Tuesday, 17 September 2013

How to Help Very Young Children "Write" Stories

I know many parents who think that at three and four years old, their children are too young to be able to write stories. Contrary to that belief, I have found that, although they might not be able to physically write out a story, children of that age are often perfectly capable of telling beautiful stories.

Don't believe me? Here are some examples of stories my children dictated to me when they were three and four years old (Scroll past the sections in the blue font if you believe me and just want to get to the "how to" part of the post.):

Written by my daughter Gabriella, age 3:

Marbles and Flowers

There once was a really beautiful fairy named Gabriella. She was playing marbles in the sky with God. Rumbles of thunder could be heard as marble crashed against marble.

Later, she found a flower that belonged to her friend and had been left by her friend for Gabriella to find. Gabriella wanted to show God her flower. When she got to his house, she had a nice cold drink as it was a hot day.
Written by my daughter Isabella, age 3:
Princess Kolluna

There was a princess who lived in a nice castle. Her name was Kolluna. She liked playing with balloons.
One day while at the beach, she blew up some balloons to play with, and a big monster showed up. He was a bad monster. He had yellow scales, two tiny eyes and tiny little baby teeth. He had noticed her because of her bright balloons. He wanted to eat Princess Kolluna.

The princess ran into the ocean and some mermaids came and rescued her. She was so happy that the mermaids helped her that she gave them each one of her balloons as a thank you.
Written by my son Connor, age 3:
Princess Mommy and Her Dogs

There once was a princess named Mommy. She lived in a castle. Her castle had a moat around it and, in her bedroom, she had a very big, comfortable bed. She had four dogs. Two of her dogs were girls and two of her dogs were boys. Their names were Tyler, Ben, Rosie & Helen. They were very small dogs. They had long fur and long tails. Their fur was pink.

Princess Mommy fed her dogs every day and took them on lots of long walks. She threw a ball for them, and they all loved to try and get to it first and bring it back to her. Princess Mommy loved her dogs and her dogs loved her.

One day, little Rosie went missing. Princess Mommy looked everywhere for her. She looked in the dining hall, but Rosie wasn’t there. She looked in the rubbish, but Rosie wasn’t there. She looked in the kitchen, but Rosie wasn’t there.

Princess Mommy was very worried about her little pink dog Rosie, and the other dogs were sad too because they missed Rosie. Princess Mommy looked in one more place. She looked in the castle moat, and there was her little Rosie! Rosie had decided to go for a swim.

Princess Mommy got Rosie out of the moat and gave her a bath to clean all of the mud off of her. She was very happy that she had found Rosie and the other dogs were happy too.
Written by my daughter Gabriella, age 4:
The Little Pink Flower

Once their was a little pink flower. She grew amongst the grass at the park. She saw other, really beautiful flowers being picked by people who would comment at their beauty and she wanted very much to be pretty enough for someone to pick her. 

Days went by and she watched as other flowers got picked but she was left. Then one morning, a lovely princess was walking in the park when she noticed the little pink flower and thought the flower was very pretty.

She liked the flower so much that she had to pick it, and she took it home to give to her husband who she loved. The little pink flower was put into a vase of water and was very happy.
Written by my daughter Isabella, age 4:
The Magic Dress

Once there was a little English princess named Bella. One day, she found a beautiful dress on the ground outside her castle. She took the dress inside and put it on. It was a magical dress and, when she wore it, she found that she could fly. She flew to America, and in America she bought a wand and a sweetie. Then she flew back to England. 

She flew high in the sky and when she looked down, she could see crocodiles way below. She used her wand to bring more fairies to her so she wouldn’t have to fly alone. Before she stopped flying, she flew to a castle and became best friends with another princess named Gabby. She had so much fun in the dress! When she got home, she changed into a normal dress and put the magic dress back on the ground where she found it.

Written by my son Connor, age 4:
 The Princess and Her Castle in the Clouds
There once was a pretty princess named Mommy who had long red hair. She lived in a castle that sat way up on top of clouds. Whenever she wanted to get down, she used a long, pink ladder. She loved looking way down at everything below her and could see lots of pretty sights, but it was such a long climb down that she didn’t climb down very often. Sometimes her friends climbed up to see her though.

One day, her pink ladder fell over and she became trapped in her castle in the clouds. She became very lonely and after a few days, she began to wonder if she would ever find a way down again. 

