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Sarah Miller

Maybe if I thought you were wrong, I'd also think you're a grouch. But I don't. On both counts.

Say it loud and often.


I still battle the "stories should teach" gremlin that pokes me often when I try to write. As a reader, a story can be "just" a story, with pieces that inform, educate, resonate. Sadly, as a writer, I have a hard time finding the story unless I build it around some message I want to deliver. And then I read my own story and it's boring and tedious and schlocky.

There's so much more to say about this, but the preschooler bellows, so that's all for now.


Ooooh, good to know. The teacher in me always wants a lesson, but the writer in me doesn't. I'm looking to submit my first YA novel and will be sure to not think too much about the teaching part. :)

Debbie McDonough

The teacher and librarian (I am both) in me only wants kids to want to read, read, read, and read some more. Too often we turn these kids off when we insist that they find the theme, conflict, climax, resolution, etc., when all they really want to do is fall into the pages and disappear for a little while. They should be able to do just that.


I am really glad to read your thoughts on this subject. As a child growing up, I could easily lose myself in a great story and not surface for hours. ( I still can, but it is not as easy!) As a teacher, my ultimate goal is for my students to love to read, but I also feel that ever constant pressure to teach them how to take a test. I think that it is really important to find that balance, so they not only love reading but also can learn to think.

Jennifer Elliott

I, too, feel the pressure to teach those things because of the test, although I never let there just be "one theme," etc. So... to meet both the reader's enjoyment and the requirements of the school, I let them read for enjoyment and spirited discussion over the "novel as it is" first and then go back after it is done to look at the elements. Testing is creating something very wrong in education. My students, by the end of this year, will have taken eight standardized tests. What is the purpose of that? We can't even schedule time in the computer lab to write or anything without first checking when the next test is. We have gone WAY overboard on this. Plus, by the time the kids reach the third test, they are burnt out from testing and will readily admit that they just randomly fill in the answers to get it done and back to the process of learning, and I wish I was allowed to say, "Yes! That is what it is all about!" Leave No Child Behind is leaving more kids behind than ever before because these tests are squeezing that love for learning right out of them.


To read for the story that an author has carefully crafted. To be taken to some else's home. To grapple with someone else's joys and sorrows. Ahhh...what have we done to our future when children are denied these options because the test taking has taken over?

Micaela Ayers

I've been reading my state's "Letters about Literature" as a judge, and the one that rose to the top was a surprise to me. It reflects this sense of reacting to a novel, instead of learning from it. The young man wrote of the incredible moment when he closed his eyes and was within the book... a dream, a la "Wizard of Oz"? His imagination unloosed freely for a while? A mystical experience?

It intrigued me, and I can't honestly say that he wasn't putting me on. But he charmed me with his desire to have that moment again, searching for it by reading the rest of the book, and reading many others, and never quite having that peak experience again. And by writing so well of it!

Kristen Witucki

As a young, trying-to-publish, aspiring writer, (and not one in your contest, by the way, so don't worry), I feel like the cover letter/synopsis is much harder to write than the entire manuscript, and it seems as if people want to know "why you wrote this book," "why this book is important," and "why agent/editor/judge should want to read it." Ugh.


This is exactly why I love you!


I was chatting about this the other day with a friend who is taking a fantasy literature class. I truly enjoy fantasy lit, but some of it is so heavy-handed with its message that it loses vitality as a story.

Even though I have always loved reading, I almost always hated the books we had to read for school, because we were forced to pick them apart so much.

Irene Harvey

I could not agree more. Fiction should be just that - no message - nothing to learn - just fun.
I have just had my first Children's book published, but have never entered it in any competition before or after publication.
It has ten stories for the under 8's. It is fun to read and every story has a happy ending (well almost)
I write them because I love the place I am in when I am writing. It is a kids world, no problems. Why would I want to make up problems or start teaching.
Irene J Harvey

Terri Forehand

I am so relieved to know that the story can be just that, a story. As an unpublished writer, I will hang on to this advice from one whom I consider the best, because as a child that is all I wanted was the story. And now I know that it is okay to write just the story. Thank you

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