Gabriela Lemmons, a seventh and eighth grade English Language Arts Dual Language teacher, is in her third year at Landon Middle School. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked in the publishing and printing industry and earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Kansas. As a published author, she averaged 30 readings a year and was very active in the Latino Writers Collective, an organization in the Kansas City area which she helped found. While looking for a new profession, she discovered that Topeka Public Schools offers a dual language magnet school. From there she enrolled in Fort Hays State’s Transition to Teaching program and completed the program in May 2017.
“I encourage students to find mentors that will support their writing. I also encourage students to seek online resources. There are many online communities where members support writers of specific genres, from slam poetry, science fiction, memoir, to mystery. There are also online resources that continuously post publishing opportunities. Don’t get discouraged by rejections. Very likely, your submission did not meet the editor’s specific needs. What you submit will not always match the editor’s preferences. Resubmit to another contest; do not take a rejection as a lack of talent on your part!”
“READ! READ! READ! When you find a mentor ask them for a list of their favorite authors. Form your own writing clubs at your schools. At your library and within your club, read a diversity of authors for inspiration. Don’t believe the fallacy that reading someone else’s creative writing will hinder your own. Borrow a line of poetry from another author and challenge yourself to create a new poem.”
“WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! Start a writing ritual; find a cozy spot where your imagination thrives. During my most creative periods, I would carry a small notebook to scribble curiosities or ideas. There are always free writing workshops—sign up!”
“The best way to proofread what you write is to read aloud. I suggest students use technology to record themselves reading their writing. Hearing yourself read will help you decide where line breaks are necessary. Hearing yourself read aloud will help you in crafting better word choices.”
“Most importantly, use the five senses to evoke sensations. In other words, ‘show, don’t tell.’ Whatever genre you prefer, hold your reader’s attention; put the reader inside your creative space. I learned this practice from Sandra Cisneros. I was fortunate to have had her as a professor. When revising my poems, she would draw miniature images of ears, noses, or lips where she felt specific lines or stanzas had not reached their full potential. Dig deeper within your writing, use a simile or a metaphor to connect your familiarity to your reader’s own visual, oral, or auditory experiences.”
“Lastly, don’t give up! If you write a poem that does not meet with your expectations, consider that your creative endeavor might be instead a short story or a prose poem; never fear creative experimentation—trust your instincts!”