Slice of Life Challenge, Day 24Before sending their pieces out for publication, my tenth grade English classes used Skype to connect with experts in the publishing world. This past November, as my students were in the midst of revising a creative writing piece that stemmed from an idea found in their daily writer's notebook, my students and I had the opportunity to speak with the founder and senior editor of Teen Ink, Ms. Stephanie Meyer. Additionally, students spoke Christine Weiser, the Executive Director of Philadelphia Stories who shared fantastic advice for revising both short stories and poetry, as well as details about what her editorial board looks for in the pieces that are submitted. Students used that advice to revise their work before sending it outside the classroom for publication.
Not only were a number of my students published on Teen Ink's online site, but yesterday evening one of my first semester tenth grade students emailed me that she had received word that she is about to have her poem published in the upcoming print edition of Philadelphia Stories, Jr. The student's poem stemmed from a writer's notebook prompt where were searched through print editions of the local newspaper for inspiration. Her poem, "Pray for the People in Camden," will appear in the spring/summer edition of the magazine. As students learned when speaking with Ms. Weiser of Philadelphia Stories, hundreds of students submit their work for publication, but only a few are chosen for the print edition of the publication. Those that are considered for publication have been read multiple times by multiple editors who must agree that a work is worthy of publication. My student's piece was selected from among many poetry submissions by students in our area.
And the student who wrote the piece? Quiet and unassuming. She rarely spoke in our class and shied away from attention being drawn to her accomplishments. It was through our daily writer's notebook that I learned of her interest in poetry as a form of storytelling. It was in asking her and her classmates to work on a piece to send outside the classroom for publication that I learned of her dedication to the craft of writing, watching her in class and online spend hours crafting the lines of her poem, considering if she should add punctuation at her line breaks or not.
Both the prompt she took inspiration from and the use of writer's notebooks in general came from my involvement in the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project and the connections to the teachers and writers of the National Writing Project. And this is why I am an NWP groupie: in giving my students an opportunity to write every day, the choice of what and how to write, and opportunities to share and publish their work, I have learned more about the young people in my classes, and not just about who they are as writers, but who they are as individuals. And that has made all the difference in how I am able to support their individual learning adventures.