Writing Archives - Page 3 of 8 - Eva Varga

August 7, 20142

I recently shared a short fan fiction piece my daughter wrote and not surprisingly, her grandmothers were not familiar with the genre. The writing of fan fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the vast majority of the writers and readers in this genre of fiction are teenagers.

What is Fan Fiction?

One of the fastest-growing literary genres is fan fiction, a term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.

Writing fan fiction involves the creation of stories and books around already existing characters from a previously published work of literature or other art form (television, movies, etc.). This type of story cannot be published for profit as the characters belong to the original author.

Writers of fan fiction are technologically savvy, having grown up in the internet age. They have thereby discovered ways in which to share their work with others – not for profit – but to develop a fan base and to get feedback on their writing.

fan fiction

What is Wattpad?

Wattpad is a place to discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.

When my daughter first approached me to ask about downloading “Wattpad”, I was skeptical. “You already have an e-book reader app, Sweetheart.”

“Yes, but this one has more than classic books, Mom. With Wattpad, you can share your own stories and read the stories that other kids write. My friend K told me about it and she says there are a lot of great fan fiction stories.”

My daughter is not a reluctant writer. She has always enjoyed the craft and completes assignments without complaint. Wattpad, however, has inspired her to write more frequently.

In the past, she seemed to only want to write stories about cats – akin to the popular Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Now, she has expanded her repertoire, exploring human characters and emotions.

Writing Fan Fiction

Students can learn a great deal about the fiction writing process from writing fan fiction. The advantage of writing fan fiction is that the characters are already familiar to both the writers and most likely to the readers; therefore, young writers can concentrate on manipulating the plot as they are already familiar with the characters and settings.

Students can also create new characters – as my daughter has chosen to do with her Harry Potter fan fiction, “The Special”. The main character in her story is Aira, the twin sister to Scorpius, and the only daughter to Draco Malfoy.

Homeschool With Wattpad

With Wattpad, students can write stories and publish them chapter by chapter. Along the way, others can comment on their work, allowing the writer an opportunity to change things, delete things, and make improvements immediately.

Wattpad stories are free. Whether you’re online or off, use the devices you already own to carry an entire library wherever you go. The interactive, social aspect is one component that makes it such an appealing app for youth.




August 5, 2014

With summer in full swing, family vacations may already be a treasured memory, or a much-anticipated pleasure. In Northern California, a family holiday often means a trip to a lake, creek, or river.

summer natureWhether your summer holiday is still fresh in your memory or an adventure you are all yet looking forward to, I thought I would pass along some resources for turning your outdoor nature experiences into art and writing opportunities.

Summer Nature Activities

If you have additional suggestions, please let us know. Leave a comment here or post your suggestion on my Facebook page. I hope you and your children have wonderful nature encounters.


July 23, 2014

Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #21

Happy Wednesday!

Can you believe we’re already looking at the end of July? Sure, we’re still in the thick of summer, but we’re willing to bet that you’ve already started preparing your lesson plans for the new year.

To help you out, we have decided to take a few weeks to highlight a few favorite posts that have been linked up with us recently, relating to specific subjects.

Today we’re starting with language arts.

Literature Studies: Chaucer – A Retelling of a Knight’s Tale from Angelicscalliwags

Writing Enrichment: Make a Book from Karen Trina Childress

How to Approach Language Arts in High School from Sweetness & Light

High School Skills: Analyzing Text from Blog She Wrote

Fun With Writing for Teens: Online Product Reviews from Education Possible

American Icon: Ernest Hemingway – A High School Literature Study from Eva Varga

Join us next week as we take a look at our favorite posts for teaching history in your home school.

Don’t forget to check out all of the co-hostsAspired Living, Blog She Wrote, Education Possible, EvaVarga, Milk and Cookies, Starts at Eight, and Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus.

Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

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  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
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  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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Add your best posts that focus on homeschooling middle & high school students. Share your ideas, unique learning approaches, encouragement, and more.

