On listening

SCBWI logoMy debut novel will be released in 2013, so I applied for the SCBWI Book Launch Award—some extra funds to launch my book in an innovative way. And I won! SCBWI announced the winners yesterday afternoon, and I’m still processing the news. So excited!

But this blog isn’t about tooting my horn. It’s about craft—how to write more, write better, and fall in love with the process of writing. My hope is that the very activities I’ll do to promote my novel will get me to engage with students and teachers in ways that will enhance my writing. Ways that will encourage me to ask what matters… why I write the books I write… why I write at all… how my writing might make a difference…

Part of the marketing proposal that won the award was this:Podium Foundation logo encourage students and teachers to use my book as a springboard to create their own “Making a Difference” audio recordings. Partner with The Podium Foundation, a Richmond (VA) nonprofit which holds writing clubs in Richmond’s high schools; lead workshops in each club, guiding students to write, revise, rehearse and record stories of themselves or others making a difference, patterning stories after NPR’s “This American Life”; post the MP3 recordings on my website and Podium’s website.

While the students will be revising, rehearsing and recording their essays, I’ll be listening. I look forward to meeting teens with ideas, strengths and issues that are new to me. I’m excited to hear a variety of stories… to listen… to engage… to encourage… to question… to learn from them and stretch my writing in new directions.

While much of my own writing is for myself (I write stories that speak intimately to me), I also write for a particular audience—for young readers. The greater my ability to listen to kids, the greater is the potential that my writing will engage them. For whom do you write? And how do you go about listening to your readers?

4 thoughts on “On listening”

  1. Anne, this is marvelous news! Congratulations!! And what a meaningful way to gather and promote young voices. It’s terrific that your idea brought you this award, but I’ll bet that the ripple-effect will be profound. Well done, friend!

  2. Thanks, Marci! I was so inspired by Meg Medina’s “Hope Tree Project” for the launch of THE GIRL WHO COULD SILENCE THE WIND that I wanted to do something just as meaningful, but of course, not the same thing. I brainstormed projects that would reflect the theme of my book and engage young readers. And of course, I love “This American Life,” and I think The Podium Foundation is an awesome nonprofit in our community, so… yeah… all paths led to the project that I proposed. I’ve already begun to collect short essays on “making a difference” so that when I meet with students, I’ll have examples to give them. They might not be familiar with “This American Life,” but after they’re finished with my workshop, they’ll know it well.

  3. Congratulations, Anne, this is fabulous! I want to sit in on one of your workshops!!! I’m so proud of yet another accomplishment, on top of the book contract, now winning this grant, and as always, turning the spotlight back on the reader.

    It’s an interesting question, how to listen to our readers. As a writer, I am often fixated on getting the reader to listen to me, to my story. I think we listen by staying engaged, whether through volunteering in a school, paying attention to the particular social media they happen to be flocking to, maybe even reading the reviews they post on various web sites. And someday, listening to them in workshops just like the ones you’ll be hosting, Anne. Story feeds story, and we’ll all be the richer for it.

  4. Thank you, Meredith. So true about listening and how we’re richer for it, and our stories are richer, too. This reminds me of the time I heard M.T. Anderson talking about his novel, FEED. To write that one, he spent time in shopping malls listening to teenagers. In preparation for writing his OCTAVIAN NOTHING books, he spent years reading only 18th century writings. He needed to absorb — to listen to — the way people spoke in that time in order to find the voice for those books. There is much to be said for listening!

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