Read more “Let’s Write” publishing posts in Andi’s Attic >>
- Book Signings? Check
- School Visits? Check
What’s next on the list of stuff an author does to get the word out about their books? Well, if you are a teacher at heart and you are halfway decent at writing books, you can combine those skills into teaching writing workshops. I never intended to go that direction at first. After all, I had enough on my mind thinking about the next scary book signing event, and . . . Ah, but I digress.
The summer of 2007 rolled around, and the White River School District wanted to put on a week-long writing camp. Another author, who taught at Wilkeson Elementary (I did a visit there once) and I got together and presented our ideas for the writing camp. We called it Reach for the Sky! She would do the younger kids (K-2) and I would teach writing to the older kids (3-5th). I worked my tail off creating lessons and worksheets. We were all ready to go. However, a summer writing camp needs kids to sign up. Unfortunately, not enough kids signed up to make it worth White River’s time and money to run the camp. So it was dead in the water before it even got off the ground.
Now, what was I going to do with all of those worksheets and lesson plans I had created? Brainstorm! Turn them into a writing workbook. I renamed it Reach for the Stars and had it comb-bound for 50 cents each at the local stationer’s shop. The local bookstore even sold copies of it.
This was the book I used to present writing workshops to homeschool groups, school groups, and anybody else who wanted me to come. Now, this kind of stuff I like to do. Must be the natural teacher-thing inside me. I was hardly ever nervous. Just give me the kids, a projector, and a copy machine, and I could make this work! Follow along on my pictorial writing workshop journey.
First of all, I offered writing lessons for free on the (now defunct) homeschoolblogger.com. I uploaded worksheets and some were downloaded over 2,000 times. That got me thinking. Hmmm, maybe I could do this and make a little money on the side. Word of mouth among homeschoolers in a small town spreads.
My first writing workshop was for Trinity Homeschool co-op the fall after the no-go writing camp. The kids paid $25 each for 8 weeks and a copy of the comb-bound book. We met in the basement of a church. There were 8 kids in my class, and I used an overhead projector to teach the lessons.
I offered a writing class at our home church, Bonney Lake Community. As the picture shows, I’m still using the original Reach for the Stars comb-bound books. This brings in a little money, and it’s lots of fun to teach kids you already know from AWANA. BLCC also had a small Christian school, so this just naturally dove-tailed into that.
ACTS Homeschool Co-op. A young mom at church attended a homeschool co-op down in the valley, in Puyallup (say that town’s name three times in a row if you can). I agreed to teach writing for 12 weeks, with critique groups, for two classes: ages 8-10, and ages 11-13. Some of the 8-year-olds could barely write a sentence, and I’m not kidding. Some of the little boys did not even want to be there, but they changed their tune after the first couple of weeks. They were having so much fun! Their moms were thrilled that their little boys suddenly wanted to write. Again, I used the old Reach for the Stars workbook and managed to stretch it to 12 weeks. I graded their work, and the kids earned certificates for doing their work, writing their stories, and participating in class.
Look carefully at the picture of these older (ages 11-13) students and their certificates. Do you recognize the boy in the exact center of the back row with the goofy smile? You should. He is “Levi Swanson” on the cover of Family Secret. A much-older Evan Cathey.
2008, 2010, 2014
Young Writers Conference, Skagit Valley Community College. This was my break-through moment. The director for a seven-county public school ESD (Educational Service District) for Washington state also attended my parents’ church in Mt. Vernon. She found out I was an author and immediately got me invited to this monster gathering of young authors from seven counties. They must earn the privilege to attend the conference. There were 3 authors, 3 illustrators, and a feature author who saw all of the kids. I taught 3 classes each morning, Monday – Thursday. Each group of kids went to one author, one illustrator, and then to the keynote in a rotation.
I got paid a lot of money to be part of this. The local bookstore ordered books from publishers and took care of the selling. It was an absolute madhouse each day at about 1 pm. The kids had only a few minutes to buy books before they had to board their buses. Crazy times. I stayed with my parents and drove out to the college every morning. Then I had the late afternoon and evening to visit. It was a fantastic program, and the highlight of my workshop life. I was invited back a couple more times. My mom drove up one day to watch me teach and to take pictures. One year I taught all five days. Sadly, the state has very little money now to continue this great program, so it has fizzled away over the past few years. My last invitation I only taught three days, but still . . .
The great thing about teaching at an invitation-only (for the kids) conference is that every kid there is an eager writer, wanting to learn more to improve their writing skills. They are not shy. They ask questions and are willing to participate. And they love meeting “real” authors.
White River School District Homeschool “Choice” Program. White River felt the need to give homeschooling families a chance to get help with their children if needed. We put our two youngest boys into the two-day-a-week program (Andrew and Ryan, aka “Cory Blake”). Parents were required to give X number of volunteer hours to the program. Ah-ha! Let’s have a writing workshop. That would really eat up the hours. So, once again using the oldie-but-goldie Reach for the Stars, I taught writing an hour a week to the sixth graders. I also taught the fourth graders. Classes were quite small. The school district printed the books. They perfect bound them but the pages sometimes fell out. This got me thinking that it might be time for a new edition of Reach for the Stars.
A publisher, Media Angels, approached me online and wanted to publish the book for real (rather than comb-bound at the local stationer’s shop). I should have done it myself, but in 2009 there was not the ease of self-publishing that there is today, so I said yes. The book got new front and back covers. In fact, the back cover had a picture of some of the writing workshop kids from the CHOICE program. That was pretty special. They modeled for it, so they looked halfway interested.
I started offering ON LINE writing workshops. Kids received one-on-one personal tutoring (which included an edit of their first chapters) via email for ten weeks. They received a certificate at the end of the course. Emily McConnell (the first-place winner in the first Circle C writing contest in 2013) was one of my students, and it is how I got to know her. She was sixteen and wondered if the course would be too young for her. I assured her it would not be. The older the better. She enrolled, took the course, and the next year entered the contest and won first place! in 2020, she was a judge (having aged out of everything).
I offered my very first face-to-face Zoom writing course, complete with fillable PDF homework pages and a lesson on publishing your book. So far, it has been a ton of work but very rewarding. The older (high-school-aged) students have reached out and have formed their own email critiquing group. I doubt I can offer the 12-week course twice a year as I originally planned, but I hope to offer it at least once a year. Interested? Contact Susan with your student’s name, age, and email and I’ll add you to my growing waiting list for the next available course offering.
Marketing 4 – Homeschool Conventions is a photo journey of all of the fans I have met over the years. Enjoy it next Saturday!