to Make Reading and Writing Fun for Kids–Including Your Inner One–and Encourage Family Bonding

With back-to-school season in full swing, the age old question remains: how can you get your kids to read and write, and, more importantly, enjoy these activities? While technology can be a huge resource for kids, in today’s age of easy online fun and instant gratification, picking up a book can seem daunting for many kids. Luckily, there’s actually a number of ways to make reading and writing fun and enjoyable for kids. Even better, many of these ideas can also be used for parent-child bonding time, and you can get the whole family involved and enthusiastic about literacy. Here’s some easy suggestions that can help make reading and writing exciting for your kids:

  • Have a Mini Writing Contest
    Get everyone in the family to submit an entry into your very own writing contest! In this contest, everyone wins – give each writer a special award for something that was good about their writing (you can even take it to the next level with an awards ceremony and Oscar-worthy acceptance speeches!). To spice things up and help your kids expand their writing abilities, you can have different themes for your contests, such as poetry, short stories, or non-fiction. Even better, these at-home contests are a great preparation for an even bigger writing contest: Kids Write 4 Kids!
  • Put on Family Rap Battles
    What could be more fun than bringing out your inner rap star with your kids? Rap battles are not only extremely entertaining, they help your kids with writing, public speaking, and thinking on their feet!
  • Write a Family Story
    Play the part of a bestselling author–bring the family together and write a story. Everyone takes a turn to write a line (you can continue writing lines in turn until the story reaches your desired length), and at the end, you can read your literary masterpiece out loud! For an added dose of family fun, act out your finished story in a household play production complete with costumes and props!
  • Start a Book Club with Your Family
    Pick a family-friendly book to read each month, then have weekly meetings to discuss it! Before you finish the book, you can encourage your children to write alternate endings to the story which can then be compared to the actual ending. You could also start a family show and tell, for which everyone reads a book and then presents it. This will not only motivate your kids to read, but it will also be great practice for book reports and other school projects!
  • Play a Writing Guessing Game
    Get everyone in the family to write a short story, and have each family member select one of the stories by chance. They will then read the story and have to guess who wrote it! This game is a great way to connect with your kids and and stay updated on their skills and interests in a casual setting!
  • Turning Screen Time into Creative Writing Time
    After watching a TV show, encourage your kids to write a short story about their favourite character from the program. By having them write a story every few episodes, you can slip something educational into their recreation time without it seeming like homework!

The best thing about these ideas are that they are low commitment and easy to work into your everyday routine! Most of them only require paper, pencils, and a little family bonding time. Of course, depending on your schedule, resources, and your child’s reading and writing ability, any of these ideas can be adapted to fit your specific needs. The best thing about reading and writing is that there are endless ways to make them fun–these ideas are only the start of what could become cherished family traditions!

If you use any of these ideas with your family, or come up with any of your own, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!