I came across news of this year’s Write Across Ontario and I wish every grade 7 or 8 student in Ontario who has ever dreamed of being a writer can participate.
Igniting the spark for writing at an early age is ideal. When I was in elementary school, I wrote a story for school. And I loved it. It was a story about a pair of ballet shoes that had been discarded as the little girl who owned them grew up. It was melancholy and sentimental (maybe overly so) but I was proud of it. I enjoyed writing it. And I was excited to hand it in.
My teacher wasn’t in love with the story as much as I was and I remember feeling discouraged by her comments. In general, I am not easily offended but I remember feeling the hit, thinking maybe writing wasn’t my thing, that I would find something else I was good at. Even well-meaning teachers don’t realize how harmful their feedback can be for kids, especially in areas of the arts because it is so subjective.
Thankfully my love of writing won out in the end but I wasted precious years to realize this.
When I see contests, like the Write Across Ontario, it excites me. It gives students who love to write a fantastic challenge and an opportunity to submit their work for review. They may allow their friends, family and teachers to read their stories, but sending it to an outside organization for critical review is great way for them to taste the world of publishing. In the end, whether they win or not, it’s up to us to encourage them and make sure they know that as writers, we want others to read our work but their approval isn’t always the end goal.
So if you know a student in Ontario in grades 7 or 8, please pass this along and encourage them to meet their muse. Maybe my muse remembers her original inspiration for the ballet shoes thing. I might have to revisit that.