Writer Tom Mach, who moved to Lawrence in 2002, has been busy this year instructing others young and old throughout the state about his craft.
"The only thing bad about teaching is that it keeps you from writing," Mach said.
But Mach concedes that he's having fun, especially with his two weekly appointments to help first-grade students at St. John Catholic School and with seven 8- to 11-year-olds through the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department.
The latter class began in October and is running Monday evenings through early December. It's called "Writing as an Adventure."
Mach leads the students through exercises, and most of the students have written their own stories.
Give us an idea of what the "Writing as an Adventure" class is like.
We started off the first day. They had to write about a story they read and put it into their own words.
We talked a little about metaphors. It was interesting. Most of the kids already knew what a metaphor was. These kids all love to write, which was interesting to me because it seems like most kids hate to write.
What are some exercises they have enjoyed the most?
I had them write dialogues. I told them to first read it in normal voice. Then read it as an old woman and then as an angry policeman. So, they all had to change their voices. I said, "See, you can use the same sentence different ways."
They emphasize different words, and they get the feeling. I told them, "See if you can hear the sound in your head and put it on paper, so that if you actually hear the voices, it helps."
We played another game where I wrote a sentence and covered it up. Then someone else wrote a sentence and covered it up. When we were all done I read it out loud, and it was a real silly story.
Why is it important to teach writing to students in this age group?
I think kids have to have an outlet for things they enjoy. And for those kids that enjoy writing, I think we should have an outlet - just like painting or music - that lets them put words on paper and have fun doing that. Writing is so important with kids. Reading and writing go together. I think these kids, they read a lot, so they are able to write.
You said this class will be taught again sometime next year. What has struck you about your students' work?
They've said funny things, but I can't recall what they are. They come up with strange stories.
Some kids wrote some strange little dialogue. They'd have a discussion between two kids fighting, but the way they would write it would be kind of hilarious. Kids for the most part are very eager to read their material out loud.
Some are so expressive. There's one girl in my class; she's an extremely good writer, Kennedy (O'Dell). She writes great prose. I just was surprised. I asked her mother to encourage her to write some more because she does such a good job: Great characters, good dialogue, everything is punctuated well. I thought, gee, for 11 years old, that kid could start writing a book.
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