Another gorgeous sunny Sacramento day. It's the day after teaching one of my kid's book classes and am reflecting on what a joy it is to teach warm, funny, smart, talented people who are really happy to be there. We have a wonderful system of group teaching that is transforming the student's writing, art, and lives. We begin with the assigned readings.
This semester we are using my Writing Illustrating and Publishing Kid's Books Handbook which also includes exercises the students didn't do because they are so passionate/obsessed about working on their own projects. I suggested they do them as party games with friends which would really be fun. They did however, read all the informative text (yay) and one student's young daughter drew all over the cover because she liked it so much (I felt honored). We are also using Writing Picture Books: A Hands on Guide by Ann Whitford Paul, and the 2009 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market by Alice Pope. In the past, we have also used The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb, which was also very helpful. We are using the 2009 CWIM because by the time the current guide comes out many editors have already switched publishing houses (it's the only way for most editor's to get raises) and this is the main information in the book that is time sensitive. I also like a lot of the articles in that particular year and because it's not current it's much cheaper new or second hand for my students to buy.
After we've discussed the readings and how they relate to where students are with their projects - it's critique time! The students bring enough copies of their stories for everyone to have one, and those that haven't been critiqued recently get critiqued. Because this is early in the course we are focusing on the stories, although one of the students is working on illustrations that I have assigned her to meet criteria that editors look for in portfolios, and another brought a story that was almost complete and we are bringing her illustrations up to a publishable level. I cannot describe how much fun this all is, or the intense concentration and focus required to almost psychically tune into how that particular author or illustrator can fix whatever needs fixing, tweaking, clarifying, or playing with. What is also amazing is how far the stories go from beginning to end and how wonderful it is to witness this and be a part of it.
For the critiques, we divide up the remaining time between the number of students needing critiques, and that's how much time they get. Someone reads the story out loud and we follow along and jot down notes. Then we read and proof the story and include suggestions before we discuss it as a group. I usually lead the discussion and everyone else jumps in to help solve issues or problems or with suggestions to make it stronger or funnier etc. The class is designed to be a gestalt and everyone is bonding beautifully.