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Young Authors Get Some Tips

Education: Children learn from pros that writing well can help them in any vocation.

April 27, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What can someone with directing credits on HBO's raunchy "Sex and the City" series possibly teach a bunch of grade-school students? Writing, of course, say organizers of a South Bay writers workshop for children.

At Alta Vista Elementary School in Redondo Beach, Matthew Harrison and about 30 other guest speakers stressed that good writing is fundamental in all lines of work.

"Writing is the foundation for which so many things can happen in your life, and it's not something that just grown-ups do," said Harrison, who has also directed other television shows and feature films such as "Spare Me" and "Kicked in the Head." "Writing, directing--they're almost the same. They really go hand in hand."

The writers conference was an all-day event with speakers including newspaper columnists, cartoonists and authors. Organizers say it was an opportunity for the 300 children to gain self-confidence about their own abilities.

"It's the big writers teaching the little writers," said volunteer Candace Greene. "We're getting some kids who are extremely shy to start writing."

The third- through fifth-graders attended sessions about description, plot development and other ingredients of storytelling.

The youngsters at Harrison's workshop got a kick out of his directorial debut, a 30-year-old, two-minute film titled "Mission Impossible," in which Harrison's brother battled secret agents.

Across campus, R.A. Forster, who mostly writes legal thrillers and mysteries, taught her boisterous class how to revive a boring sentence.

Together, the class thought of adjectives to describe Jennifer, a character they created. They waved their arms frantically, eager to add their ideas.

Once they had enough adjectives, Forster asked them to write a story ending.

"Don't forget to write with description," she said. "Tell me if she turned cold with fear, if she fell into a hole. Don't forget to use those adjectives and adverbs."

Said Mike Wellman, a local comic-book creator: "Every story has to have a conflict. Anything you apply to any sort of writing, you can apply to comics."

Fourth-grader Tyler Ceja won the afternoon's award for best comic for his superheroes, Spike and Electric.

"Electric wants Spike's superpowers," said Tyler, who wants to be either a writer or an archeologist.

"It's fun to write," Tyler said. "I get to create these really exciting stories."

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