April 29, 2013 by Jen Cudmore
Last Saturday I had the privilege of teaching at the Youth Writers Conference. I started my day off right with a cinnamon dolce latte (sugar free, of course) from Starbucks and made my way to Clark Middle School. My son sat beside me munching on a breakfast burrito and gulping down a strawberry muscle milk. We arrived sooner than I planned – that’s my type A personality coming out – and I was thrilled to see several students already milling around the lobby.
For the past couple years, the Alaska Writers Guild has been working to build a relationship with the Anchorage School District to help encourage young people to become better writers. The result was a wonderful conference, free of charge, for middle and high school students. The class I taught was on character development. I talked with the students about choosing the right name, as well as carefully thinking through physical traits, personalities, backstory, quirks and flaws. They each had the opportunity to complete a worksheet with the character’s strengths and weaknesses, the ultimate goal, the conflict/stakes, the moment of truth and the lesson learned.
I was so focused on the lesson that I didn’t even finish my latte! When I first started writing novels, the last thing on my mind was teaching others how to do it, but after helping with the past four AWG conferences and teaching twice at the children’s conference in the valley, I’ve decided that I really enjoy sharing my experiences with others – especially young people. This was my first attempt at working with teens and most of them seemed eager to learn.
I’ve already started planning my lesson for next time . . .