A WeWrite Workshop from an Author’s Perspective
On November 16, 2002, fourteen children gathered at a special book-writing workshop at Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois. The workshop was sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Center for Governmental Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Below is a kid’s perspective of what went on and how the book you are reading came to be.
We were a bunch of kids ranging in age 7 to 10 years old. All we knew was that we’d been invited to become authors, writing a book about Abraham Lincoln. When we first arrived at Lincoln Library, we each got nametags so we could get to know each other. WeWrite Corporation was running the workshop, and they had chairs all set up and a microphone. We were all a little nervous, but excited, too.
We were very impressed when Abraham Lincoln walked in and introduced himself! Actually, we had been told that well-known interpreter Fritz Klein would be talking to us as if he were Mr. Lincoln. It was easy to believe, because Mr. Klein looks and acts so much like our 16th president. He told stories and answered questions, helping us understand how Abraham Lincoln felt about things that happened when he was alive. We had a lot of fun talking with him, and everyone agreed — Mr. Klein knows his subject!
After about an hour, we were ready to begin writing. We had to decide who our characters would be and where the story would take place. While we made suggestions, several “helpers” were writing down our ideas. (Having more than one person taking notes helped to ensure that none of our great ideas were missed.) Mr. Lincoln sat in a nearby chair and answered questions as we worked. Whenever we got stuck or had too many good ideas, we voted.
We decided to have three kids on their way to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library to write a report for school. But outside the building, they ran into the real Abraham Lincoln! We had lots of ideas about how he could’ve gotten there, but we all agreed that in our story he would simply fall asleep and wake up in the future.
Sometimes we would get up and act out the story to help us get the dialog. Even Mr. Lincoln joined in, and we all had a great laugh when he jumped in the air like the president does in our story. Acting it out helped us decide what expressions our characters might have on their faces, and what they might say. Besides, acting it out was fun! We got to take turns, and every author contributed.
It was pretty cool thinking about what the kids might do, and what President Lincoln would think about our world today. But when we talked about the way things might be if Abraham Lincoln had never been president, we realized what a difference he’d made. Mr. Lincoln was a very important man in our history, and we shouldn’t take him for granted.
While we were writing, a professional illustrator began sketching out our characters. The illustrator for this book is Chuck Goll. He’s from Chicago. The illustrator is the only adult who gets to make suggestions, but Mr. Goll only interrupted us to ask us questions. It was really cool to see characters we’d described being drawn!
When we finished the story, we got a chance to draw our own illustrations and tell what we liked about writing this book. The whole experience was incredible! It was great learning more about Abraham Lincoln and cool meeting the other young authors. We hope that you enjoy reading our story as much as we enjoyed writing it!