January was author crush month in my Creative Writing class. I’m always telling my students when I’m crushing on new authors (they are very kind and indulge me), so I like to give them opportunities to dive into an author they love and read a book closely for style, voice, structure, etc.
At the start of this project, one of my favorite things to do is have the students call out books they love and I write them on the board. This year, the list was resoundingly YA heavy. (Is their teacher biasing them? Perhaps.) I asked them what they loved about each book and they thoughtfully spoke about how the voice, setting, plot, and other elements made the book a must-read (insert proud teacher smile here).
Next, I had them each choose a book that might be a potential crush and study it closely by looking at the craft of the book – all the things the author does to make the book work for them. They also took some time to get to know their author by studying webpages and websites devoted to their author. Last, I had them create a piece of original writing that mirrored the work of their author in some way.
On the due date, students brought their projects into class in the form of Author Crush Binders and shared their authors with each other. We agreed ahead of time on some guidelines for share day.
- We don’t apologize for our crush. We just love what we love. No apologies.
- We don’t criticize other crushes. No haters allowed!
- We would each try to find a book someone else read that we would consider reading, even if it seemed outside our comfort zone.
I had a blast watching them share their crush binders. Some of the titles shared were Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, Crazy by Amy Reed, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Crank by Ellen Hopkins and I shared my crush on Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy.
That day, I was struck by how passionately these students talked about the work they’d read, how clear they were about what they loved about these books, and how eager some of them seemed to read the books their classmates had read. Lately, I’ve read a lot about how grim the statistics are about reading, about how many people don’t really read books anymore. It felt like a sort of paradise to sit in a room full of thoughtful teenagers and hear them crush on these authors and books.
Writers, try this: Choose an author you really love and read a chapter of one of their books. Create a piece of writing in the spirit of that author’s voice. Pay attention to their sentence structure, their use of specific detail, and the way they use dialogue.