Well, if you’re reading this @ Notes & Grace Notes, you probably already know that I founded Notes & Grace Notes four years ago which grew into a creative writing foundation and a publishing company. You probably have a feel for what it’s all about. But this post isn’t so much about what the foundation is but (some of) what it will be. I’d like to ask you to read this post (even though it’s long) and send the link to anyone and everyone you know.
We need help making our plans and goals take that leap from idea to reality. Help can come in any form; volunteering as a reader for the competitions we run, line/copy editing for NOTES Magazine, picking up a subscription or single copy of NOTES Magazine or one of Grace Notes Books other titles, or just making a small donation –literally, every dollar helps. If everyone who has used N&GN’s resources in some way or another contributed a single dollar we’d be so much closer to our goals.
I truly believe this organization is destined for greatness– but this brand of greatness isn’t achieved by a single person or even a handful of people. Greatness needs a community of people, working toward common goals. This post will pertain to only one of the many wheels we’ve set into motion. There are numerous projects in the works but this may be one of the most important.
Future Grace Notes: This program, as you will read, will exist to nurture a love of literature and creative writing in young people. Not another “literacy” program but a literaryprogram as we often think of ourselves not as a literary organization but as a storytelling organization. We firmly believe that every form of art ties into the art of storytelling be it actual literature, visual arts, or music; it is the most ancient form of art, existing even before written language, and it birthed all other forms of art– well, that’s our philosophy and the philosophy we celebrate.
I am currently mentoring a 13 year old novelist. She entered her book into the Discovering the Undiscovered comp last year and didn’t note her age or anything on the entry and the book didn’t do anything for the readers. Her mother contacted me asking for advice and I went back over the manuscript and found a lot of potential. I was shocked she was so young but immediately saw why the readers hadn’t scored it well. Not knowing the age of the writer, the readers would have seen a lot of minor mistakes that put them off. Not a lack of talent but a lack of craft– craft being learned and talent natural. Knowing her age would have changed the way we read the manuscript.
So I started teaching her privately. The things I teach Hannah are things we writers discuss all the time—the mechanics of “show, don’t tell”, how to create unique language and avoid clichés, artful language economy, imagery and the senses to create a richer story, etc. It’s incredible how quickly she latches on to this information and implements it in her writing.
This ties into one of the more ambitious ideas we have for the foundation and have already begun to implement on small scales. The Future Grace Notes Program.
- We want to set up sites to bring together adult writers to mentor protégées. Young writers register and find a mentor to help them fine tune their work and learn how to submit it for publication etc and so on.
But there’s more to it:
- We want to publish newsprint versions of NOTES Magazine for grade schoolers and another for kids ages 12 and up. The magazines would consist of materials (short stories, essays, and poetry) written by adult contributors writing for the age group as well as writers within the age group of the magazine’s readers. These magazines would be distributed free of cost through public school systems, especially in poorer areas where kids might not get as much education or creative encouragement.
Ø I will be looking for people who’d like to work on this project as I cannot head it up myself with such a full schedule. This would be on a volunteer basis to begin with but all Grace Notes projects are a profit share system and payment is made based on the success of the project itself so ideal candidates for this project would be those with both editorial expertise and knowledge of school systems as that is where we plan to distribute them. We’ll also need someone with experience in marketing and fundraising as these projects would make income through advertising and donations. But this program should also tie into both the previously mentioned project and the following:
Fundraiser projects for schools:
- I did a fundraiser last year with my oldest daughter’s 5th grade class and now I am doing another with my twins’ kinder class. With the 5th graders I did a lecture on storytelling, helped them to edit their stories, etc. Those children who were more interested in visual arts were the illustrators and they incorporated both traditional artwork and digital design so the experience was positive for all the kids including those who excelled at writing, those that were talented illustrators, and those with more analytical talents. I designed the layout and published a book of their work. The school sold the books like any fundraiser— taking orders from families and friends—and all proceeds went to the school. The kids were able to finance their own field trips as well as purchase materials for hands-on science projects like building working rockets and solar powered cars. It was super cool to work with them and the book gave them such a sense of accomplishment.
I am doing a similar project with the kinder class. One of the things I love about the school my little ones attend is that they teach poetry. They have a poem every month that the children memorize and then recite at the end of the month for their final grade.
So in the next few weeks I’ll be working with them on writing their own poetry and the result will be the same— fundraising to pay for field trips, to enable children whose families can’t afford the costs to also enjoy these outing, and also toward the scholarship fund because my own kidscouldn’t go there if not for the scholarships they offer so it’s cool to help them bring in more kids whowouldn’t normally have the chance. But the best part is introducing these kids, 5 and 6 years old, to the art of poetry and the satisfaction of seeing their own work in print.
