November 15, 2000
Dear Mrs. Szymanski,
I want to meet you. I am 7 years old and I want you to teach me how to write a story. I like to write stories about sharks.
November 20, 2000
It was really nice to get your letter. I hope we get to meet at the end of the school year, because I would love to meet you and your classmates, too!
I would love to help you write a story. I see that you like to write about sharks. Do you also like to read books and articles about sharks? Have you ever seen a real shark? Do you watch videos or television shows with sharks in them? If you answered yes to any or all of my questions you probably have been developing the background you need to write a good story about sharks. An author should have personal experience, or have researched what they are writing about whenever possible so that they can write stories that seem real to the readers.
My friend and I are writing a series about ghosts from the time of our Civil War. I did not know a lot about ghosts or our Civil War times, so I spent a year (with my friend and co-author Shelley Sykes) reading about the Civil War, spending time in the historic town of Gettysburg, PA, and learning about people who lived in that era (time). I also went out on ghost-walks in Gettysburg and on a night time trip with a real ghost researcher. It was a little scary to me, but it helped me learn about the subject I wanted to write about!
When you think about what you will write about think about all the possibilities. Think about the things in your life and whether you'd like to write about them. Do you have any animals or fish? What do you like to do the most? Do you like to read, or sew, or do crafts, or ride horses, or play video games, or watch television, or go bowling or skating, or go on trips with your family? Anything that you do in your everyday life can be used in your story. My daughter says her life is boring. But it is not boring to people who do not do the same things she does. It is exciting! When you write about something you know it comes from experience, and from life, and from the heart, and your writing is always better.
I know that whatever you choose to write about will be good. Remember to have fun writing it too. When you have decided what you will write about, you can play the What-if Game. That's when you create lots of different ways the story can go by asking yourself, what if this happened, or what if that happened. Your story can go in many different directions, but which way it goes will depend on what you choose from your What-if game.
Whatever you do, have fun writing it. Writing stories can be a very exciting and fun thing to do! Good luck with yours!
Dear Mrs Szymanski,
My story takes place in the water. My main characters are me and my sister Lee-lee and our cousin Witney. We are swimming in the water then a great white shark comes and chases us around and around then we almost get eaten up but we made it back to the shore.
Wow! You've written an idea for a breathtaking story. It sounds like it will be very scary to read! Stories should open up with a conflict and you have a definite conflict. The characters must get away from the shark. That is a good problem.
When you start to write your story, think about all the details, and add some description. Sometimes, when I am writing a story I write down a list of questions about my own story. Then I write down a list of answers. There might be two or three answers to each question. Then I have to choose which one I like best and want to use in my story. Ask yourself some questions about your story. Maybe you could write down a list of questions and a list of possible answers. Then choose the answers you like best.
What do Lee-Lee, and Whitney, and your sister look like? Is your sister younger, or older? You might know the answer to these questions, but your reader does not, so you will have to tell us in the story. How old are they, and why are they in the water? Is there a parent or an adult anywhere near by? What do the characters say to each other? How do they get away from the shark?
Keep these things in mind as you write your story:
The Sneaky Great White Shark
It was almost the end of summer. We were having a family picnic at the beach. It was 90 degrees outside and the water warm. It was on August 15th and my cousin, Whitney, and my sister, Lee-Lee, were with me at the picnic. We were having fun building sand castles. We played volleyball and kicked beach balls around the beach. My mom and dad were laying in the sun and talking to my aunt and uncle and my mom-mom and pop-pop. My brother, Jesse, was playing volleyball with us. He was throwing wet sand at us. We didn't like wet sand thrown at our face and hair. Then we decided it wasn't fun playing volleyball in the sand anymore. Then we thought we would go swimming in the water to clean off the sand.
"Stay together and don't let anything hurt you," said mom.
We had fun splashing water in each other's face. We floated on our backs and rode on our rafts. We took our boogey boards with us. We were having lots of fun. Then we took our boogey boards and placed them on the sand. We took our rafts and floated on our backs and stomachs.
Suddenly my cousin, Whitney, was screaming at me and Lee-Lee! And a Great white shark came up and me and Lee-Lee tried to get away fast but the shark was coming fast. Then my mom and dad came and rescued us.
You've really been working hard on your story! I love the way you added the details about the weather, and what you were doing on the beach on that summer day. I can almost close my eyes and feel the sun beating down and the warm breeze washing over me!
You have very little polishing left before your story is just right! I think you should keep everything the same, but work on the ending just a little bit. Here are the questions I have about the end of your story:
The Sneaky Great White Shark
It was almost the end of summer. We were having a family picnic at the beach. It was 90 degrees outside and the water was warm. It was on August 15th and our 14 year old cousin Whitney, and my sister, Lee-Lee, were with me at the picnic. We were having fun building sand castles. We played volleyball and kicked beach balls around the beach. My mom and dad were laying in the sun and talking to my aunt and uncle and my mom-mom and pop-pop. My brother, Jesse, was playing volleyball with us. He was throwing wet sand at us. We didn't like wet sand thrown at our face and hair. Then we decided it wasn't fun playing volleyball in the sand anymore. Then we thought we would go swimming in the water to clean off the sand.
"Stay together and don't let anything hurt you," said mom.
We had fun splashing water in each other's faces. We floated on our backs and rode on our rafts. We took our boogey boards with us. We were having lots of fun. Then we took our boogey boards and placed them on the sand. We took our rafts and floated on our backs and stomachs.
Suddenly my cousin, Whitney, was screaming at me and Lee-Lee! A great white shark came up to us. He was gray on top and white on the bottom. My stomach felt sick and I screamed. Lee-Lee jumped up on my back and said, "Come on, Katie! Let's go!!!" Lee-Lee and I tried to get away fast but the shark was coming fast.
Just in time my mom and dad came and rescued us. Mom picked me up and Dad picked up Whitney and Lee-Lee. They said to us, "Look out before you go into the water. Keep your eyes open for sharks."
When we got back to the shore my stomach felt much better. Whitney and Lee-Lee flet much better because we were all back on the shore and safe. We were talking all at once telling everybody how scary it was and how the shark almost got us. My grandma, my grandpa, my mom-mom and pop-pop came and gave us big hugs and kisses.
Then joined our family at a big picnic. We got to eat good foods like corn on the cob and chicken. Then Whitney showed me and Lee-Lee how to dance. It took two hours to get back home. On the way home we were talking about going in the water and that we would never go in the ocean again. We lived for ever and ever.
Your story is wonderful! Adding the description of the shark made the story so real. My heart was beating fast and I felt like I was in the water with you when I read that part. I love what you have done! The end of your story leaves the reader feeling very happy about what has happend. All your hard work has made your story super!
Now I can't wait to see your illustration too. Soon I get to meet you and the others in the class and I am really looking forward to giving each of you a hug and telling you in person what a wonderful job you've done!
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April 8, 2001