Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘The Young Writer’s Handbook

As a follow-up to my reviews of two favorite writing guides from my childhood, I thought it might be fun to share some of my own samples with you. They will be from different sections of Gifts of Writing, as well as different stages of my life. Unfortunately, I don’t have any from my students to share, as I’ve been allowing them to take their work home without my making copies. Maybe another time!

HandBoundJournalThe first sample is my most treasured creation. It’s a hand-bound book I created used the instructions in Gifts of Writing. To create such a book, one needs paper, cardboard, scissors, glue, fabric, cloth tape, and a ruler. My having created the journal during my early teens, I don’t recall how difficult the task is or what obstacles I faced. The Tchudis do note that such a process can take a long time. They warn to be careful when using the glue, due to it sticking to everything. Also, they said that a hard-bound book can be used for many of the writing projects they refer to in their guide. I used mine for a journal. You can see that through repeated use and the passage of time, the journal shows wear and time but I still like it better than all my store-bought ones.

The next sample, that of a nature entry, includes two variations: one from my teens and one from my adulthood. Some ideas that the Tchudis listed for such a project included taking note of seasonal changes for animals and plants, writing descriptive poems that draw on the senses, and including photographs or pressed flowers. Both of my entries are a simple combination of words with art. The first is kind of gushy while the second, influenced by reading of full-fledged guides to nature journals, is more objective. Although my entries about everyday nature aren’t all that faithful, one direct result of them were pet journals. Some of those latter now serve as my main source of memories about pets whom I have lost.


The final sample, that of an About Me poster, is one I created as a teacher for school. It’s more elaborate than my students have ever made. That’s because mine includes photographs, while theirs generally consist of magazine clippings. Since the first one, which I’m displaying here, I’ve created others. I enjoy the process of selecting photos, writing captions, and organizing everything onto poster board. My students similarly seem to like flipping through magazines, finding pictures and words that describe them, and creating About Me posters. I display all of our work the first of every new school, as a way for classmates and visitors to get acquainted.

My being hired to teach two writing clubs this summer prompted me to review Gifts of Writing and The Young Writer’s Handbook. Over the next few weeks, I’ll review other relevant books and let you know that clubs go. Stay tuned!

YoungWritersHandbookA 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.

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