Advice for Writers . . . Really!

I was recently asked if I’d like to contribute a piece to a blog, Guide to Literary Agents. The man who oversees it, Chuck Sambuchino, struck me as sincere and highly organized, so I gave it some thought.

The idea of dispensing advice always gives me the willies, but at the same time I thought about this blog’s overall quality, and its readership, and decided that maybe I had something to say after all. Not advice on technique, but I was able to identify something that has proven essential to my writing life: spending time in classrooms.

Please click here to see the whole entry — Chuck did a great job designing it — and take a few minutes to breeze through other entries while you are there. There’s a lot of excellent, thoughtful content, particularly for hopeful authors seeking to get published.

Here’s a couple of paragraphs pulled from the large article, for those of you too tired to click:

In recent years, I’ve hung out a bit in fifth-grade classrooms. I noticed the way one girlfrowning and aloneset herself apart during P.E. There was a red circle on the floor and the teacher asked the kids to sit inside it. Everyone did except for this one girl, who sat down outside it, the tip of her foot just touching the line. I’ve seen the way a teacher’s eyes rolled in her head when, in the middle of a lesson, a boy stood up to sharpen his pencils: Whirrrr, whirrr, whirrrr.  I’ve learned how kids are disciplined during recess, where in one school they were forced to stand by “the wall.” The punishment: watching everyone else run and play.

Mostly, it’s been a accumulation of details, little truths, seeds. And what happens for mewhat always happensis that I begin to see the possibilities for story. I get inspired. And my blank notebook fills with words.


  1. Connie says:

    Just the other day during kinder recess, two boys were explaining to me how they were really spies and they had not one but two(!) secret labs on the playground and under that rock (pointing down) one boy said he had his hidden computer lab that could pop up and he “can do all kinds of spy stuff”. It was the cutest thing and so creative for such little guys. If we could just get their ideas down on paper they could create some good stories. Hopefully they don’t forget their ideas by the time they have their letters and spelling down.

    **pencil sharpening during instruction time “kills” me – there is always one student that does it just to be a toot.**

  2. Parker says:

    Great advice. I love how you’ve structured as a sort of story about what has helped you find writing ideas.
    Also, this snippet makes me want to read the teacher’s story as much as the kid’s story.

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