Students to take part in National Day on Writing (#whyIwrite)

Normally in my journalism class, I forbid fiction. Newspapers are supposed to be filled with the truth, a point I’m sure is questionable to some but in my heart is true. However, after receiving a rejection email from the Norman Mailer Writing Award for High School Teachers contest I entered, I decided I needed to let a little fiction into my classroom because I wanted to see some creativity flow and see my students succeed since I had not.

So I gave my students the following prompt: “Shifting her glance to the side of the chair she noticed a small green suitcase.” Then I told them they needed to finish the story. Most of them dove in and seemed to enjoy it. Some appeared confused about why the suitcase was green, what “shifting” meant and exactly how the word “fiction” is defined. In any event, they have all turned in their stories.

See, I gave them this assignment, not only for the creativity aspect, but so the students could hopefully see that for a story to be good and make sense, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end with everything tying together. I figured this is something they could see easier with fiction because the sad the truth is a lot of them don’t read the news. However, if they understood that a good fiction piece needs those components, then hopefully they would make the same connection with a news article. I was trying to make the point that no matter the writing style, they need to have some sort of a beginning, middle and end.

All of their short stories will be posted on their blogs by the middle of this week, which actually brings me to the point of this post.

Next week — Thursday, Oct. 20 to be exact — is the National Day On Writing (website), which celebrates writing of all kinds. I want my students to have their short stories online before then. I’m also going to encourage them to submit their stories to the National Gallery of Writing (website), but I won’t require it. I will require them to write a blog post titled “Why I Write” in conjunction with the contest (website). They will have to enter this contest. Also, since nearly all of the students have Twitter accounts, I will ask them to post throughout the day bits and pieces of the essay they wrote on Twitter using the hashtag #whyIwrite, as talked about on NY Times (website).

If the students need inspiration, check out some of the essays at or here.

And, yes, this does apply to journalists. Here is a Q and A with seven New York Times journalists.

 Wish my students good luck, and be looking for their posts on Thursday!