Rachel Carson considered herself a scientist first and a writer second. In fact, she often said that the natural world gave her something to write about.
I couldn’t agree more.
I've been enamored with the wildlife and wild places since I was 8 years old, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a career that allows me to spend my days exploring the world around us and then sharing my new knowledge with kids.
During school visits, students often ask me why I write nonfiction. And my answer is that while fiction writers enjoy inventing characters and creating worlds, for me, the natural world is so amazing, so magical, that I feel driven to share its beauty and wonder with other people. I tell my young audience that if one of my books inspires them to lift up a rock and see what’s underneath or to chase after a butterfly just to see where it’s going, then my job is done.
For me, writing is sharing. While I wrote for myself long before I was published and continue to do so today, writers generally crave more than an audience of one. That’s one of the reasons I’ve maintained this blog for 11 years.
I often use this blog as a way of working out my own ideas about the world and the craft of nonfiction writing. Some posts don’t get much of an audience, but some of my most popular posts have received more than 100,000 hits and one received 500,000. Clearly, the ideas I threw out into the world those day resonated with my audience, and I should keep pursing them. So far, ideas that started on this blog have turned into four books for educators, and perhaps there will be more in the future.
So why is any of this relevant to you, my audience of teachers, librarians, and writers? Because young writers are no different from me. They want to be seen and heard and understood, and we need to show them that writing can be a powerful way to do that. How? By giving them an authentic audience. Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Share a final draft with a small group of classmates. This is less intimidating than doing an oral presentation for the whole class. Encourage listeners to discuss the writer’s ideas but not to critique the writing.
2. Share a final draft with younger students. Encourage the audience to respond with writing of their own or by drawing pictures or making an audio or video recording.
3. Create a class blog and encourage students in other classes, parents and grandparents, and family friends to read the posts and leave comments.