A group of sixth and seventh grade students at El Dorado Middle School attended a writing workshop led by author Carlene Cogliati on October 15.
Before beginning the writing portion of the workshop, Cogliati spoke to students about the ingredients of a good story. She explained that the characters are essential and must be well-written and have a good journey to capture a reader's attention. Their journey must include a roller-coaster of emotions, just as someone would experience the inner turmoil in real life.
"The words we use are incredibly important," Cogliati said. The words used in stories need to be descriptive enough to help the readers visualize the setting, characters, etc., but not so verbose that comprehension is lost.
She selected a simple sentence from her second novel To Durchhalten and asked students to use a Thesaurus to replace the descriptive words she had used. She described overly-descriptive writing as purple prose and compared it to wearing high heels to go on a hike. That type of writing does not help advance nor clarify the plot.
Students were divided into groups of three and asked to take a simple sentence and turn it into purple prose. This gave them practice using a Thesaurus to identify multiple words that have the same, or similar meaning. A large vocabulary is helpful when trying to describe certain traits or feelings without simply saying the specific word.
One student asked for advice on how to begin writing, if they are unsure where to start. Cogliati advised students to put something, anything on the page.
"Once there is a word or two on the page, you have something to work with," Cogliati said. "When it is completely blank, there is nothing to rearrange, edit, or expand. Even if all you write is 'hello,' write something."
After discussing the writing process itself, Cogliati briefly explained how a story evolves into a published book. The first step is to draft the complete story. Next, the story receives several rounds of editing by the author and a professional editor. Some writers ask people to participate in focus groups where they examine one chapter at a time, checking for inconsistencies, comprehension, and emotional appeal. Finally, the edited story is sent to publishers. It can take several months to find out whether a publisher is going to accept or reject the manuscript.
Cogliati was born in Dodge City, Kansas and grew up in Iola, Kansas. She published her first book As Our Baby Grows in 1992. She has since published two children's novels Stretch and Sarah and To Durchhalten.
Each student who attended the workshop was given a copy of one of Cogliati's novels.