By MARK F. GRAY, AFRO Staff Writer

After 13 years as a single mother Leslie Crawford found her personal catharsis by taking pen to pad to purge herself of the stressful responsibilities of raising a family.  The “coping” mechanism to remain mentally healthy is one that she has begun implementing with secondary education students in Montgomery County Public Schools and she hopes it will give them skills to deal constructively with the issues affecting their lives.

Crawford’s program “When Children Write” helps students from 3rd through 12th grade with taking ideas from the soul and putting them to paper.  Her concepts aren’t based on empirical data or academic formulas.  Instead, she has developed an academic program that allows for personal discovery through telling their stories while perfecting the ability to communicate through the written word.

Author and publisher Leslie Crawford’s “When Children Write” program is teaching students to write books and have them published while giving them a platform for self expression. (Courtesy Photo)

“Everyone has a story in their head but, the struggle has always been to get it to paper,” Crawford told the AFRO.

Since 2008 Crawford has written and published four books which has been another part of the personal literary journey that she now shares with students and adults to take advantage of the life syllabus which is the foundation of her program.  Crawford, who studied business management at Morgan State, started her own publishing company to break down the barriers that inhibit most would-be writers from bringing their literary work to the masses.  Those trials and the first hand experiences that she endured have led to this program that she hopes will help create the next generation of published authors.

In addition to the challenge of trying to press through life’s road blocks that lead to creative struggles, she faced the enormity of trying to get her work published.  Her program not only wants to help the students reach into their creative souls, she is also trying to prepare them for the pragmatics of being published as well.  The program, with two elementary schools and one middle school in Montgomery County, not only works to develop student’s writing skills, but their work will contribute to a book of short stories that will be published through her company.

“The goal is to make sure the kids channel their energy of imagination on paper,” Crawford said.

“When Children Write” is a step-by-step program that takes children through the process of writing and publishing a book. This process is done through group or one on one sessions.  The program is not about taking words and placing them on a piece of paper.   Crawford’s mission is to expand the prism of literary creativity and publishing acumen mindset of the students who enroll.

However, the challenges that she once faced when trying to secure a literary agent or broker a deal with a large publisher, remain although in a different form.  Thanks to the proliferation of social media, millennial-aged students write in a language of abbreviated words and emojis which inhibit the chances to be published or taken seriously. Crawford teaches students   everything from framing the narratives of their ideas to refining them before getting published by editing, which can sometimes lead to an emotional impasse.

“They are taught not to take [editorial] changes personally,” said Crawford.  “We have to teach them to get into the habit of writing Standard English again.”

Crawford is also advising the students how to use the new era of technology to get their books published.  She is introducing them to concepts of e-books and audio versions as well. Her plans for expansion include branching into establishing book fairs for student authors nationwide where they can share the “book of the month” with peers like their adult counterparts.