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For School, for Fun, for Anyone Ages 10-16

by Steve PehaMargot Carmichael Lester

Pub Date: April 20th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9972831-0-5
Publisher: Teaching That Makes Sense

An updated writing manual encourages teenagers to improve their skills.

Speaking specifically to a teen audience, veteran prose guru Peha (Be a Writer, 2006, etc.) seeks to demystify the writing process by making it as approachable as possible. He doesn’t even expect his audience to peruse the whole thing. Readers are encouraged to skip around among the book’s many topics, which include instructions for prose genres as disparate as fiction, academic essays, and personal narratives. “Find a section that interests you,” urges Peha in the first chapter, “spend some time reading it, then use what you learn in your writing right away.” The structure of the book is reflective of this attitude, which is central to the author’s message: readers don’t need to know everything about composition to be accomplished writers. Even if they learn only one new skill and apply it to their own work, it will immediately make them better writers. But Peha offers many tips in this volume. His techniques run the gamut of writing-related strategies, from selecting a topic and organizing thoughts to making stronger arguments and revising a work through better word choices. The book includes axioms (write what you know), twists on conventional wisdom (show and tell), and new bits of advice that even veterans may not have come across before (“Get better faster by finishing many short pieces instead of a few long ones”). Exercises, author interviews, and asides from Peha’s co-writer, Lester (Be a Better Writer, 2006, etc.), round out this comprehensive manual. As one would hope, Peha’s fluid, engaging prose zips across the page: “I try to revise transition words and phrases out of my writing. This cuts down my word count and makes my writing crisper.” The book is calibrated to a teen audience not just in the direct, conversational nature of the prose, but also in the busy, eye-catching way that it is organized. As the author reminds the audience early on, “These days, especially, readers don’t want to read any more than they have to.” The volume mimics a textbook, with quick sections, frequent breaks, numbered lists, font changes, information in the margins, and many examples. While the work may appear chaotic and antsy at first glance, the reader quickly realizes how impeccable the format and presentation actually are. More impressive still is the content, which dives deep into the minutiae of writing to make sure that the reader truly understands not just what structures are operating, but how and why they function. One suggested activity is crafting a passage with no punctuation to force the student to choose words that will communicate their meaning even in the absence of periods and commas. This combination of out-of-the-box thinking and the traditional tactics of composition makes Peha’s work a solid choice for any teen attempting to get a handle on that big, mysterious practice known as writing.

An innovative and accessible writing guide for students.