8th Grade Music and Creative Writing Workshop

As many of your know, I love working with teen writers. Once a month, I co-host The Teen Writing Workshop with another author, and the teen librarian, at our local library. We help teen-aged writers craft new story ideas, we work on character development, world-building, dialogue–whatever the writers need or want. It’s really fun, and I’m always impressed by the amazing writing that comes out of our group.

me and sara bourlandSara Bourland, an eighth-grade creative writing teacher at a nearby junior high school, invited me to come to her classroom to visit with just over 60 students, over two days. (Look, our outfits matched!) Radio Head is a bit too mature for the average thirteen-year-old, but music is a topic everyone loves. When you’re a teenager, music is often at the center of your life–it’s a teen’s language, it’s how a teen understands his or herself and the world. It’s a big stress reliever, a means of bonding with friends, and a way of getting charged up for an exciting event, or while working out.

The first day in Ms. Bourland’s class, we discussed the process of story creation. I brought my tried-and-true character development worksheet. (Comment below with your info, if you’d like a copy!) It’s guaranteed to help every writer fully understand each fictional character: what they want, where they came from, what holds them back, and how they handle themselves in conflict. By the end of the worksheet, a writer will clearly see the theme of his or her story, and why each character behaves the way they do.

An interesting side note: As the students filed in and sat at their desks, we played Drake’s Hotline Bling. Whatever your opinion of that song, its presence and smooth bassline changed the atmosphere of the class, and had a visible affect on every student present. (It was kinda magical. Thanks, Drake.)

The second day I visited, I brought one of my favorite music therapy activities. We listened to Adele’s Hello, then we rewrote the song, choosing our own protagonist to replace Adele (sorry, love), and who our protagonist is speaking to. We explored not one, but three compounding conflicts for our lyrics, and selected possible resolutions. Some wrote from the POV of child to father, alien to earthling, or predator to prey. One guy wrote from Steve Buscemi’s point of view, to his career. Hey, I say let the music take you where it may.

A few weeks later, I received 60 thank you notes. While the notes were a lovely gesture on Ms. Bourland’s behalf, the personal messages the students wrote were so touching and personal, I could barely read them with (yes, literal) tears in my eyes. I didn’t do anything terribly special or unusual in that classroom. The truth is music moves us, especially during our younger years. It’s a language which breaks barriers and unites. Now when I hear Adele, I think of the millions of people she reaches every day and I realize we’re all in this together.

Book Club or Classroom (1)Would you like me to come visit your classroom?
Learn more here: Book club and Classroom Visits.

We don’t have to be neighbors for me to visit! I “travel” via Skype to classrooms around the world, and I’m open to creating writing and music activities for all ages. Sign up for Skype in the Classroom here.






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