Independent Writing: 10 Ways to Get Students Published in the Real World

Real World WritingSome students want to write more than what is required of them in writing workshop. Enter independent writing projects!  But how do you go from being another set of eyes on some additional writing a student does to helping a young writer student go public with their work?

Students need to have an audience for their writing that goes beyond their teacher and their classmates. It’s important for young writers to understand there’s a relationship between authors and readers. Want to inspire your students to write more? Put their writing out into the “real world.” This will help them find their voice as they interact with an audience beyond the school walls.

Some of my suggestions can be used for one or two kids while others are for full classes.  Regardless, I think you’ll uncover several ways to help the young writers you teach to get their voices heard:

[1] GET STUDENTS BLOGGING – Blogging helps students get published and find an audience. It’s also the quickest way to get students’ writing out into the world.  Sure there are permission forms that have to be signed by parents and safeguards you need to teach students before they go online. However, once you get past those things, you’re opening up a whole new world to your students.

Kids Learn to Blog is a site devoted entirely to blogs for children.  It contains free information and resources to help you get your students on the path to blogging. Click here to be directed to the school blogging section of the site.

[2] SUBMIT TO MAGAZINES — Several of my former students had their writing published in New Moon Girls, which is a magazine for 8 – 14 year-old girls.  A few even got paid for their writing!  If you have young girls who are writers or artists, encourage them to submit their writing or artwork to New Moon. Other magazines that accept submissions from girls AND boys are:

[3] CREATE EBOOKS — Students can create their own ebook using the Book Creator App.  Writers can type their books and they can use a stylus to add freehand fonts and draw their own illustrations.  In addition, music and video can be imported using the Book Creator app. Once students’ books are complete, they can be shared with family and friends on social media and printed as a PDF.  In addition, writers can submit their books for submission to become part of the Apple’s iBooks Store and Google Play Books.

[4] USE AN APP TO SELF-PUBLISH — Scribble Press has a website and an app that can be used to create books by young writers.  Sticker Packs can be purchased to enhance the look of students’ books.  If students use the Scribble Press iPad app, they can create their own drawings. Scribble Press is a great option if you have students whose parents are willing to pay to have their books printed as hard covers.  If you go this route, be sure to schedule a book signing after the publishing party so your students will feel like real authors! A word of caution about self-publishing: Never buy more books from the publisher than you expect to distribute and/or sell.

[5] LOCATE ONLINE PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES — The National Writing Project has a collection of online publishing opportunities for student writers on their website.  There are links to websites for elementary, middle, and high school age students.

[6] AFFILIATE WITH 826 NATIONAL826 National serves thousands of students at no-charge in cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC. 826 National offers after school tutoring and writing workshops. However, I think the neatest project they sponsor is a Young Authors’ Book Project. Here’s what it is:

For this project, our chapters match a well-known guest author to work closely with teachers and students at a school for the semester. Together they write and edit student pieces that are eventually collected and professionally published. Adult writers and editors volunteer throughout the process, and when the book is completed, the guest author (who also writes the introduction to the book) hosts a public reading with the newly published authors (Retrieved on 4/29/14 from http://826national.org/about).

How exciting is that?  Find out if you live near an 826 chapter. If you do, I suggest partnering with them so your students can benefit from the organization’s years of expertise.

Recently published books from the Writers' Exchange.

Recently published books from the Writers’ Exchange.

[7] PARTNER WITH A LOCAL WRITING ORGANIZATION — I learned about the Writers’ Exchange from Carrie Gelson whose students recently published a book with the Vancouver-based organization. (Read more about Carrie’s students and their book.) The Writers’ Exchange provides free mentoring and writing programs for inner city kids. Volunteers work with students after school and during school vacations, as well as with in-school programming.

The Writers’ Exchange co-directors, Jennifer MacLeod and Sarah Maitland, have been partnering with teachers from a number of inner city Vancouver schools for the past two years to help create class anthologies that get published as REAL books. Jennifer and Sarah start out by asking teachers what they’ve been working on and then pitch two ideas that could work well within the curriculum.  Once the teacher approves of the idea, Jennifer or Sarah go into the school with a team of volunteers once a week for four – five weeks to work with the students on a project. (Click here to view a sample of some recent Writers’ Exchange book projects.)

From there, it takes about a month to get the students’ writing and illustrations polished for publications. The writing gets edited without sacrificing each writer’s voice.  Then it’s laid out by a professional graphic designer, copy-edited, and printed. Finally, the students gather for a publishing party in their school or at the Writers’ Exchange’s headquarters.  How’s that for becoming a published author?!!?

[8] OBTAIN FUNDING FOR A WRITING PROJECT: Ten of my thirty-two fifth graders voluntarily came to school 40 minutes early four days a week to write in 2006-07.  I was impressed by their stories and their work ethic and wanted to help them go public with their writing.  I wrote a mini-grant proposal on DonorsChoose to obtain the funds to publish a multi-genre anthology of their writing with Xlibris.  A generous author, whose name I promised never to reveal, donated the funds to help my students get their writing published.  As a result, Deal with It: Powerful Words from Smart, Young Women was published in June 2007.  (BTW: The ten girls who published the book are now seniors in high school. They’re heading schools like Binghamton, Howard, and NYU this fall!)

For more information on Deal with It, check out this interview I did with one of my former students, Amanda Sevilla, on CBS’s “Up to the Minute” back in 2007.

[9] CREATE VISUAL STORIES — Storybird is an application that will allow your students to write visual stories (i.e., your students’ writing and Storybird’s artwork).  While Storybird has a pro plan for teachers, the first 35 students you add to Storybird are free. Storybirds can be published online for free (There’s a cost for publishing PDFs, paperbacks, and hard cover books.) and can be shared with others who can provide an author with feedback.

[10] IMAGINE A NEW KIND OF PROJECT — Ooligan Press publishes Classroom Publishing: A Practical Guide for Teachers, which Deal with It was featured in back in 2010. You can obtain Classroom Publishing to help you find new ways to take your students’ writing public.

For more ideas about submitting writing for the rest of the world to see, click here to read an excerpt from Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice.

How have you helped students make an impact with their writing beyond your classroom’s walls?

We’d love to hear more of your thoughts on independent writing in a Two Writing Teachers community virtual get-together. Please join us on Monday, May 12th at 8:30 p.m. EDT for a Twitter Chat on independent writing. Please use the hashtag #TWTBlog. (Click here for more information.)   We hope to see you there!

We’d love to hear more of your thoughts on independent writing in a Two Writing Teachers community virtual get-together. Please join us on Monday, May 12th at 8:30 p.m. EDT for a Twitter Chat on independent writing. Please use the hashtag #TWTBlog. (Click here for more information.)
We hope to see you there!