Lessons Shared and Lessons Learned

Greetings, writing friends! I’m sorry for my absence the last few weeks. As we all know, the world has been a crazy place and with so many important issues being raised, it just hasn’t felt like the appropriate time to write and share. But, I’m hoping to get back on track starting today. I’d love to share with you a very special experience I had yesterday, an experience that has helped me find some clarity with my own writing and will hopefully help me get back to working on my book.

Yesterday, I got to do something really special. My friend is a middle school English/Language Arts teacher at a local school. Their summer school program is all online right now due to COVID-19 precautions, of course. She reached out to me last week to ask if I’d be interested in being a guest speaker for her students. I was flattered that she thought of me and I eagerly agreed.

As I was considering what I should talk about, I wondered many things. You see, I’ve been feeling a bit down about my personal writing lately and with all the things going on in the world, I wasn’t sure that my voice mattered or was unique. It can easy to get down on yourself in the self-publishing business as that mountain can appear too high to scale all too often. I wondered, also, what I had that would be of interest to incoming 6th graders. I’ve spoken to adults and to high schoolers before on varying topics like world-building and working as a writer in the business world. But, never middle schoolers.

With these things plaguing me, I was worried about letting my friend down – which I certainly didn’t want to do. But, I started to think about things in terms of what I would have wanted to hear as an aspiring writer as a child and I realized that what I would have wanted to hear is that writing is a powerful tool and art. That it is meaningful and that telling stories–no matter whether they are the stories of real people or ones in my imagination–is something that should be celebrated.  So, I got to work.

As I logged into the Google Chat my friend had created, I was greeted with several boxes filled with faces of middle schoolers, logging in from their various locations (COVID has really shaken things up!). Some were looking at the screen, others were a bit preoccupied. But, as my friend called the class to order, I was greeted with open eyes, nodding heads and eager voices that chimed in when I asked a question.

My talk focused on my dual-life as both a nonfiction writer and a fiction writer and the important skills that you need to be successful in those areas. I talked a lot about listening to others and telling things that are real and true (of course I was a bit inspired by everything in the news in recent times like the #BLM movement and the many instances where truth is questioned and reality seems to be turned on its head). Truth and being truthful is so important – along with being true to yourself. I also talked about the responsibility writers have and quoted Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man) uncle – “With great power comes with great responsibility.”

The students taught me some things as well as I spoke to them. They reminded me of the unique place in the world that I occupy – even when I am in a dimmer place and don’t feel like there is anything unique or special about me in that moment. Their excitement about stories and their own hobbies (which we discussed at the beginning of the talk) reminded me of the love I have for writing – a love that I’ve had since I was very young. Talking about writing and sharing with them the exciting parts of writing a story and the work that goes into it and the rewarding feelings that come out of it were also a great reminder for me.

Having this moment to pause and reflect, to share with children (tweens) who bring a tenacity and a sparkle to everything they do was really cathartic for me. Things don’t have to be overcomplicated. They can just be. My writing can just be. The dream begins again and the fire gets reignited just a little bit. And now, I hope to soldier on and keep writing.