Mystery writer works with fifth graders

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 03/25/97.

ďThe first page is always the hardest to write,Ē Mary Casanova, told the fifth grade students last week.

A mystery writer, Casanova of Ranier, Minn., spent three days in Paynesville working with the fifth graders as a part of the graduation standard work on writing. Her residency was paid for by a grant from the Paynesville School Board. On Wednesday, Casanova talked with the students about how to create a place in their stories by using the five senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. On Thursday, they talked about writing introductions and leads for short stories. She finished up the week with the students working in small groups and finishing the stories they had started on previous days.

ďThe best way to learn how to write is by writing stories,Ē she told the students.

Casanova talked to the students about developing characters. She explained that each story should have a conflict or problem that needs solving and suspense to hold the readerís attention. ďYou donít want to start a story with too much of an introduction, youíll lose the reader. You need to go over your lead to get the strongest story you can,Ē she said.

Casanova started writing for kids in 1989. ďI stumbled upon a workshop for mystery writing while working on my masters degree,Ē Casanova said. At the time, she was teaching English at a community college in northern Minnesota.

It took her two years to write her first book, Moose Tracks, and another two years before it was out in print. ďI have a large box in my attic of rough drafts,Ē she said. Her next book, Riot, took only a month to write but almost two years before it was ready for publication. This year the book will be translated into Japanese.

Casanova has written a sequel to Moose Tracks, Wolf Shadows which will be released in August. She has also sold a picture book titled One Dog Canoe.

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