Interview with a Hero: Professor Watermelon (part 2)

More of our interview with writer, librarian, and writing teacher Chadwick Gillenwater, a.k.a.Professor Watermelon. (Read part 1 here.)

Spec: Who is Professor Watermelon?
Professor Watermelon is a character I created to teach creative writing to children. Many children feel stifled by the rules of writing (grammar, spelling, style, etc.). From the get-go I want my students to see that I am ready to have fun with writing. My character shows that I am not taking writing too seriously. I am not there to cross out and scribble over their writing with red ink. I am there to show them how writing is an outlet for creative self expression — just like drawing, painting, and building things with popsicle sticks.

Spec: Does Professor Watermelon have any supernatural abilities or unusual traits?
CG: Of course! He is in close connection with many magical people and creatures from this world and beyond. During every creative writing class, we receive a letter and artifact from one of these friends. We call this the MuseBox. These artifacts often become the jumping off point for many stories the students create. For example, we may receive a letter and a jar of honey from Herbert the Fly. Even though Herbert is a fly, he makes the tastiest honey on this planet. Herbert may ask the creative writers if their character can do something that is extraordinary to his or her species.

Professor Watermelon is also connected to the people and creatures that live inside the moon. There is a special bakery inside the moon called the Lunar Spooner. This is where Moonbean the Clown bakes Imagination Pies. Creative writers often get these as snacks. They magically cure writer’s block!

Spec: We might need a few of those for a giveaway! What’s the most rewarding thing about working with young writers?

CG: I have the opportunity to inspire a child to find the joy in writing every single day. I get to show them that even adults have the ability to act silly. And I love that I get to use my own imagination.

Spec: When teaching teachers how to teach writing, what are your top tips for doing it right?

CG: If you’re a writer, you know it’s important to write with your writer’s hat on and edit with your editor’s hat on. If you try to wear both at the same time, you will have a tendency not to believe in your writing. Your editor’s voice will keep your imagination from flowing, and you will most likely not finish the project.

If you’re a writing teacher, please separate writing time from editing time – maybe move them to completely separate days. Also, if you have not found the joy in writing yourself, how can you inspire a child to find that joy? It works the same for reading. I have parents ask me all the time how they can motivate their child to read at home. I ask them, “Do you read at home?” They often say that they are not much of a reader. BINGO! We must model the behavior if we want to teach it.

Spec: What writing project are you working on now?

CG: I’m working on a middle grade novel in which Professor Watermelon is one of the characters. The setting is Seattle; Lillyville, TN; and the moon! The protagonist is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a cemetery with his pet crow. That’s all I’m saying right now, heehee.

Good luck with that moon story, and thanks for stopping by, Chadwick! Please give our regards to the Professor!

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Filed under Joni Sensel

3 responses to “Interview with a Hero: Professor Watermelon (part 2)

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    Great interview. I bet many of your students enjoy writing more than other kids because it sounds like you make it fun.

  2. Maureen Hoffman-Wehmeier

    We are fortunate to have Chadwick Gillenwater and Professor Watermelon living close to our school. He will be coming by soon to give a writer’s workshop to my students. I cannot wait to see what is in his muse box!

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