Websites that foster budding writers
Children are often natural storytellers, eager to share their unique perspective through stories, poems and other forms of writing. They may retell a favourite story in their own words or weave fantastic adventures for a beloved character from a book or movie. And it’s not unusual for teens to spend hours writing and illustrating a private journal.
However, writing doesn’t have to remain a solitary activity or one shared just among family members. Thanks to the Internet, as well as a print magazine, older children and teens can share their literary works, get feedback from peers and read the prose of other young people.
One of our family’s favourite writing sites is www.figment.com. Geared to those ages 13 and over, this heavily moderated site is designed to help teen authors read the works of other young writers, connect with them in a safe environment and share their written works online. All work is copy-protected, which in practical terms means a visitor cannot “copy and paste” any work from the site, an important tool for preventing theft.
This website holds regular contests for young writers, from poets and novelists to playwrights and short story scribblers, with cool prizes and giveaways such as signed copies of hot teen lit books, gift cards, tote bags and T-shirts. The adult-moderated member forums offer constructive feedback without risk of hurtful commentary. Young writers will particularly enjoy the sizeable library filled with all forms of peer-authored material in conventional and unconventional formats – how about a Twitter story (told in 140 character segments) or cell phone novels (written on smart phones)?
Another cool writing site for teens is www.inkpop.com (motto: “Make your mark”), which is also geared to those 13 and older. The big draw is the website’s monthly contest, in which the five most popular writings (chosen by members of the site) are reviewed by an editorial board from the publishing house HarperCollins.
Inkpop accepts writing in more conventional forms, grouped into novels, short stories and poems. All genres are welcome. Although HarperCollins runs the site, the fine print makes it clear that authors retain all copyright to their material (including the elaborate book jackets some young authors design).
We’ve also been longtime subscribers to the print magazine Creative Kids, which is one of the few publications entirely written and edited by kids (under adult supervision, of course). Geared towards readers ages 8 to 16, it features fiction and non-fiction writing, artwork, puzzles and other creative works from kids all over the world. They are always on the lookout for original submissions; visit http://www.prufrock.com/client/client_pages/prufrockjournalsmagazines.cfm.
The attractively laid out magazine comes out four times a year and is only available at libraries or by subscription. You can go online and read some sample pieces of writing before you commit to a subscription. Kids tend to be very impressed by the creative efforts of their peers, and the publication may inspire them to see their own creations as potentially interesting to more than just mom and dad.
Whether or not your child goes on to become the next J.K. Rowling or Robert Munsch is much less important than encouraging them to see themselves as creative and capable of expressing themselves. These resources help link tweens and teens to a world where writing is encouraged and valued.