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Building the writer’s toolbox | Langley author looks to develop young writers in workshop
Langley author Amber Kizer is taking everything she’s learned from publishing several young adult novels to the classroom at Whidbey Children’s Theater this month.
Kizer, 36, is the author of seven internationally published books. The Langley author grew up on the South End and is a 1996 graduate of South Whidbey High School. She published her first title in 2007 and has kept an active pace of one to two books per year since.
“I fell in love with writing, it was serendipitous,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
In her works, she explores a range of subjects including a coming-of-age story, magical realism and a post-apocalyptic survival novel.
Kizer will put down the pen and put on a teacher’s hat Monday, April 21, when she begins a workshop on writing. She hopes to garner students’ passions and explore their ideas while giving them the tools and foundation for storytelling.
“I want to show them ways to think about writing that’s not exactly writing,” she said.
Kizer has taught several classes before, but this is the first time at the children’s theater.
This is a great age group to teach because they’re teenagers and are still exploring what they’re passionate about, she said.
“They’re not quite there yet,” she said. “It’s fun to work with teenagers in that aspect.”
The month-long class will give Kizer the opportunity to help guide students through the writing process and a lot of individual time working with them, she said.
“It’s about finding their passions and expanding on that,” she said. “Whidbey Children’s Theater is a safe place to be creative.”
The class will dig into writing through storyboards, improv and mediums relatable to the students. Kizer will ask how each character would present themselves online, such as what they would Instagram or post, she said.
“It’s not ‘write what you know,’ it’s know what you write,” Kizer explained.
Executive Director of the children’s theater Cait Cassee said Kizer is a good example of finding and developing an author’s voice for students.
“Amber really embodies that in a very relevant way for the demographic we serve,” she said. “She’s a lively, energetic person to be around and a great vehicle for younger people to receive inspiration from.”
Writing can be intimidating for teenagers, Cassee said. Kizer’s approach emphasizes an individual’s voice.
“That’s what we want to support, for students to come in here and feel safe and supportive in finding their own voice,” she said.
In her most recent book, “Pieces of Me,” which was published in February, Kizer explores the obstacles of pediatric organ donation. The novel follows the narrator, an unwilling organ donor, and the different lives of the donor’s teenage recipients.
Kizer delves into taboo issues and constantly has subject ideas and characters in mind.
“Ideas come easily; 90 percent of writing is sitting down and doing it everyday,” she said.
When Kizer is writing she sets her own scene, lighting candles and listening to music. For each story she writes, she creates a new mood with a different scent and soundtrack. For her current project, which involves a girl and her chickens, Kizer chose a tomato scented candle.
Kizer said she enjoys “exploring the human spirit and the nuances that make us different,” in her work. The underlying theme to all of her stories is being comfortable in a person’s own skin.
“Some characters are experiencing obstacles with what life is and learning to be comfortable with who they are,” she said.
It’s an experience reflected in Kizer’s own journey to becoming a writer.
Words have always been a driving force in her life. Kizer first wanted to be a lawyer, but after she developed a rare neurological disorder during her freshman year of college at George Washington University in Washington D.C., she started focusing on a writing career so she could telecommute. She studied the business, reviewed story archetypes and discovered her own voice.
“There’s a lot of writing crap involved,” she said of starting out in the writing industry. “I was figuring it out as I went. There’s also a lot of luck involved.”
With each of her books, she hopes people have a good time reading her stories.
“I’d like teenagers and readers to feel a little less alone and have a connection,” she said.
Learn, grow, write
The class is for writers in the sixth to 12th grade. Each class meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. from April 21 to May 28.
Tuition costs $150. Scholarships are available from the Elizabeth George Foundation. For more information, contact Whidbey Children’s Theater at 360-221-8707.