July 19, 20141

My kids left for camp last weekend: two weeks in the hills of the Sierras with a group of kids they’ve not ever met, connected only by a shared heritage.

As they packed their bags before we left home, I gave each of them the summer camp journal I had labored so long on creating and showed them where they could write down the addresses of family and friends they could write while at camp.

“We would love to hear from you,” I’d said as I handed them stationery and postage stamps. From the looks they gave me, I knew not to expect very much. They, after all, are children of a digital age, wired to a device as if it were an extension of their body.

letters from campStill, one of the appeals of camp from my perspective is that such devices are forbidden. For two weeks my kids would be unplugged; forced to connect with others on a personal level. Investing their time to learn new skills and gain new experiences. If they want to reach out to us, they are forced to take pen to paper.

Sitting down to write a letter to share their reactions and camp anecdotes is time consuming. How do you communicate in the slower medium of the letter when you are used to constant contact, constant conversation, and immediate feedback?

This is the motivation behind one of my favorite challenges of recent years, 52 Weeks of Mail, in which participants produce a piece of correspondence, typed or handwritten, that is then sent to a friend or family member. The idea is to take a deep breath, to bring communication back to the personal, to establish the sort of informal and direct bond that letter writing has long required.

Of course, writing letters is a two-way process, a correspondence in the truest sense. Sadly, not everyone responds. {After multiple failed attempts, we learned to take a hint.} Though a few did reply, despite our best intentions, our correspondence petered out after a single back-and-forth. With such a low rate of return, it doesn’t take long to lose momentum.

Like many, I thought that technology might revive the art of writing letters, providing us with tools to reach out and connect on multiple levels. Yet this has not happened. As I previously stated, we live in a digital age, in which speed trumps substance, and our ability to keep in touch with each other at all hours, through a variety of media, is more of a burden than a release.

Despite this, I have tried to instill the love for letter writing within my children. My daughter has a pen pal in Canada with whom she has  corresponded with for two years now. My son regularly writes to his grandfather. Through we have yet to reach our goal of writing 52 letters in a calendar year, I can say they write more letters than most children their age.

At camp, I know they will be kept busy. At fish camp a year ago, my daughter didn’t even have time to write in her journal; engaged in activities from sunup to sundown.

When we dropped them off, I reminded them to write if they had the time. They are only there for two weeks. I thereby wasn’t expecting to hear from them.

So when my husband handed me the mail and my daughter’s letter was peaking out between the bank statement and an advertisement for car insurance, I was overjoyed.


April 22, 20142

Our writing curriculum – though effective – has just not been very exciting.  The kids have never been very enthusiastic about the daily assignments.  I have known for a while that I needed to make a change. I was familiar with the workshop format and had used it a little with my own kiddos, but with only two – it just wasn’t effective.

A few months ago, I read Heather’s post Workshops Work! A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshop for Kids and I was immediately intrigued.  Hosting a workshop for our homeschool community may just be the solution. Perhaps this was just the spark our homeschool writing program needed.

This post contains affiliate links.

Writers Workshop

What is Writer’s Workshop

Writer’s workshop is a time for writers to gather together and share their work. Sometimes workshops incorporate mini lessons and give participants time to write and some, encourage writers to bring pieces they’ve already written to be shared during the workshop. The format of workshop can vary and of course evolve over time. 

Like Heather, our workshop is based on the model from the book Workshops Work!: A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids by Patricia Zaballos. Her approach to workshops give kids a reason to write, such as having an audience and something to say. She provides tips on how to create a safe, supportive, peer-to-peer experience.  Upon reading it, I was convinced this format would work.

I thereby posted an invitation on our local homeschool forum and awaited their responses.  I was delighted to see that many were interested; though some wanted to wait for the following school year, others were as anxious to get started as we were.

I began hosting workshop just a few weeks ago.  We had to be out of town last week, so the group has only met twice thus far.  Already, however, it has been a success and I look forward to getting to know the kids better and growing together as writers. 

