Upper St. Clair School District

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Feb. 15, 2017
 
Author conducts writers’ workshop at Boyce

Writing Workshop Fifth and sixth graders at Boyce Middle School recently had the opportunity to participate in a writers’ workshop led by Frederic S. Durbin, author of three books and numerous short stories. Sponsored by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, the event was part of the school’s annual Author’s Day celebration.

This year marks the first time Author’s Day has followed the writers’ workshop format. During the morning announcements, students watched a brief introductory video about Mr. Durbin in order to provide as much time as possible for students to write and interact with him.

“This format allows us to let the kids actually do some hands-on writing,” Mr. Durbin said. “It’s not just a lecture to a huge group but it allows the students to be in a little bit more intimate setting and be able to practice some of these writing skills.”

Mr. Durbin held 30-minute writing workshops with each of the middle school’s eight teams, challenging students to vary their writing. After picking the name of a character, students were asked to create a short story – consisting of just eight sentences – from the following specific instructions:
  • Include a sensory detail
  • Start with something not the subject
  • Use an action verb
  • Write a sentence using 21 words
  • Include something you can hear
  • Have your character think or feel something emotionally
  • Write a sentence using six words
  • Bring it to a close
In addition to writing, students had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. One student asked how he comes up with the names for his characters.

“A lot of times names come from old folk tales,” Mr. Durbin said. “Sometimes even from the dictionary – a word will make me think of a name for a character.”

Mr. Durbin shared what he believes is the secret to good writing.

“The story really isn’t about the story….that’s not what keeps you reading,” he said. “The story is about the story happening to someone. It’s about a character experiencing the story and that’s what brings it to life. If you know what that character is feeling, what the character is thinking that’s what makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens to the character.”

Among Mr. Durbin’s books are “The Star Shard, “Dragonfly” and “A Green and Ancient Light.”
 

 
 
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