Author shares tools of the trade with Elm students
Author Candace Fleming talks Oct. 11 to third- and fourth-graders about her writing process at Elm School. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 17, 2012 1:26PM
BURR RIDGE — Author Candace Fleming was no older than her Elm School audience when she started writing stories.
She proved it Oct. 11 to a room full of third- and fourth-graders by showing them the notebook in which she wrote her first stories decades ago.
The tattered spiral, filled with thoughts, vignettes and ideas, was the start of a habit that has lasted a lifetime for Fleming, and one she encouraged her young audience to begin.
“You and I are doing the exact same thing,” she told the students, for whom writing is a focus this school year.
Media Resource Center Director Jill Berry wasn’t the only one excited about Fleming’s return to Elm School. The author arrived at her Oct. 11 morning talk to cheers from her young fans, who had prepared for the visit by reading Fleming’s book, “The Fabled Fourth-Graders of Aesop Elementary School.”
Berry told her audience that she loves to write, but writing, she said, begins long before she ever picks up a pen or sits down at her computer.
“My most important writing tools are my eyes and my ears,” said Fleming. “Use your eyes and ears.”
She then records what she sees and hears in her writer’s notebook.
“I always carry it with me,” she said.
She then enlisted the students’ help using what she calls her “super secret splendiferous formula” for writing a story. She uses the five-step formula, which includes a description of the main character, his problem and how he will overcome it, to plan every story.
Finally, Fleming told students that it is not enough to be a good writer.
“You must be a good rewriter,” said Fleming, whose books go through dozens of edits before they land in a reader’s hands.
Berry said visits from authors like Fleming are an important part of the curriculum at Elm.
“It brings reading to life when the students meet an author,” Berry said.
“This year our district has a real emphasis on writing,” said Berry, who hopes students will take tips from Fleming’s visit to better their own skills.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade prepared for Fleming’s visit by reading books from her collection. That collection ranges from picture books like “Munch, Munch, Muncha” to chapter books, such as “Lowji Discovers America.”
“They are very familiar with them,” Berry said.
Fleming spent the entire day at Elm, speaking to each grade level about her books, the way she writes, and what students can do to be better writers.
“It’s a big deal,” Berry said.
Another big deal is set to take place later this month when a trio of authors will pay a visit to the Burr Ridge school.
Dan Gutman, Jon Scieszka and Jeramey Kraatz will visit with fourth- and fifth-graders on Oct. 29. The event will include a trivia competition between students at Elm and The Lane.
“They’ll be answering questions based on what the authors present,” Berry said.
The day is sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshops at no cost to the school.