Ideally, I’d like to enlist volunteers who are writers, editors, or otherwise involved in creative writing and publishing, to organize and run similar fundraisers in different cities nationwide. Grace Notes Books would provide volunteers with a guideline for how to run the workshop, teaching ideas etc., and handle book design and publication with funds going to the class or school involved but we need people on location to approach schools with the offer and then to work with the teachers and children on their writing project and organize their materials.
- We foresee eventually opening a branch of Grace Notes Books for children’s picture books, intermediate reader chapter books, and youth novels. We already published one picture book and the result was wonderful. Soap In My Eye (written by yours truly) was inspired by actual dialog with my own daughter when she was five. My friend John did the illustrations and the book is great. But we’d like to publish as much work as possible that’s written by or the result of collaborations with children and teens. Perhaps the mentoring program could support collaborative projects of books written between the mentor and protégé; we could host an informal competition of sorts and publish the most outstanding books contributed?
Again— wonderful ideas take man/woman power. These are all projects we’d like to expand on. It’s awesome to work with kids like this, to encourage and guide the writers of the future and the potential story lover inside every child. The arts are dying in public schools here. They no longer teach art or music in the area where I live (Ventura, Ca—this is not a poor either) until middle school and at that time they’re electives. Kids aren’t as likely to take music in middle school having no prior experience of the subject. Kids who might have had a talent for visual arts or crafts don’t always find it or expand on those early skills because they simply aren’t nurtured in public schools. Whereas when I was a child (yeah it feels like one of those “When I was A Kid” rants, I know) we had a weekly music class and learned the basics as well as a weekly art class and frequent literary projects in class— whether it was essay writing or poetry or short stories, we did a lot of creative writing in class. It was the way teachers made language arts fun! Rather than simply teaching us word use and proper grammar they gave us projects to implement and develop those skills while at the same time stimulating a sense of creativity and individuality.
The first time I ever thought of myself as an individual, as someone wholly separate and unique, it was through writing. There was a tri-county poetry contest for grade school kids, when I was 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. Our teacher decided it could be a good exercise in language arts so she had everyone in class write a poem to enter into the contest. I didn’t think much of it at the time; I wrote my poem and had a good time doing it but I’d never been much for competition. I was that kid that always went home with a participation ribbon on field day; who got the attendance award (if flu season was mild).
I was never the best or the worse at anything—until my poem won that contest. I won the award given per grade “The best of 3rd grade” as well as the overall competition. Two years later the local newspaper and our new-age, hippie guidance counselor decided that it would be cool to have a weekly column in the local paper about the goings-on at school (it was a very small town) and it’d be even cooler if it was written by a student. Another contest, another win, and I became a published writer at the age of ten.
If not for these early accomplishments, I doubt the writer in me would’ve ever been born at all. I don’t know who I might have grown up to be because these events molded who I was. Up until then I was the quiet child, unsure of herself, with delicately balanced self-esteem that was teetering toward the low side with every ‘participation’ ribbon, every play I was cast as an understudy in (usually for a minor role), every time I was told to take the bench in PE (after fumbling a ball or scraping a knee), every empty-handed awards ceremony, and every report card that was neither impressive or upsetting. Writing was the first and only thing I ever excelled at but if it weren’t for a public school system that encouraged creativity, for teachers that used the arts as a teaching tool, I might never have discovered this one strength of mine.
But now they’ve put in place laws that require schools to get certain test scores or they lose funding and teachers whose classes fail to reach that “national average” risk losing their jobs. What that means is that teachers have become drill sergeants, pounding test materials into kids’ heads, not having time or funding for anything else. It’s a lot of stress for educators and the demanding nature of the system is maddening for children too. Imagine a 1st grader not drawing pictures or writing stories but being drilled on proper punctuation, site words, and addition facts. That is the picture of many classrooms in America today. Learning isn’t fun anymore and as a mother of 4 I can honestly see the damage this is doing to our kids.
Sorry for rambling but these fundraisers and ideas for the future of The Grace Notes Foundation are my way of contributing to a failing system where the arts, in every form, have been set aside in favor of standardized test scores and funding has been cut in every direction. This is my way of trying to give children what was given to me at such a tender age.
This is but a small part of my mission and the mission of the foundation but you’ve read enough for one day and if you’ve stuck with my rant this long—I thank you.
- Please contact me if you would like to be a part of this program in any capacity. We need all the help we can get and if you have anything to contribute we’d be glad to have your support.