Discovering Author*s Craft Through Author Studies

Getting Started
Think of some of your students’ favorite authors and
write them down on your index card. As you write, ask
yourself these questions.
What makes your students drawn to these authors?
What makes your students want to keep reading their
Save this list and we will revisit it later.
Cindy Hall
Spartanburg Writing Project
Summer 2011
Essential Question
How can I use author studies to teach an
author’s craft?
Readers = Writers
Everything we know as writers, we know as readers
Classrooms that are rich in literature and that
provide opportunity for real experiences lead to
the best writing behaviors.
If we want our students to become good writers,
then we must immerse them in literature.
Reading and writing are interrelated.
Source: Katie Wood Ray
About the Authors
 It
is an in-depth look at a set of books written by
the same author.
 It is a literature-based strategy that makes a
connection between reading and writing.
 It requires students to be exposed to lots and
lots of books.
 It may take a few days or a few weeks.
 Children
need to know that authors often:
*write about things they know a lot about
*write about the same topics again and
again, in different ways, in different
*notice, listen, observe, and think like writers
all the time.
 Studying
an author and sharing their books helps
students connect with the author. They are no
longer faceless and distant people but a personal
and available expert. The authors become real in
their hearts and minds.
Source (1): Katie Wood Ray About the Authors 2004
Source (2): Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman The Author Studies Handbook
Looking for Mentors
When you are learning how to do something
new or need help, you look to the experts or
master crafters.
In order to become good writers, we must look
to authors for guidance and help.
We want our students to learn to stand on an
author’s shoulders to write.
Source: Katie Wood Ray
Wondrous Words
Now that you have
decided to do an author
study, how do you choose
an author?
Ask the following:
What are my students’
What are my students’
reading & writing needs?
What are my students’
Source: Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman The Author Studies Handbook
Authors as Mentors
Eric Carle
Kevin Henkes
Ezra Jack Keats
Patricia Polacco
Jane Yolen
Eve Bunting
Lois Ehlert
Mem Fox
Audrey & Don Wood
 Author’s
craft is the art of writing. It is
how a writer chooses to compose
his/her words and the technique that
they use to construct a piece of writing.
 It
is their voice print.
 It’s
what keeps us as readers coming back
for more!
Source: Lester L. Laminack Cracking Open the Author’s Craft
Looking at the “How” of Writing
Finding an author’s craft requires students to use their writers’
eyes and not their readers’ eyes. When we do this, we must read
Reader eyes focus on the words and message of the book.
Writer eyes focus on “how” the book was written. We notice:
word choice and placement, the sound of the language, and the
attention to details.
Once students begin to notice the craft of some of their favorite
authors, you will see it appearing in their own writing.
Source: Marybeth Alley & Barbara Orehovec
Revisiting The Writing Workshop
An Author Study
Her Life
She grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.
Her parents divorced when she was young and she spent
lots of time with her grandparents.
She loves animals especially her pets.
She writes about her life.
She wrote her first book when she was 23.
She writes across many genres.
“Writing has given me a sense of self-worth that I didn’t have
my whole childhood. It has carried me through some troubled
times and has made me feel that I am worthy of having a place
on this earth.”
Cynthia Rylant
Reading Like A Writer
Take a few minutes to read a Cynthia Rylant book
with your partner. As you read, think about the
Notice something about her craft.
Talk about it and make a theory about why she might use
this craft.
Give the craft a name.
Think of other authors you know that have used this craft
Try to envision using this crafting in your own writing.
Source: Katie Wood Ray
Wondrous Words
Let’s share what we discovered about Cynthia Rylant’s
craft as a writer.
*artful repetition - lends itself to a theme
*five senses / sensory imagery
*use of specific detail
*predictable text structure
*whimsical language
*strong characters – “The Old Lady Who
Named Things”
*sentence structure – perfect balance between
long and flowy figurative language with short
and powerful.
Authors Like Her
Can you think of any other authors who have a craft like
Cynthia Rylant?
*Eric Carle
*Jane Yolen
*E.B. White
*Patricia Polacco
*Lester Laminack
*Gary Paulsen
When I Was Young in the Mountains
When I Was Young on Tool Road
When I was young on Tool Road, I would sit on
the dented tailgate of my Papa’s old blue
Chevrolet truck and shuck Silver Queen corn
with my Grandma. I would pull the bright green
husk down to expose the ripe pale creamy white
ear. Later we would slice it off the cob to freeze
for our winter bounty.
An author study allows us to look closely at one particular
author and discover their craft as a writer. It helps
students make a connection between reading and writing.
Through author studies we help our students appreciate
the techniques writers use and the decisions that authors
Our goal is for our students to use the author’s craft in
their own writing. We know our author study has been
successful when we hear a student say, “I want this part of
my writing to sound like Cynthia Rylant.”

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