March 31, 20143

We listen to a lot of audio books in the car. It is a wonderful opportunity to share in our love of literature and engage in dialogue about literary techniques, vocabulary, and genres of literature.  I try to select books that the kids wouldn’t normally select for themselves, particularly classics and authors whom they are not yet familiar.

letterwritingWhen I picked up Same Sun Here, I didn’t know what to expect.  I had not heard anything about it but the silhouette on the cover caught my eye and I brought it home. What a delightful surprise it turned out to be.


Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani is a wonderful novel told in letters, centering around an Indian immigrant girl in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner’s son.  They find strength and perspective by sharing their true selves across the miles, developing a friendship that builds a bridge between their cultures and the miles between them.


Meena and River discover that they have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. Yet, their lives are very different as well. As Meena’s family studies for citizenship exams and River’s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing their innermost thoughts as their friendship deepens. With honesty and humor, the duo defeat cultural misconceptions with genuine friendship.

I haven’t seen the print version of this book but I love that the audio was narrated in two voices, each voice distinctly articulated by these gifted authors. The kids and I laughed out loud and wept quietly as the protagonists shared their stories. As an adult, I loved the format of letters back and forth. This would be a great book to use to talk about the difference in cultures and how people who come to the US do not see it with the same eyes as a native. Additionally, the story is a wonderful reminder that once you get to know them, people who can seem very different have a lot in common.

Letter Writing in Social Studies

The book is wonderful but it does have a political spin. House has a cause. Anyone who is familiar with his work knows that he is strongly campaigning to stop the mining of coal by mountain top removal in Appalachian Kentucky.  As Oregonians now living in California, I was not previously familiar with this and thus the kids and I looked into a little more. As a result of this book, we talked about environmental causes – both locally and globally – that were important to us. We talked about ideas for how we, as individuals, can make a difference.

Letter writing, boycotting products (and companies), and protesting were discussed. My kids have had some experience with boycotting.  Since attending their first Roots & Shoots conference a few years ago, they have actively read the ingredients list of products and choose to avoid anything that has Palm Oil.  Additionally, they have learned to recognize brand names and try not to purchase anything by Nestlé. Relatedly, are also beginning to make a more concerned effort to purchase food grown locally.

Same Sun Here encouraged the kids to consider writing letters to companies to request they change their practices, suggesting alternatives to Palm Oil, for example.

STEMLetter Writing in Science

Relatedly, letter writing is also applicable in sciences.  In addition to writing persuasive letters about environmental issues, students should be encouraged to write letters to scientists in fields of interest.  If a child is interested in engineering, for example, seek out an engineer willing to mentor your child.  Better yet – attend conferences, for example, and encourage your child to seek out those relationships themselves.

My daughter recently attended a Women in STEM Conference and personally thanked each presenter.  In doing so, she made a point to ask specific questions and to express what she enjoyed most about her presentation.  She thereafter asked for contact information and is presently working to reach out to each woman scientist she met at the conference.

Letter Writing in Literature

My daughter loves to write stories modeled after her favorite books – Redwall and Warriors.  She engages in these creative writing without prompting from me and will occasionally share excerpts with me.  As a result of listening to Same Sun Here, she recently included a couple of  letters exchanged between two characters in her book.

In the past, I have also encouraged the kids to write letters to their favorite authors.  Jan Brett, Seymour Simon, and Jim Arnosky are wonderful examples of authors who love hearing from their readers.

52 Weeks of Mail


52weeksmailWe have always enjoyed writing letters to friends and family.  In the past, we have taken part in the 52 Weeks of Mail challenge but as life tends to do, we have been lead astray and haven’t been very consistent.  This book gave us new inspiration to do so.

I have a 52 Weeks of Mail Pinterest board where I pin creative letters and packaging.  Who doesn’t love to receive mail?  Especially when the cover is so beautiful?

Each of the kids have pen pals and I encourage them to write as often as possible.  I try to model this myself, but I have to admit it is so easy to let modern technology distract us.


Interested in more ideas for literature? Visit the iHomeschool Network’s A Book and a Big Idea Blog Hop.