STOCKTON: Students learn from author: Writing is lots of hard work

What does it mean to be a writer? Does it mean that, after thinking about what you “want to say,” you just inscribe symbols from your language onto a piece of pa

By John Tredrea, Special Writer
   What does it mean to be a writer?
   Does it mean that, after thinking about what you “want to say,” you just inscribe symbols from your language onto a piece of paper or a computer screen?
   Most professional writers will say there’s a good deal more to it than that.
   There’s the arduous task of re-writing, sometimes over and over, the first draft. Often, research is heavily involved as well.
   Fifth and sixth grade students in Doug Hudak’s class at Stockton Borough Elementary learned about that first hand recently when author Teresa Malley paid them a visit.
   Ms. Malley is a writer of adult and children’s fiction. She has recently completed the first in a series of middle-grade (9 to 13 years) children’s books, titled “The Christmas Party, a T.C. Cacklehopper Mystery,” about an 11-year-old girl private investigator with super powers. The book is currently with a New York agent.
   Ms. Malley said the class said they wouldn’t change a thing in her book, but she gained some ideas for the second book in the series, like featuring the boy character more, she said. “They said he was so cool,” she remembered.
   ”It was so encouraging to me that they liked my book so much,” she said. “That made me feel incredibly good.”
   She also has written an adult legal thriller and a number of short stories, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, given to writers in small publishing houses.
   ”Teresa, who has been to our school before, shared one of her draft manuscripts with our students,” said Suzanne Ivans, the school’s administrator. “She read it aloud and talked about it, took questions and comments. It was a backstage look at the process of writing fiction, of what’s involved in producing a book before it’s published.”
   It was a learning experience for Ms. Malley as well as the pupils.
   ”She was very appreciative of the students’ questions and comments, which she said will help her with the revision process,” Ms. Ivans said.
   The experience was one of learning about self-discipline.
   ”The students learned that writing is not ‘just writing,’” Ms. Ivans said. “There’s revisions, often many of them, and research. In a child’s world, even one re-write is just ‘too much!’ Children nowadays tend to be drawn to instant gratification. We’re trying to teach them to persevere, to roll up their sleeves. We’re trying to prepare them for life, not just for their next grade in school. Teresa’s visit here was a great tool for doing that.”