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Thanks everyone who attended and contributed to my recent lecture on teaching creative writing at Natur och Kultur publishers. Upwards of fifty teachers attended in person, while a dozen or so watched and chatted online from elsewhere in the country. Natur och Kultur themselves had about six people on hand –– working late to help students around the country by helping their teachers get new ideas.

My long-term goal is to improve the quality of English education in Sweden; working with creative structures is a vital part of that improvement.  If you were (or weren’t) in attendance and have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at: kfrato@yahoo.com.

I’ll be finishing my Swedish lecture tour on Wednesday, May 10th at the Natur och Kultur building in Stockholm, talking about teaching creative writing at the high school level. The lecture starts at 5 p.m. (refreshments from 4 p.m.) and the sign up is here.

I’ll be discussing the benefits and challenges of using creative writing in the English curriculum, how to grade creative writing and the workshopping process, teaching the theory of what creative writing is, teaching narrative structure and mechanics, and finally describing the workshopping format and its dos and don’ts (extremely important for protecting students’ integrity, and where my Echo Main Issues books differ from others).

I’m planning to cover a lot of useful material during the evening.  Please bring your ideas and questions, and I hope to see you there!

Last fall I wrote approximately two dozen short stories and non-fiction texts for Swedish publisher Natur och Kultur’s Wings 9 middle school reader. This was the culmination of three years of work on the new three-book 2015-edition of the classic Wings series.

Working with the series has given me a fabulous opportunity to reach young readers through a wide variety of subject matter, formats, and genres.  One of my goals with the project has been to write texts that students will remember and grow from, and therefore I’ve striven for authentic psychological content in every piece, for instance portraying young people forced to make difficult decisions.

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Uhuru Park, Nairobi

Starting with Wings 8, I also replaced the old editions’ fake interviews with new, authentic ones.  For instance for Wings 8, I interviewed young people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Oakland, California, USA; for Wings 9 I interviewed young people in Nairobi, Kenya, (a Kenyan named Arthur and a Swede named Carolina), as well as two Syrian students who had come to Sweden as refugees.   My interviewees made complex observations about the world and their place in it –– commenting on topics such as identity, religion, war, racism, family, and life and death.

When the books went to press, I asked for review copies for each of my interviewees.  And while in Kenya a couple weeks ago, I was thrilled to be able to personally deliver copies of Wings 9 to my interviewees in Nairobi.  I appreciated getting the chance to work with these young people, and I expect that for years to come, everyone who reads the interview with them will benefits from their intelligent insights about the world.

About a month ago I delivered the final re-writes of a new collection of stories for ninth-graders to the Swedish publishers Natur och Kultur. This is the third book in this particular series I’ve worked on, and it’s been a demanding but rewarding commission.

As I’ve said before, writing for young people in short formats is not the most glamorous work an author can do.  Nonetheless, young people need tightly crafted stories that will help them learn about the world and their role in it –– while at the same time helping them develop as readers and people.  I believe young people have an even greater need than adults for skilfully written stories, so to me the format is far less important than doing work with the potential to help shape the next generation of thinkers.

In addition, I’ve also had a great time working with my editors on the project.  While it’s true that authors and editors sometimes have opposing interests, while working on six books for this publisher, I’ve come to understand that the editorial discussions we’ve had over structure, linguistics, and subjects have always produced stronger books.

The book goes to press in the spring of 2017, and its title sounds to me like a science-fiction novel: Wings 9.

This is my schedule for free lectures for teachers at Swedish schools ––  the topics are teaching the writing process through conversation theory, and how to work with creative writing in the classroom.  All workshops generously sponsored by Natur och Kultur publishers, Stockholm.  The schools listed are the ones who have signed up, and who we’ve been able to fit into my schedule (I teach at two different schools and can’t be away all the time).   I’m aware that some schools have requested a time but not yet received one.

If your school is not signed up but is still interested, please contact gunilla.hallin@nok.se. It might still be possible to find a time, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.

I look forward to working with you!

