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Intersession Article– Writing Books for Children with Dr. Forsythe

Rollins College Mascot Tommy Tar travels to visit campus.  Photos: Scott CookWriting Books for Children, taught by Dr. Forsythe, is one of the few intersession classes focused solely on creative writing. Though compressed into a week, each student in the class produced a working draft of either a picture book or the first chapter of a middle grade or young adult novel, which was presented to the other students on the last day of class.

Writing picture books is more difficult than one would imagine. Since most picture books are short and use more basic vocabulary, it is easy to think that anyone could write one. The text of picture book is usually around 300-1000 words; for comparison, an article in The Sandspur is between 300 and 700 words. Because of this short length, every word needs to count, which requires a lot of work. For example, in one article the class read, Maurice Sendak, author of picture books including Where the Wild Things Are, says that it usually takes him around two years to write and edit the text for one of his picture books.

Each day of the intersession class consisted of writing time, reading time, watching short videos, time reviewing homework, and writing instruction time. One of the best parts of the class was the nostalgia associated with reading some of the picture books. Some favorites were Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Though these short works were nostalgia attached, it was beneficial to look at them through the lens of a writer.

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