I’ve been asked into this particular High School on a yearly basis for the last 3 (4?) years, and every time I leave they ask if I’ll come back the next year. (And the answer is always “Yes!”)
It’s always terrifying to stand in front of an audience of 12-13 year olds, especially when I don’t have the Viking guise of Jøsef Lambsen to hide behind!
When there’s only you, a few pages, and a lot of curious faces peering at you… it can be difficult. But my word isn’t it satisfying when it’s done!?
Moreso this one above… which is why I am writing.
Last year, after I had done my 45 minutes (probably longer), a young boy who had asked a couple of questions during the talk, hung about at the back of the library waiting for all the rest of the pupils to leave. One of the teachers asked if he was looking for something and he shyly asked them if he could ask me something.
(I was tidying up my stuff at the time and readying to leave.)
The teachers weren’t sure about ‘taking up more of my time’ but when is that ever a problem on a day off? 🙂
So the wee guy comes over and starts asking me about writing. At first he’s a bit timid, but as he talks he becomes more and more animated describing a story he had thought of and what to do with it. His biggest concern…?
“What if it’s not very good?”
So I told him… “Every writer thinks that. So, write it anyway. Get some paper (“I’m sure your teacher would help you with that!” – I said, a little louder!) and just write it down. The only way to get better, is to keep doing it.”
I gave him the brief version of how – when I started writing – I had no idea it was something ordinary people were allowed to do, and that I wished I had known for about 20-odd years that people might actually want to see the things you wrote.
He went off beaming. And I thought, “Groovy. Someone got it.”
So… this year.
I am standing in front of two classes of pupils (above) and I see a familiar face. It’s the same wee guy, only a little less wee! I do my bit and a few questions are asked, but he doesn’t raise his hand this time. I felt a bit disappointed about that, but many others were asking questions about the craft and the way it works, and I was able to give a fuller response to the same question he had asked me the previous year.
So I finish. Everyone leaves. I pack up the stuff… except this time the teachers are standing with the same wee guy and waiting for me.
He’d only gone and written a small novella!
He had written, illustrated and stapled it all up and I was presented with a hand-written copy of it. After he had gone, all smiles and blushes, the teachers told me that since I had spoken to him his attitude at school had altered drastically.
He had been a ‘problem’ for a while, but for the last year he had focused more on his work and was always talking about ‘writing his book’. His handwriting had improved, and even his language skills seemed better.
(He hadn’t turned into a total angel, but was far, far better than he apparently had been.)
I was stunned! But the best part was, just as I was leaving, one of the teachers said…
“Did he tell you he’s writing another one?”
I’m taking that as a win!