First I was in Kansas kindergartens, thanks to a click of my ruby-red-slippers, otherwise known as Skype. A couple of days later I was at a local school assembly celebrating writing. I was honored to read aloud first graders’ poems–one about worms (squirm squirm) and the other about birds. That gave me the chance to talk about how poems sometimes make us notice what is right beneath our feet, and sometimes tilt our heads, throw wide our arms, and embrace life in all its expansiveness. Luckily I got to give my little speech before the thrid graders got up to sing, because after that I was too verklempt for anything.
Saturday I detoured from school visits to Indie Storytime Day at the Learned Owl, one of our treasured local bookstores. My plan was to read that masterpiece, “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”, but my audience turned out to be so young, I couldn’t inflict the dark angst of Sylvester as a snow-covered rock with a lone wolf howling on his back (Ingmar Bergman, you got nothing by comparison!) So we read the adorable “Please Bring Balloons” by my friend Lindsay Ward, and also had some intense conversation about fairies.
Later that day, it was teens. Besides giving my workshop on setting and sense of place, I had the privilege of a long, wonderful conversation with a fifteen year old deep into her first novel. We talked about setting, plot, character motivation, and I was able to give some (I hope) usable advice.
What she gave me was this: she told me she’s writing the story because she can’t find enough books where she recognizes herself. She is African American, middle class, questioning her sexual orientation, future career, whether she can really make a difference and find happiness in this big, indifferent world. She doesn’t want to read any more stories about the historic black struggle, or future dystopias: she wants to find herself now, heart and soul, on the page. This is exactly what adolescent me always sought. She’s going to finish her novel this summer–summer!!
So for me it was a week of being an author. I tend to think of author as the past tense of writer. An author is one who has written. (I do love how close it is to the word authority!) This week, inspired, revved up, I’m back to present tense. I’m a writer.