Then a boy who was a prince named Connor happened by. He looked up at the castle on top of the clouds and wondered who lived there. Princess Mommy looked down from the castle top and yelled down to the Prince below, “Please help me! My ladder broke and I can’t get down!”

“That’s okay,” said Prince Connor. “I have a ladder too.” He went home and came back with a long orange ladder. The princess used the ladder to climb down.

The princess thanked him and then decided that she no longer liked having her castle in the clouds. She looked around and found her pink ladder lying in the grass. On the side of the ladder was a magic button. She pushed the magic button and her castle slowly came down and landed in a field of grass. It still sits there to this day.
They all wrote/told many more stories at those ages than I am showing here. These are just some examples to show you that it can be done. Each story varied greatly in how complex or how simple.

Here are some tips to help you coax some stories out of your very young child:

1. Ask questions. What does her main character look like? What is his or her name? How old is the main character? And here's where it gets tricky. When your child seems as though they are just going to tell you about a pretty little girl and nothing more, ask "What happened next?" If she or he still doesn't know where to take the story, ask questions that give ideas, such as, "Did something scare her? Is there a game she liked to play? Does she have any friends?" and so on. And the answers can lead to other questions, such as "Why was the monster chasing him? What happened during the game? Did his friends go on an adventure with him?" and so on. Each question can lead to more questions.

2. IMPORTANT. Do not try and change your child's mind on the direction they choose for their story. I once (and only once) tried, innocently, to lead my daughter in a direction for her story that I thought would be easier for her to continue on from, but she adamantly refused my leading questions and went her own way with the story, which is what should have happened. I should never have tried to lead her story. Not only do you need to not interfere so that you can end up with a story that is authentically your child's own, but your child needs to feel as though the story has come from him and not from you. Your child will feel much more pride in the story he has told when he knows it has come completely from his own choices and ideas.

3. Let your child lead. If your daughter seems too tired or not very interested in telling her story, take a break from it and try again later or another day. Some very young children will be better at this than others and some children will enjoy this process more than others.

4. Praise your child's finished story. Make sure you let him know how proud of him you are and how wonderful you think his story is. Children love to be praised for their efforts.

Sometimes, the story your child tells will barely make sense, and that's okay too. Writing has a lot to do with the process. It's like alchemy for words. Your child's words might start out producing nothing more than a slimy gunk (which, because it is your child, you will think is the sweetest bubble gum goo), but keep at it, and every once in a while, your child will produce gold.

And don't forget that all of the stories you record your child telling are a form of memory storage. Until I looked up my children's stories from when they were younger to add to this post, I had forgotten that, for a while, my son always wrote stories about a character he called "Princess Mommy." Reading those words again brought a warm feeling to my heart and a smile to my face.

Your only job, as the typist of the story, is to help your child brainstorm and to correct any grammar problems. You should probably also spell correctly as you type up your child's story. ;)

Monday, 16 September 2013

"The Talisman Chronicles" Anthology By Kids - Submissions Being Taken

You might have already heard about Melusine Muse Press, my newest venture, and how the primary focus for it is the creation of anthologies. You might have heard about Teapot Tales: A Collection of Unique Fairy Tales which is available on Amazon now in print and Kindle formats and will soon be seen in stores. Some of you might have also heard about the anthology of stories about female superheroes that is being created or about the Jingle Bells anthology that will be available by Christmas. My children have been very excited about every anthology that has been created so far and also about the ones yet to come. My kids have been asking: When they will get the chance to write stories for an anthology? When will they get the chance to draw pictures for an anthology? I have a friend, also an author, who also has children who want to take part in an anthology.

I bet you can guess what I am about to tell you.

Yes, I will be creating an anthology that will be made up entirely of stories and poems written by children and drawings done entirely by children! This one will be called "The Talisman Chronicles," and each child who participates will get a "talisman," which will really be a small charm. These charms can be used to add to bracelets or to make zipper-pulls or to make bookmarks or just to hook onto a backpack. They can be used to make a gift for someone else. You can do whatever you want with them. And yes, I am totally stealing the use of charms for the project from Sally Odgers who has done this for adults in her anthologies "Crock of Charms" and "Keepsakes." It seemed like a nice way for kids to get something from their experience, and charms are small so will not cost too much to mail out.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick a charm from the ones listed (and there will frequently be new charms added to the list, so feel free to check back). E-mail your choice to me. If it is still available, it will become yours and will be marked as having been chosen. You may only choose ones that have not already been chosen.