June

– Söderköping: Nyströmska gymnasium, June 8th

September

– Nässjö, Brinellgymnasiet: Sept. 5th

– Halmstad: Sturegymnasiet & Sannarpsgymnasiet, Sept. 21st

October

– Gothenburg: Göteborgs Folkhögskola & Schillerska Gymnasium, Oct. 4th

– Stockholm: Cybergymnasiet, October 6th

– Lidingö: Hersby gymnasium

– Stockholm: Fryshuset, Oct. 17th (preliminary)

– Mora: Mora Gymnasium, October 26th

November

– Stockholm: Thorildsplans gymnasium, Nov. 15th

 

The other night I was lucky enough to have dinner with some of my author-colleagues from the Skrivarakademin, the vocational writing college I teach at in Stockholm.  I find fellow authors in general to be pretty cagey about their work, not wanting to talk about manuscripts until contracts have been signed and the actual production cycle is underway –– especially in times of publishing-industry uncertainty like this, when even authors with decades of experience and dozens of books to their names are nervous about whether their next manuscript will be accepted.

It might have been the wine, the blood-pumping-in-our-veins jazz, or the pots and pans banging in the kitchen next to us, I don’t know.  But for once people were actually talking about their manuscripts, and for once I actually spoke about mine.  Writing stories to be read in the classroom isn’t glamorous, it’s true, but it’s important work, I said, reaching tens of thousands of readers who deserve excellent literature –– and besides that, it pays well.  Also, my publisher takes care of me and sends me around the country speaking.  In the past, I haven’t been able to explain that to my colleagues and feel completely proud of my work, but after a half a dozen books for Natur och Kultur, which I myself regularly read and discuss with young people in classroom settings, I finally understand how important these books are.

Happily, I was also able to tell the other authors at the table that I’m currently in the editing phase with another publisher on the beginning of a new, long fiction manuscript. To research this project, I’ve been interviewing soldiers who’ve served in Afghanistan.

It turned out two other authors at the table were working with this same publisher, and were just as enthusiastic about their projects. We all have verbal contracts at the moment (as a matter of fact I’m still on a verbal contract with Natur och Kultur), so none of us can be sure our projects will ever see the light of day, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

Authors are usually modest to the point of timidity when discussing their work.  So it felt healthy to finally be able to discuss what we’re working on.

 

This summer and fall I’ll be writing fiction and articles for Swedish publisher Natur och Kultur for their Wings middle school reader series.  This book will be directed at ninth graders, revamping the concept quite a bit from the way the books have been done in the past –– while still retaining the mark of quality that has been the highlight of this bestselling series in the past.

Young people need and deserve stories that they’ll remember their whole lives, and when working with shorter word counts the way these books demand, the psychological content has to hold up.  I’m proud to be working on these projects.  This will be the sixth book I’ve written or worked on for this publisher.  The new Wings 9 will be available for purchase this spring.

Last summer I drove with my family across the US, from Philadelphia to San Francisco, visiting relatives, friends, and national parks –– and gathering story ideas.  Last Friday I rode my bike to the post office and picked up a box of full of books with those stories.

During the last few years I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction and non-fiction for Swedish publisher Natur och Kultur.  I’ve also had the pleasure of reading and analyzing these stories with my students.

When I wrote stories for the Echo-series, I was challenged by their short format.  The Wings-books allow me about half as many words per story, which I find twice as challenging.  But every time I get frustrated, I think about the excitement my students bring to each new story as they enter a new world and make new friends. Young people deserve well-written, psychologically engaging stories; and I’m proud to get the chance to write for them.

Some of the stories and dialogues I most enjoyed writing for this collection called Wings 8, 2015 are:  The Season’s Shows: NPS and Pottymouth (16-17), What Sells? And Where? (20-21), Confessions of an Exercise Addict (40-41), Mr. Hassler (52-53), Burgerville Letters (76-77), Pets Around the World (100-101), Dear Koala Care Clinic (105-107), Hi Brittany (130-131), Why Do First People Come Last (141), and Sugar, Not Such a Sweet Deal (144-145).

The non-fiction texts I wrote are: Reading Changes our Minds (22-23), The Unhealthy Ideal (44-45), Climate Change (68-69), Wangari Maathai and the Greenbelt Movement (74-75), Have Fun with Handicraft Recycling (78-79), Topsy the Elephant, 61 Days (110-111),  Declan Murphy (based on a phone interview with my friend Andreia’s violin student, 124-125), Becky Torres (based on a phone interview with someone my friend Jason knew through his wife, 126-127), An American Role Model: Mae Jemison (128-129), The United States of America (132-133), US Travel Guide (based on my travels last summer, 134-139), and A Mix of People (142-143).

The book also includes texts by other authors with different writing styles.  Hopefully the book’s wide variety of stories and ideas will inspire students to continue reading and writing –– the way the stories I read as a young person inspired me.