Authors take time for students

From the The Brunswick News

Children's book author Danny Schnitzlein is more than a writer. He is also a magician.

"Words are magic," he told a group of fifth-grade students at Frederica Academy on Friday. "To prove it to you, how many of you can taste chocolate when I say the word?"

A grouping of hands shot up in the air.

The magic of words is what attracted Schnitzlein, author of "The Monster Who Ate My Peas" and "Trick or Treat on Monster Street," to writing in the first place. His masterful use of them, combined with his penchant for using rhyming verse to tell a tale, has earned him a reputation high enough to garner an invitation to the Georgia Literary Festival this weekend on Jekyll Island.

Authors who were invited to the festival spent much of their day Friday visiting public and private schools around Glynn County to talk to students of all ages about the craft of writing.

Honing that craft takes a lifetime, Schnitzlein said.

"I still consider myself a student of writing," he said.

To improve writing skills, Schnitzlein told the students during an hour-long workshop to write often and read often.

He took students through several exercises to get their creative synapses firing.

In the first exercise, Schnitzlein asked students to write about something they remember, starting the passage with the words "I remember" for seven minutes without stopping.

For 10-year-old William Brock, the experience was memorable.

"It's just a good way to express your feelings," William said of writing.

He enjoyed the challenge of writing seven minutes straight but said writing is really more of a hobby for him. When he grows up, William said he will still write regularly but plans to be an architect.

After Schnitzlein's workshop, William said he is now also considering becoming an illustrator.

The experience will hopefully stick with all the students, said teacher Carla Cate, because writing is important to every subject.

"(Schnitzlein) is teaching them how to get it out on paper," Cate said. "He is pulling out their creativity. It also shows the children that, 'wow, I can really do this,'" Cate said.

At Burroughs-Molette Elementary, fourth- and fifth-grade students got a different perspective on writing from Brendan Martin, a history professor and author of two books, including one about the Jekyll Island Club Hotel he recently wrote with his mother, June McCash.

"Inspiration can come from anything," Martin said. "Talk to your grandparents, talk to your mothers, everybody has a story."

Although he said research shows that only about 25 percent of all students say they enjoy history class, Martin said it is important.

"History is what tells us who we are," Martin said. "I write about things I am interested in, things I love. I love Jekyll Island. That is why I am writing about it."

But writing did not always come easily to him.

"Writing is difficult. It is OK if you have to work at it to get better," Martin said.

He told the students revisions and suggestions from teachers or editors is part of the process and not to get discouraged by them.

Martin gave the students at Burroughs-Molette the same advice to become a better writer as Schnitzlein gave students at Frederica Academy: Read.

"I love reading. I read all the time," Martin said. "There is nothing like sitting down with a good book."

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Release Date: 11/13/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By MICHAEL HALL