2. Write a story based on the charm you have chosen. It is preferred that you keep it as a "talisman" in your story, but you do not have to. If you pick a cat charm, for example, you can just write a story having to do with a cat. The story should be no less than 300 words (150 if you are 5 or under) and no more than 1,000 words. 300 to 500 is the perfect word-count for this project, but I realize that some children will have a longer story in mind which is why I've set the maximum word-count at 1,000 words.

Not a story writer? Prefer poems? Then you may instead write a poem to go with your charm. Minimum length: 12 lines.

3. Draw a picture to go with your charm. This is optional. Not good at drawing but know someone who is not good at writing but would love to draw? You can work together, with one doing the drawing and one doing the story or poem.

4. Write a brief bio about yourself, including your age and why you like writing stories/poems and or drawing.

5. Download the consent form. Have your parent print it, fill it in, sign it, and scan it to send back to me at my e-mail. (rebecca (at) fyfe (dot) net)

6. You may do more than one story. You may also get a parent to help you make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Make sure your story lets us know about your main character, lets us know what the problem is and has a resolution to the problem. For poetry, make sure it flows well and paints a picture with words.

7. If you are drawing a picture, make sure your picture is done on white paper and use bold lines for it. No crayon or colored pencil. If there are enough entries, we may do a color and a black and white version of the book. I can convert color pictures into black and white, but only if they haven't been colored in. If you choose, you can do a black line drawing, scan it to send in and then also color it in and send it. We will definitely be doing a black and white version of the book, so that is the more important drawing.

8. You parent will have to e-mail me with the mailing address to send your charm to. Addresses will not be shared in any way.

9. Stories and drawings are due by December 1st. If there are not enough stories by that date, then the due date will be extended. If we have enough stories by that date, I will do my best to get the anthology ready in time for Christmas. (It will not be easy with that time frame, but I will try.)

10. The anthology will be in both Kindle and print format, if there are a minimum of 20 stories and 20 pictures submitted. If less than 20 stories and 20 pictures are submitted, the book will not be created in print form and/or we will extend the due date until 20 of each are submitted.

11. You must be no older than 15.

12. Once you have turned in one story, you may choose a second "talisman" to write about.

13. You retain the copyright to your work. By submitting, you are only granting us the right to publish your work in this anthology in all of its forms, and to possibly use parts of it for marketing purposes for the anthology.

E-mail your stories to Rebecca (at) Fyfe (dot) net.

Some charms are available more than once.

Charms so far:
Heart - SUBMITTED - Jade Tonks, age 12
Cowboy boot - TAKEN
Star - SUBMITTED - Jack Redhead, age 8 or 9
Peace symbol
Dragonfly - SUBMITTED - Angelina Carte
Crown - SUBMITTED - Henry Gatenby, age ?
Paw print - SUBMITTED - Maddie Willoughby, age 6
Cat - SUBMITTED - Connor Fyfe, age 7
Dog -SUBMITTED - Ajay Willoughby, age 5
Fish - SUBMITTED - William Hart, age 6
Dolphin - SUBMITTED - Maddison Cook, age 7
Seahorse - SUBMITTED - Amelie North, age 7
Rabbit - SUBMITTED - Charlotte Cook, age 4
Frog - TAKEN
Butterfly - SUBMITTED - Nat Khalinsky, age ?
Key - SUBMITTED - Nat Khalinsky, age ?
Male symbol
Dragon - SUBMITTED - Cameron Fyfe, age 4
Dragon - SUBMITTED - Gabriella Faye, age 11
Dragon - SUBMITTED - Caitlin Shambrook, age 13
Dragon - SUBMITTED -Harry Redhead, age 10/11
Dragon - SUBMITTED - Amelie Crimp, age 8
Dragon - SUBMITTED - Romy Cole, age 5
Dragon - SUBMITTED - George Redhead, age 6
Dragon - TAKEN
Dragon - TAKEN
Pegasus - TAKEN
Pegasus - TAKEN
Fairy - SUBMITTED - Cameron Fyfe, age 4
Fairy - SUBMITTED - Isabella Fyfe, age 8
Fairy - SUBMITTED - Maddison Cook, age 7
Mermaid - SUBMITTED - Cameron Fyfe, age 4
Mermaid - SUBMITTED - Isabella Fyfe, age 8
Mermaid - SUBMITTED - Stephanie Heart, age 4
Mermaid - SUBMITTED - Lily Cole, age 2
Mermaid - TAKEN

Please feel free to share this project with anyone you think might be interested in joining in.