Grade: Senior

#2932. Childhood writings from famous authors

Reading/Writing, level: Senior
Posted Thu Sep 11 11:50:16 PDT 2003 by Paul Mandelbaum (
"First Words: Early Writings from 22 Favorite Contemporary Authors"
editor, "First Words", Culver City, CA
Materials Required: "First Words: Early Writings from 22 Favorite Contemporary Authors"
Activity Time: Various
Concepts Taught: Authors' development, creative-writing exercises

Choose an author from the book and put yourself in the role of that young person's editor. What suggestions might you make regarding word choice, sentence structure, imagery, etc.?

Rita Dove fashioned her short story "Chaos" (age 10) out of a vocabulary list. Create your own short story or poem inspired by three randomly chosen words. How might they relate in interesting and unexpected ways?

After reading Stephen King's "Jhonathan and the Witchs" (age 9), what similarities do you see between it and his later horror stories? What do fairy tales and horror stories in general have in common?

What do Maxine Hong Kingston's teenage journal entries reveal about her personality? Keep your own daily journal for a month, then reread it and ask the same question of yourself.

What special challenges, or advantages, might Joyce Carol Oates have found in writing from a boy's perspective in her story "A Long Way Home" (age 17)? Write a story or poem from the point of view of someone of the opposite sex. Or of a different age than you.

Describe the relationship between the detective and his assistant in John Updike's mystery (age 14). How would the story change if it were told from the detective's perspective? Try it.

Many more ideas on the teachers' page of

"First Words" is recommended by:
NCTE "English Journal"
Pennsylvania School Librarians' Assoc.
"Modern Language Notes"
Los Angeles Unified School District Library Services
"Library Journal"
and many others.