Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Behind the Books: Who’s Your Audience?

For me, writing is a fun adventure. A game to play. A puzzle to solve. A challenge to overcome.

But many students don’t feel the same way. According to them, research is boring. Making a writing plan is a waste of time. And revision is more than frustrating. It’s downright painful.

Why do young writers have a point of view that’s so completely different from mine? While there’s probably no single answer to this question, one thing that's missing for young writers is an authentic audience.

When I begin writing, I know exactly who my audience is. I’m excited to share information with them. And in many cases, they respond with their thoughts and ideas.

For this blog, my audience is you. I know you are reading because I see my Blogger stats. You respond on social media, and sometimes you leave comments or send email.

For my children’s books, the ultimate audience is kids, of course. But most of the time, they depend on gatekeepers to put the books in their hands. So the gatekeepers are my audience too.

I know people are reading my books because I see reviews in journals and online. Eventually, I see sales figures. Kids respond by sending me letters, by asking probing questions at school visits, and sometimes, by dragging their parents to book signings. Gatekeepers respond via social media and by inviting me to their schools and conferences.

These responses are different from the ones I get from my critique group and editors. Sure, they read my work too, but it’s their job to find fault with it. While I appreciate and depend on their feedback, it’s far less rewarding than the reactions I get from my true audience, my authentic audience.

Students often don’t have an authentic audience. Their teacher is like my editor. And if peer critiquing or buddy editing is part of their process, those classmates are like my critique group.

How can we give young writers the kind of experiences professional writers have when they write for and get responses from an authentic audience? Here are a couple of ideas:

1.    Share writing with younger students.  Encourage the younger students to respond with writing of their own or by drawing pictures or making an audio or video recording.

2.    Create a classblog and encourage students in other classes and/or parents to read the posts and leave meaty comments.

If you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments below. I know there are lots of ways we can make this happen for our students.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, Melissa. I never realized this gap for students, but it makes so much sense. I can see school-wide readings at lunch time, mini-competitions around different themes or genres with winners' work being shared school-wide, "compensated" contributions to school newsletters by students, etc., etc.

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