Episode 42: Lorrie Tom, Family of Writers

In this episode:

Abby talks with Lorraine Tom about getting kids involved in writing, the simple ingredients for generating a love of reading and writing in your home, and providing your kids with the skills and tools to become effective writers. 

Abby and Lorrie go back a little bit, and Lorrie and Jennie go way way back - clear back to 2005 when Lorrie began taking classes from Jennie, before Author Accelerator was even a thing. Lorrie's a writing teacher (middle and elementary school, and family writing courses) and gives Abby some insight into making writing a family activity. 

According to Lorrie, even the smallest kids know how to tell a story, and although their process is different than an adult's, it's still the same thing that we do when we're telling a story. Story connects people, and it's something we can share between generations. Celebrate successes by reading your child's work back to them and finding things you both love about it. Create simple opportunities where kids can join you in your writing craft - setting aside time to sit together at the table, and providing them real materials (notebooks, pens, keyboards/word processors) give them ownership of their process and their writing topics. You have to have an identity as a writer and a confidence in your process, and this starts with ownership over their work. 

The fastest way to to shut down a burgeoning writer is to criticize their grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. It is important to separate creativity and revision - knowing that revision helps the reader understand the piece but it is secondary to the writing itself. Making sure your writer knows what they did right, praising them for taking risks and remembering to teach into what they already know is even more important than knowing all the spots they missed capitalization and punctuation. 

The honest truth is, getting your butt in a chair and writing every day creates writers.
— Lorrie Tom

The environment and opportunity for writing are variable, but essential. We often make it too complicated. It's not easy - showing up day after day is both the hardest and the simplest part. 

Lorrie explains name stories: Using the example of a Sondra Ciscneros vignette, she had her students write the stories behind their names. A project like that can be a good way to introduce an interesting project for kids. 

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that having a home where there is tons of reading/access to books, makes readers. It’s not intense instruction, it’s exposure and passion.
— Lorrie Tom


Further Reading: 

Writing without Teachers
By Peter Elbow
The House on Mango Street
By Sandra Cisneros

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