A few years after giving me Gifts of Writing, a guide which overviews creative projects involving both words AND art, my dad gave me a second book by Susan and Stephen Tchudi: The Young Writer’s Handbook. The focus of The Young Writer’s Handbook is strictly on words, being a guide to the beginner who is serious about writing, but yet this guide has also remained part of my library from adolescence into adulthood. Like its predecessor, a huge appeal of The Young Writer’s Handbook is that it contains many project variations. An additional appeal is that the guide will broaden one’s writing experience, maybe even aspiring one to make writing a lifetime work.
Because of its emphasis on words, The Young Writer’s Handbook might initially seem no different from the dozens of writing guides already on the market. However, the Tchudis who spent twenty years classroom teaching and conducting writing workshops for young people, truly know the type of projects that will interest young people. Hence, they don’t just talk about stories or articles, but also discuss journals, letters, reports, and school newspapers. My earliest attempts to keep a journal proved a struggle, because I didn’t know what to record besides a mundane account of my day. The Tchudis encourage aspiring writers to also analyze opinions, collect sensory experiences, record dreams, collect world news, and explore words, expressions, and dialog. While it might seem dated in our technological age to talk about letters, my elementary-aged students at some point or another all want to write them. If nothing else, The Young Writer’s Handbook can teach the format, as well as point out the numerous audiences that letters can have. Reports is the only project covered which has never appealed to me, perhaps because this is the one most often already frequently-taught in school. At the same time, without fail, I always have at least one writing club student who wants to pick this as their project. Hence, I can see the reason for the Tchudis including a chapter on this writing mode.
A second appeal of The Young Writer’s Handbook are the opening and ending chapters. The first chapter talks about the history of writing, the uses of it in our current world, the future of writing, and the place of writing in each of our lives. Because the entire course of civilization can be traced in and through writing, a brief overview of its history seems like a totally appropriate way to start a handbook on the topic. Although in some ways the rest of the info will seem dated in our technological age, in other ways the info remains amazingly modern. News, laws, agreements, observations, literature, and journals all still rely on words—even if now they’re often online instead of on paper. The last chapter talks about publication, but again the Tchudis draw on their experience in working with young people to cater their suggestions specifically to them. One can publish for family, friends, school, and the local newspaper. Should one want to try a form of publication where one remains the boss, self-publishing is an option with distribution being to local youth groups, church organizations, and the YMCA.
Having been published in 1984, how does The Young Writer’s Handbook stand against the guides available today? Due to technological advances since its publication, there are admittedly ways The Young Writer’s Handbook is dated. A more current all-purpose guide would be expected to refer to computers and social media. However, even with technology, the modes of writing really haven’t changed and so The Young Writer’s Handbook can still serve to inspire those young people who desire to do “more writing than is customarily required of them at school”. Moreover, just like with Gifts of Writing, it can remind writers of all ages and levels of the real reason we should write: for the joy of it.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
How would you rate this book?