10 June 2015
Last week was the 25th year of Success Beyond the Classroom’s annual YOUNG AUTHORS CONFERENCE here in the Twin Cities, and I’ve been there for all 25. Once again, eager young writers (grades 4-8) from across the metro area rolled into the classroom and knocked me out. What a joy to see kids toting around their favorite books and engaging in excited conversations with new friends who like the same author, rather than hunched over a screen wishing they were somewhere else.
When we wrote, all the heads bent over the page; all the hands kept moving. In my sessions, we were exploring ways to get stories rolling quickly—“Starting on the Run,” to quote the session title. We wrote, stopped and read, injected new ideas, and wrote again. Rinse and repeat—but each repetition built the spiral of creativity stronger and higher. Work those narrative modes; vary the point of entrance into the story; reverse the point of view . . .
After one session, a boy insisted on staying behind (missing lunch) so that he could read me—expressively, with each character in their own voice—yet another segment of his growing story line. After another, a tiny little girl peered at the copies of my own books laid out on a table, and then launched a discussion about whether she should save some of her ideas for her second book, or put everything she had into the first one.
We had kids in suit coats and in hijabs; in tattered shoes and color-coordinated lace dresses with Doc Martens. There were shy, silent types and loud, obvious rebels. To my knowledge, none were carrying guns (never a sure thing these days, what with the absurd conceal & carry laws)—but they all carried a valuable weapon in their pockets: the mighty pen, ready to take on however many swords you care to throw their way.
Can’t wait to see this bunch in action in the future.
**A tip of the cap to Gina Jacobson, Cathy MacDonald, & all the SBC staff & board—whose flair and attention to detail permeate all their endeavors.**