Monday, January 9, 2012

Raising Funny Kids 7

How many of us have read through that ginormous Harry Potter book only to turn around and have our kids ask us to read the next one? In this respect, kids and parents both grew up with Harry Potter. I, myself, converted a broom closet under our stairs into an apartment for my daughter when she was in 3rd grade. Today, that apartment houses her art, collectibles, treasures, music, and notes from friends.  

The book, The Series of Unfortunate Events, stirred conversations that are often times difficult to bring up with young children, namely, what would happen if they were ever orphaned. 

"Well, of course we have a plan," I began, "we would not be like the Baudelaires, who placed poor Violet, Klaus, and Sunny in the care of that bumbling bureaucratic Arthur Poe, their parents estate executor." 

Literature offers us an opportunity to bridge many conversations about life, adolescent transitions, and overcoming challenges. What a great opportunity The Series of Unfortunate Events series (and other books like it) offers for parents who find it challenging to discuss what they have planned for their kids in the event something did happen, easing their children's minds that they would never end up in a Reptile Room with Uncle Monty, only to be forced to outwit Count Olaf using their skills in ingenuity, stored knowledge, and, of course, biting.

These and many other novels have made their way into our hearts and minds over the years, as well as millions of other families' hearts all over the world. Many of us discuss these characters as if they're long lost family members, wondering what Harry, Ron, or Hermione would do or think about a particular experience at school, a life change, or shift in adolescent thinking. Even mentioning these characters to older teens seems to bring back a type of nostalgia as if the characters were truly an integral part of their childhood memories. 

With literature having such a profound effect on our lives and the lives of our children, have you ever considered writing a book with your child? 

At ages 11 & 13, I walked my children through a nifty little literary device called the Fretag Triangle. The triangle is based off of Gustav Fretag method (Technique of the Drama, 1863) of analyzing plots derived from Aristotle's concept of unity of action. 

In addition to some worksheets I found online, I designed a few setting, magical weapon, and character sheets of my own that the kids could fill out to craft who and what was going to go where into their story. Then, came the brainstorming session. We started with the genre, what type of book do you want to write (mystery, science fiction, comedy) and after choosing, they wrote out a one-page narrative on who, what, and where. Once they had a basic outline that they could plot out, even if the main components changed slightly (or dramatically), they at least had a roadmap for drafting each chapter. Using these rough drafts, they built an outline, which served as their very own writing prompt. They finished filling out the details in their worksheets (character, setting, animals, etc.) and began crafting their story. 

It took approximately 6 months for my son to write his book, The Wizard's Apprentice. The cover of my son's book is a picture of him I took in Brittany. He had just given up trying to pull this sword from a stone and deemed the whole thing "a hoax" - not the true sword in the stone. Bo Erik's story follows the magical tale of Max, a young wizard, who must save his brother. He quickly finds himself whisked into another world where he must free his Master (from magical school) from the dark wizards.  

She designed the cover of her book and drew the artwork that introduced each chapter. Between research and editing, it took her a little over a year to complete a 25 chapter novel, The Manga Mysteries. Her book chronicles the lives of Faelin and her twin brother, Kailen Ducker, who travel the globe with their famous mother, whose fantasy novels gained immense popularity, hoisting the family into a world of intrigue, tragedy, and ultimately, an international scandal. 

When all was said and done, when the books were published, and when the excitement subdued, both my children told me how much they appreciated the experience and that now, they knew what "really goes into writing a book" - the time, the craft, and the skill, involved. 

In addition to having an absolutely beautiful family treasure for our entire family to enjoy, these books will no doubt serve a valued sense of accomplishment that they will carry in their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives. There are few things in life that bring such deserved pride as authorship offers. Perhaps, just perhaps, some other child somewhere in the world will grow up with the characters my children imagined deeply engrained into their own childhood memories. 

The experience was, as they say, priceless. 

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