Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Cure for Writer's Block

Calling all writers! I definitely have writing on the brain, especially now that 4th graders across the state of Texas are writing their little hearts out this week with the debut of Texas' newest standardized test, STAAR.
Writing is something I've always enjoyed doing--whether it was helping my dad proofread and publish his poetry magazine when I was a kid, writing in diaries and journals (elementary school all the way through college), or more recently, blogging (thanks, Reagan!). Writing is a creative release for me.  Fortunately my two youngest children also love to write, and a couple of years ago they begged inspired me to create a student-made book section in the library. Here it is:
The Lonestar Library--an opportunity for students to get their books "published" and read by others!

The Lonestar Library bookcase is shaped like a huge book, so of course it needed a huge spine label. How cool is that?!

The Lonestar Library is designed for student writers in grades 2-5. We spend an entire lesson discussing writing and what real authors do when creating good stories.  The program is optional; students who are interested can submit original works of fiction to their teachers for review. We talk about presentation and how their published books might be read by lots of people in our school (not just kids--teachers, parents, visitors, and maybe even the principal will read them!), so only a student's best effort is accepted. Once a teacher approves a book, it is sent to me for final approval. I prepare each approved submission by laminating pages and binding the book, then I add a spine label and library card that goes in a pocket. I take a picture of the student author with his/her book to display on the inside of the Lonestar Library. Like in the real world, each author gets paid for having a published book (we use "Hawk Bucks", which is our school currency--used for purchasing items at our school store). The books can be read and enjoyed only in the library, and at the end of the year I send the books home with the student authors. The books they create are AMAZING! Such imaginations...

Cover details of the Lonestar Library. The budding authors pictured are
my 2 youngest children and the inspiration for the Lonestar Library.

Inside the Lonestar Library. Student-made books are organized in labeled
baskets alphabetically by last name. All authors and illustrators get
pictures taken with their books!

Each student-made book has a card with signatures of everyone who read the book.

Currently there are 9 books that have been published to the Lonestar Library, with 4 more waiting for my review and final approval. That's a pretty good amount, but just a few weeks ago there were only 3 books and I'll be honest--I was panicking about the low number of student authors. All I could think of is that last year we had at least 15 books in the Lonestar Library by March. Where were the student authors this year? Why weren't they writing stories? What if this year the Lonestar Library just kind of...fizzled? So out of desperation I came up with a sneaky little plan. The week before Spring Break I announced to the upper grade classes that our school was having...(drumroll, please) the first ever Annual Creative Writing Contest. The kids were so excited! And then I showed them the prizes--you should have heard the oooohs and aaahhs!
These are the prizes I used for the Creative Writing Contest. Who knew that huge pens and hamburger squeeze toys could be so motivational?
I explained that in addition to the standard Hawk Bucks payment, the first student in each class to turn in a story worthy of publishing to the Lonestar Library would win a prize. That was all it took. Within the week I had book submissions out the wa-zoo. And the good news is, students are still writing books for the Lonestar Library!
So there you have it--a writing contest and cheap prizes, the ultimate cure for writer's block!


  1. Awesome idea. I love the huge book bookcase.
    Dragonflies in First

  2. Great start to the blog. I will definitely be checking back often. Hope your year is going great.

  3. Once again Wersty you are totally fantastic!