Feedback Gives Writers Energy

The story behind the book review.

Sam was given a special assignment to respond to a book of his choice with a project. He decided to write a book review.  I was thankful he was empowered to do something readers do in real life after finishing books. “Where will your book review go?” I asked.

He shrugged. “IDK, Mom. Maybe on the teacher’s desk.” (Sam is obsessed with acronyms. Although quirky, it does add to his charm.)

I said, “You know, I have lots of friends who write reviews. I write reviews too. It’s something readers do when they want to share a book. I often read books because of my friends’ reviews. They’re important to readers.”
 He shrugged and went back to reading his book. A few days later he said, “Do kids have blogs?”
I smiled. Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. “What are you thinking?” I asked.
“I thought if I write a book review, maybe I should put it on a blog. Then other people could read it and I could help them. I’ve read a lot of Titanic books and I know just the one to recommend.”
 “A blog is a pretty big commitment for a writer,” I said.
 He added a few more pieces to his Lego creation. “Maybe I should just take over your blog. That’s what Chloe does. Do you think people who read your blog would want to know about a Titanic book?”

“You want to hijack my blog?”

His big smile and wide eyes were a loud Yes!
I loaned him some sticky notes so he could figure out what people would be most interested in knowing about his book. I also made him promise (raised-his-right-hand-and-everything) that he would do his best writing. “My readers don’t want to read junk, and they like punctuation and capital letters!” I told him as seriously as possible.
On a snow day we spent a lot of time reading book reviews on blogs. It gave him a sense of the possibilities as well as helped him hear the sound of a review. As he thought more about the audience – a real audience – he decided he should add some pictures. He knew he wanted to share a Lego Titanic and a picture of the book. After we typed his review, he decided to add a photo of his draft and his sticky notes. “Teachers really like to see drafts, right?” he asked. (I think he just wanted to take another picture.)
The next morning he couldn’t wait to see if anyone commented. “It’s only been live for 90 minutes!” I said. “You might have to wait until tonight.”
On the way to school, he used my phone to check for comments. “Chloe left a comment! Woohoo!” He read Chloe’s comment aloud for everyone to hear. “Chloe is the most hysterical pen pal dog in the world!” (I didn’t point out that Chloe might be the only pen pal dog in the world.)
His teacher gave him time to share his book review with the class and to talk about writing a blog post. (They are just beginning their own class blog.) “There were lots of comments by reading time, Mom!” he said when I talked to him on the phone on my way home from school.
It was the feedback that added energy to his writing life. Tomorrow he is planning to respond to his “fans” (as he calls anyone who left a comment). 
Getting to watch a young writer from the front lines, affirms to me the importance of feedback. He wants to write more because of the feedback. I’m left wondering how we can provide this experience for an entire classroom of young writers. I’m sure the answer lies in authentic reading and writing experiences and connecting  through social media.
Thank you to all who left a comment and invested in the life of a young writer. You made his day and you touched my heart. Thank you.

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  1. I just laughed out loud as I read this. He is sooo funny. And it just proves that sharing your writing and getting comments is great fuel. I checked back later too just to see if he was getting comments. I was so happy to see that there were lots of them!

  2. Back stories are so fun, and this is no exception. Sam does have fans all around the world. He lives like a writer because that's what he knows. I wonder where his writing will take him next.

  3. I love your story, Ruth, and wonder how many other hijackings you can count on in the future? I think I did some of my best teaching in responding to students' work. I found that my words were so important that sometimes they would copy the comments into a journal. I'm thrilled that Sam was thrilled, and happy to be his fan.