Amelia McInerney says it’s important for students to have freedom in the writing process to better express themselves.
The picture book author and creator of Who Fed Zed? joined literacy experts Phil and Sharon Callen on Episode 44 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy, opening up about the freedom and more casual approach to her writing process, which can also be beneficial in the classroom.
“Things come out in writing. And even with children’s writing, I’ve seen in workshops where [the meaning] just accidentally comes through when you write. So sometimes I think just loosening up and just writing can help you express yourself,” she said.
“And you can steer it a bit if you’ve got it bent towards humour or towards heartstrings books – it’ll come out if it’s you and growing your voice, that’s what it’s all about.
“You sort of have to know what you’re doing to an extent, but also just have some kind of faith that you will just naturally know how to write because human beings are wired for story … and pull from all these different writing devices and don’t think so consciously about those things just right now because you can edit it later.”
Sharon added: “Trust the process. We don’t have to know everything about it, and sometimes the knowing everything can get in the way”.
Amelia said it was this mindset that inspired her well-known picture books, which delve into deeper messages beyond the immediate humour and ‘fun’.
“My goal or my aim when I’m writing is mainly just fun and entertainment to make a book that kids will want to read for enjoyment. But the subconscious part of your mind brings in other elements and informs what you’re writing and how you’re writing it,” she said.
“And it’s sometimes a bit of a surprise and it somehow melds together, your conscious mind and subconscious mind. You end up having stories that you realise you had a really deep emotional meaning or connection with, even though it might seem really fun and lighthearted.”
Amelia and Sharon elaborated on how having these underlying messages is crucial to creating an engaging and thought-provoking multi-dimensional book.
“Books are so important in all of our lives because every story is a story of something. It won’t always be the same thing that we think it’s about, we don’t always take the same things from it, which is the wonder and complete joy of stories,” Sharon said.
Amelia said: “I think that the story has to work on a few layers for it to be a good picture book, but it’s got to work on a simple layer for really young children.
“It makes them think about something or maybe discuss something, and so it’s such a powerful vehicle for opening conversations.”
The trio discussed how it’s also important for teachers to offer alternative ways to enter the writing process, remembering that every student has different needs.
“Sometimes we don’t think of offering different ways for students to enter into the writing process. Sometimes we only know one way and so we go ‘I think it looks like this’, it might start with the planning or even a template to work in or whatever. And so I think sometimes we forget that oral rehearsal of a story [for example] might be a way to get ourselves started,” Sharon said.
“The more processes we learn about from different authors, the more we can understand that we do begin and think and write in different ways … not all writers are doing the exact same process.
Amelia added: “It’s about what works for you. I don’t plot out a story, I like to just dive in and see where it goes, but some people are the opposite and they really want to know exactly what’s happening and structure it … so there can be different processes, but you probably should try different ways of writing and work out what feels good”.
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