Things that make you go hmm…part 2!

When I picked up Junior High Kid this afternoon, the first thing out of his mouth was, “I get to write and write and write tonight. And then when I’m done with that, I get to write some more. And when I’m done with that, I get to write even more.”

My response: okay… (This isn’t sounding too bad yet…)

Junior High Kid went on to tell me he had to write between 3,000 and 12,000 words…TONIGHT!

My response: THREE THOUSAND TO TWELVE THOUSAND WORDS IN ONE NIGHT???? Holy cow! What’s the assignment? (Mentally, I’m adding up just how many pages 3,000-12,000 words is…)

Junior High Kid said, “Well, I wrote my cover letter and addressed my envelope for the publication assignment. So now I have to write my story.”

(Ah! The Publication unit. Which started three days ago.)

My response: (silence)

I took a few deep breaths. Then, me: So…you chose your market BEFORE you wrote your story?

Junior High Kid: Yes. I chose Cicada. Stories for Cicada have to be 3,000-12,000 words long. That’s why I have a lot of writing to do.

[FYI: I looked up the guidelines from Cicada (the language arts classes didn’t actually have guidelines…they just used Writer’s Market)…their guidelines say, “Please don’t write for a junior high audience. We’re looking for complex character development, strong plots, and thought-provoking themes for young people in high school and college.” How does a kid who’s IN junior high write for a high school and college audience???]

I took a few more deep breaths. Then: Do you really have to write a brand new story? Can you take one you’ve been working on and see what you can do with it?

Junior High Kid: No. None of them are 3,000-12,000 words.

Me: Do you have to submit to Cicada? Can you submit to another publication? One that takes shorter pieces?

Junior High Kid: No. I already addressed my envelope.

I am about ready to bang my head against the steering wheel here. I don’t know what to tell the kid. I wouldn’t sit down and crank out a 3,000-12,000 word story for Cicada tonight and send it out tomorrow (and I’m supposed to be an actual professional writer). How in the world is a seventh grader supposed to do that???

Junior High Kid finally said that the actual assignment was to take another piece of writing they’d done in class at some point this year and submit that, but if they didn’t like any of the things they’d done so far, they could write something new. Tonight. Junior High Kid didn’t think any of the things he’d written so far were appropriate (none of them were 3,000-12,000 words), so he didn’t think he had any choice but to write something new. By tomorrow. (He’s probably at a slight disadvantage having a mom who’s an author. I’m sure other kids aren’t stressing about whether their submissions are appropriate or not. Editors must LOVE this teacher or this school district…whoever’s brilliant idea it was to have EVERY seventh grader submit their work to a professional publication.)

BTW, his grade is based on whether he addresses the envelope properly, whether he does the cover letter right and whether he actually submits his story. It doesn’t matter what the story looks like. Though that part does matter to him. Which is good. Except for the fact it’s causing him stress.

I told him that if he wasn’t happy with anything he’d written thus far this year, it was unlikely he’d be able to whip something up in ONE NIGHT that he’d be happy with. (Especially if it had to be at least 3,000 words! Though actually, MY guidelines from Cicada say “up to 5,000 words.” It doesn’t mention a minimum word count at all.) I told him no professional author would do what he’s doing. I told him I spent my day reworking the same three pages. And finally I did something I try very hard not to do. I butted in and said, “you need to come up with a new plan. You cannot write a 3,000 word story tonight and submit it to Cicada tomorrow.”

So I helped him go through Writer’s Market again (after assuring him I would give him new stamps so he could do a new envelope…hopefully the teacher won’t mind). And we found a market that accepts poetry from kids. In fact, the ONLY poetry they accept is from kids. I do think he can write a poem tonight and submit it to this publication tomorrow. This publication doesn’t pay anywhere near as much as Cicada, but it’s a little more realistic of a market for him.

Was I wrong to butt in???


12 thoughts on “Things that make you go hmm…part 2!

  1. I think you needed to butt in. As a former English teacher, I can understand why the teacher is doing this assignment, but I’m completely flummoxed by the manner in which s/he is going about it.

  2. You’d think the teacher would have encouraged the students to submit their projects to magazines that specifically take stories from kids. Did she stress to the students that their chances of being published in a magazine like Cicada are probably zero? Seems to me there will be a lot of disappointed kids this summer.

  3. And here the poor editors are going to get all these submissions that are poorly written just for the sake of an assignment, too!

    Not everyone is ever going to write publishable work, and while it’s admirable to teach kids that they can submit if they want to, requiring it seems unfair. What group of adults would we require such a thing from?

    And Cicada doesn’t exist just to help kids complete assignments, either.

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