Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Writing as a Team Approach

on September 19, 2011

One of the books I read this summer was Hotel Angelina.

Hotel Angelina was written by thirty-six different Pacific Northwest Writers in a week-long marathon of writing on stage at Richard Hugo House. Each writer took a two-hour stint. Before the actual live week of writing began, an editorial committee of five writers met and brainstormed a story idea and completed a plot. Before the author “took the stage” they read the text which had already been written, and he or she met with an “editor”. The editor reviewed the narrative arc and the themes, and made suggestions about where to go next. Note: “Editors” here are the five writers who comprised the editorial committee that brainstormed the book including: Elizabeth George, Robert Dugoni, Jennie Shortridge, Maria Semple and Garth Stein.  Writers included everyone from children’s writers to romance to literary including: Deb Caletti, Julia Quinn, and Jamie Ford.

The story is about a teenage girl, Alexis, who finds herself in charge of an old hotel with eccentric tenants, after her mother becomes ill and eventually dies. The eccentric tenants of the hotel plus the rich details of the Seattle, as well as a growing mystery, setting help make this story a memorable one. But, what is really the most fun about Hotel Angelina, is reading the different chapters written by the various writers and seeing how they continue the story.

Hotel Angelina would make a good story to study in high school or college writing classes, and the writing process reminded me of how, when working with a group of students, it can be possible to replicate this team writing process.

One of the lessons which I’ve done with the kids, when working in creative writing classrooms, is a lesson which involves choosing a character and seeing how the events unfold from multiple viewpoints. In this lesson, kids are grouped into clusters of four writers. They are told that an art crime has been committed..a piece of art work has been stolen! Each person will write about the crime from a different point of view. One person is the criminal, one is the artist, one is the  detective, and one is the falsely accused. As a part of the lesson, we work on writing character monologues.  It’s a great way to have students work in a team to produce one story.

The full lesson can be seen here.

A few years ago, I also wrote and published an article in ALA’s Booklinks Magazine called, Writing with a Team Approach. In this article, I looked at various middle grade and young adult novels which had been written from the view point of multiple characters. (Not multiple authors).  And then, provided ideas for how to work with a group of kids in writing a “team story.”  Books in the article included: A View from Saturday, Whirligig, and Kissing Tennessee and Other Stories.

The “Writing with a Team Approach” article can be viewed here:

Writing with a Team Approach

Writing doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be a solitary effort. The publishing process for Weaving Magic (Forthcoming April 2012) and Stained Glass Summer (Forthcoming December 2011) is a team effort.  Both publishers have cover artists, content editors, line editors and a publicists–all working to make a book be the best it can be before it reaches readers.  And, I believe, the same can be said for the writing creating process!


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