Natalie Hopkinson’s Wisdom About Writing

The buzz filled the room long after Natalie Hopkinson‘s talk with teachers about the writing process. Hopkinson was the featured guest presenter for the March session of Stories from Our Classrooms, a course for D.C. area social justice teachers who are writing for publication.

Hopkinson, a talented writer who addresses issues of race, culture, and education, spoke about her own experiences as a writer and getting published. Teachers asked questions about everything from capitalization norms to how to write the truth about a system that one is part of. To the latter, Hopkinson noted it is the central question of anyone who is writing truth to power. She quoted Guyanese poet Martin Carter, “The mouth is muzzled by the food it eats to live.”

Stories from Our Classrooms March 13

Hopkinson offered a wealth of good advice for writers. Here are just a few nuggets.

  • If you aren’t getting enough feedback, seek out an editor.
  • An editor is a smart reader. It could be anyone.
  • Listen to their feedback. Let them help you catch your mistakes. It’s going out in public.
  • If it’s not working, it might just be too complex.
  • There needs to be one idea per piece.
  • Writing is more about editing. Write it all out, then pare it back.
  • Respect your reader’s time.

Hopkinson then modeled the editorial feedback process with one of the participants, Monét Cooper, who had volunteered ahead of time. Cooper’s peer response group and eventually the full class participated in a rich discussion, facilitated by Hopkinson, about the education issues in Cooper’s text and how to best communicate them.

The feedback Hopkinson offered Cooper led everyone to think more clearly about their own drafts. Some commented that they couldn’t wait to go back to revise their pieces, applying insights and lessons from the evening.

Our thanks to Maybelline McCoy for her photography, Michael Lindsey for videography, and Ellen Royse for detailed notes. McCoy is volunteering this spring to document Teaching for Change’s work. Lindsey, a Howard University student, is creating a mini-documentary about Stories from Our Classrooms.