Today we studied journalism! We started the day with critiques of yesterday’s work, and those critiques went much more smoothly. The kids took things in better stride. We were dressed for an outing to the Oklahoma Gazette midmorning. But first, the kids each wrote a nonfiction prompt and traded. They got ten minutes to research their prompts and another ten minutes to write a brief news article on the prompt. Here’s my favorite!
Don’t worry! We talked about sources, ethics, and integrity.
After chores we headed down to the offices of the Oklahoma Gazette. The operations manager, who had kindly scheduled our tour on short notice, showed us the offices for writing, editorial, ad sales, and graphic design. She told us the silver strips lining the hallways were for checking print layout.
Afterwards, we joined the managing editor in a conference room. She discussed the jobs at the Gazette, how the magazine is funded and made, and how criticism is handled. She went on to discuss book publishing in some detail. The kids got a magazine, three pens each, and a small tablet of stickies. They were psyched!
The youngest among us broke 18 eggs for sandwiches. Lunch passed in a haze of Nailed It and conversation. Then we discussed news articles in more depth, including both the questions that need to be answered and the structure of a news article. The children chose their own topics:
They researched and wrote throughout until late in the afternoon. Then they went back to work on the opus projects they’ve been fine-tuning since April.
As we watch Men in Black 3, pork carnitas simmer, awaiting their final crisping. Watermelon sits ready for our evening indulgence. And happiness soaks into spaces between all of us.
Postscript: Last night after my writing we had a firefly expedition. It was BRILLIANT.
Watching Men in Black 2 and about to tuck into some delicious chocolate, Twizzlers, trail mix, and dates. It’s been a tumultuous day at book camp. We began the day with trading yesterday’s one-act plays and critiquing them. Afterwards, we warmed up by trading writing prompts and committing to a ten-minute free write based on today’s theme: fan fiction.
After the free write, I gave each kid the critique I wrote on their plays and the critique a brother/sister/cousin wrote. We broke up to read our critiques. But first I counseled the kids about critiques, the trust required between the writer and reviewer, and the spirit with which to receive the critiques. When we came back together, I asked them to close their eyes and for every person to raise a hand if they felt hurt by what they read. Five hands rose in the air.
Critiques can sting even when they are gently written by people who love you. The trick is separating one’s self as a person from one’s work. That’s hard to do.
For the next hour, the kids practiced instruments (viola, bass, sousaphone, euphonium), typing, and math. Then the fun began! We visited Full Circle Book Store, a divine little shop in Oklahoma City with sliding ladders to reach high books. After a glorious hour and much help from the kind shopkeepers, we retired to Starbucks for treats, chats, and reading.
After lunch, the real trouble started. One of our merry band found himself utterly blocked. We delved into our understanding of fan fiction. A writer can develop story skills by using others’ well-drawn characters and basic motivations. However, copyright should always be honored.
When we began the worksheet to determine our fan fiction stories, the blocked kid melted down. He couldn’t choose any source material. The tears came hot and heavy. It took half an hour to get him to tell me he was upset about my critique. It took thirty more minutes to reconcile the two of us. But then he wrote an amazing piece of fan fiction!
For the rest of the afternoon, kids flitted between the fort, the piano, the gaming system, and working on an opus or two. If you’ll remember, an opus in this case is a little longer work the kids will read aloud on Friday.
Overall, the day balanced on the good. Much like most writing days. And the rest of life.