Editor's Note: The following is a release from the Valley View School District.
Nearly 200 budding young authors learned the finer points of being a writer at the fifth annual Valley View School District Middle School Student Writers Conference Wednesday at Bolingbrook Golf Club.
Many of the students were hand-picked by their language arts teachers to “celebrate their successes and to help propel them into future successes,” said Brooks Middle School language arts teacher Julie Hurder, who was one of the event organizers. “We want to inspire them.”
Author James Kennedy served as the main inspiration, helping students understand how he wrote his best-selling book The Order of Odd Fish and putting them through a writing exercise that culminated in imaginary battles in his famous “Dome of Doom.”
“No matter how terrible your first effort might be, you can be a published author,” Kennedy told the sixth- through eighth-grade students. “You’re going to fail a lot. Just throw ideas out there even if they’re terrible. Ninety percent of what you write is going to be terrible. Don’t worry.”
Attendees also had an opportunity to participate in three break-out sessions led by VVSD staff members.
“You can’t live life passively and be a writer. You have to be a people watcher,” advised Lukancic Middle School teacher Mark Levine in a session called Writing Your Story. “There are lots of stories in your life experiences. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they’re painful. Sometimes they’re emotional. But there’s a story behind every situation."
Brooks Middle School teacher Chanice Artis issued specific tips on how to create characters in a session called “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!”
“Make your character feel like a real person,” she said, suggesting that in addition to age, height, weight, and color, an author needs to spend time contemplating a character’s emotional scars, physical limitations, friends and enemies, and current problems. “Ask yourself: why is this character worth writing about? How is this character different? Do you like this character? Why will this character be remembered by your readers?”
Sally Green and Amy Ligmanowski from Brooks Middle School led a session called “Here’s My Story…What’s Yours?” in which students were given a specific scenario about tripping over a trap door in the hallway at school and asked to finish writing the story. As a twist, participants were stopped halfway through and asked to pick up one of their classmates’ stories and finish it.
The original Writers’ Conference five years ago involved Brooks Middle School students and was held at the Fountaindale Library. Fountaindale has been a partner in the expanded event ever since, with Bolingbrook Golf Club hosting the last four conferences.
Olive Garden provided lunch for the students.