Speaking With Young Writers

This morning I had the honor and pleasure of talking with a group from Mrs. Wendy McClure’s fifth-grade writing class at Meadow Lands Elementary School.

Each month she selects not the students who write the best, but those who made the most effort.  Their reward is a special lunch with their teachers and the teaching assistants, Principal Kevin Lowe, and a guest speaker.  Mrs. McClure serves pizza and cupcakes in a room where she’s decorated tables with colorful cloths, seasonal plates and napkins, and hand-scribed name tags at each place.

It was thrilling to watch the thirteen lucky students eagerly rush to their special event.  Holding it in a glass-walled room on the corridor where every child passes on the way to the cafeteria adds to the honor.  Mrs. McClure’s students delighted in waving to their friends who ogled the room and its decorations as they proceeded to their lunchroom.

As soon as everyone selected their pizza slices and began to eat, we started talking about writing.

I allowed them to ask questions about my bio, which their teacher shared with them before I arrived.  They were keen to know if it was true that I read approximately 400-500 books each year.  (That’s a yes.)  And in which branch of the service I served.  I had to laugh when they reacted to the news of how long ago that had been.

Since the young people had a limited time for lunch and learning what writers do and how they do it, I asked for questions to open the flow.  They were well-behaved and asked good questions.  Since they were a bit shy, I turned the tables and asked them specific questions about how they get ideas for stories, how they would go about planning a story about a walk through the woods, and how they would create a plot for the type of story they would write.  We also made a list of different ways writers can make a living with words.

Their lunch break went by quickly.  We posed for a couple of photos, and I cherish the hugs and thank-you’s I received. 

I had a wonderful time talking with this group of young writers.  They were serious about improving their writing skills and interested in what I shared.  I’m inspired by what they are doing in school and hope to see some of the stories they write this year.

It’s heartening to meet teachers enthused about supporting and encouraging students to surpass what they believe is their best effort.  I saw that in action today with the half-dozen teachers and the principal who honored these children for their hard work.  The children’s faces revealed their delight in being selected to experience something beyond their normal learning experience.

It’s good to know there are always new writers coming into the world.  I’m quite sure that one day I’ll be standing in a line at the bookstore, waiting to have my book autographed by one of those young people.  I only hope that new author will remember talking craft with me when he or she was young.

A big shout-out and Thank You!

to Mrs. McClure and her students.