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Feels Like the Real Deal

October 8, 2011

Yesterday I was blessed with the opportunity to teach a few middle school classes about writing. This is the sort of thing I always hoped to do when I got published so getting the opportunity now felt like walking into the future I’ve always dreamed about.

I was so nervous I could hardly sleep the night before. I had no idea if the kids were going to be interested in what I had to say or not. Before the first class even started I was sweating profusely.

And then, it just happened. Like magic, I was able to speak in front of a crowded room not only without shaking, but with confidence and humor.

I started off showing pictures of local authors who have written books middle school kids might have read. I was pleasantly surprised by how many knew their faces as well as their books, though many were surprised to find they lived in Utah.

I shared a bit from Howard Tayler’s youtube video “Talent? Who Needs Talent?” explaining how hard work reveals talent and you’ll never know which came first unless you work hard. I am a firm believer in hard work over talent. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t practice, you’ll never be as good as the seemingly untalented person who works their butt off for what they love.

Love the pink sunglasses!

I taught about fanfiction and how it can be a useful tool in learning writing skills, as well as getting yourself known. Take Darren Criss for example. He wrote The Very Potter Musical, which became a youtube sensation. The musical got his name out there and helped land him a spot on Glee; in January he’ll be replacing Dan Radcliff on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

NaNoWriMo was a revelation to these kids and I was pleased by the number that seemed excited by the program and encouraged to write.

I’ll admit, not all of the kids were respectful, or even interested. But the ones who had even a bit of interest became excited through what I told them. And that’s all that matters. I wish I had had more interaction with writers when I was still in school. Not to say that I wasn’t encouraged by some but my dad (who I love) was always a big downer when I told him I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. It just didn’t seem practical or possible to him. I hope I made it seem possible to these kids.

Becky, their teacher, wants me to come back in the future, perhaps in November during NaNoWriMo. It warmed my heart to speak to kids and realize that they are reading the books I love, watching the show sand movies I do. I saw so many past versions of myself in that classroom; me when I was shy and quiet but eager; a few years later when I was happy to shout out my thoughts even when they weren’t the right answer; and those who had the confidence to work hard because they had the gleam of a dream in their eyes.

I’ve always wanted to write YA but this experience makes me want to try my hand at middle grade novel. Lucky for me, NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’ve decided on a 13 year old protagonist. Not sure if that makes it YA or middle grade. I don’t really care. I hope I inspired those kids as much as they inspired me.

Have any of you had a chance to talk to kids about writing? Any advice or ideas for next time?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2011 7:43 pm

    Technically, a 13 year-old protagonist would make it middle grade. And huzzah on teaching classes!

  2. October 11, 2011 12:02 pm

    Thanks for the clarification Marisa! Teaching was so much fun! I highly recommend it.

  3. October 12, 2011 11:18 pm

    I’d agree with Marisa – 13 is MG.

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