Category: visiting

Speaking of Teens and Writing…

Were we speaking of that? Well, we are now.

Guys, I had the best day yesterday. I was invited to be a guest at a teen writers’ camp/workshop. The goal for the kids, by the end of the week, is to be prepared to submit to a magazine that specializes in kid/teen writing. Isn’t that awesome? It was at the University of Utah — one of the three loveliest campus-places in all of this pretty, great state[1]. I had all manner of writerly-ness planned to talk about, but when I asked them what they wanted, hey — they wanted to share story ideas. They wanted to bring out actual work and have me look at it. On a projector screen. In front of each other.

I know.

So brave.

So I talked about writing business for a few minutes, and then we talked about story ideas. In order to get to the meat of their stories without spending hours hearing details, I asked them to tell me two things: What does your character want, and what is stopping him from getting it? They had good answers. Then we read. I put away my inner proofreader, and allowed my editor free reign. If you don’t know the difference, um, it’s a valuable one to learn, if you’re into reading or writing or grocery shopping or flower gardening. [2]

We looked at 3 story beginnings. Total creativity. Awesome ideas these people have, I tell you what. And we busted out the classroom discussion, and hey — the ideas flew. They gave each other great possible solutions for sticky parts, excellent validations, and plenty of reinforcements.

It was a hotbed of writing genesis, I say. A hotbed.

(I don’t actually know what that means. As if you thought I might.)

But it was excellent fun, and I am so glad I got to be there, to visit with Miss Carrie and her kids and her class (some overlap there), and to read many excellent words.

Thanks, guys! Keep writing!

[1] Remember that ad campaign? Utah, a Pretty, Great State? Um?

[2] Just kidding. Here it is, nutshell version: Proofreading is clean-up, like grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency. Editing is global sense-making and interest-holding. See? Not gardening or grocery shopping. Mostly.

Tap, tap… is this thing still on?

Oh, there you are.

Oh, here I am.

It has been a crazy, busy few days, and that is all the excuse I have for leaving blogland in the dust. I taught biotechnology and chemistry on Thursday. It was grand. Fun. I mean it. And then the Wilhites gathered around the computer to watch basketball. And we didn’t actually cry, but we had sadness when the Gators* whupped up on our Jimmer.

And Friday? Oh, Friday. It was Writers’ Fest at Clark N. Johnsen Junior High school. Their amazing committee (Hi, Mrs. Blythe!) put on a Great Show. Loads of authors (and at least one illustrator) came to talk and talk and talk about the craft, the joy, the pain, the love, the headaches and the chocolate. Okay, I didn’t talk about chocolate, but I brought plenty home. I was assigned two adorable minions (Hi, Amy! Hi, Katie!) who made sure I was where I was supposed to be and that I never dried up my bottled water or my sense of humor. For some of the classes we talked about cupcakes, and how cupcakes are good, but if you eat nothing but cupcakes you will have issues. Likewise, if you only read one kind of writing, you might get some issues as well. So… balance in diet and in literacy = good. In some classes we talked about money, and getting blocked, and people who have very good hair, and favorite junk foods, and hey, it’s okay if you hate to read, just make sure you do it anyway.

And Saturday we painted in the bedroom at my MIL’s house. I am sadly incapable of painting without wearing the paint. I do a fine job actually painting, but I’m not one of those people who can paint for a few hours and nobody knows about it. Oh, you’ll know about it when I’ve been at it. I had honeywood paint freckles upon my face and in my contacts. I am not making this up.

And Saturday was the Festival of Color, the closest Utah gets to India. I didn’t go. But the photos are glorious, and I want to throw paint. Note to self: Get there next year.

Also, Saturday evening, Kids 1 and 2 and I rediscovered that our Sympathetic Vomiter chromosome is alive and kicking. I’m happy to report that none of us actually vomited, but, oh, we wanted to. I’ll spare you the details. You’re welcome.

Tonight Kid 1 leaves for New York City. I’m giddy with excitement for her. And I’m having very few nerves. (That’s her Daddy’s job this time.) She will see many shows and, if all goes according to plan, keep all her friends. *crossing fingers* And her chaperone has asked me to sub, so I get to spend the week teaching AP English and theatre. Don’t cry for me, Argentina**. I think I’ll do just fine.

Also someone (who is not us) is using my credit card. If it is you, I’m asking you nicely to knock it off. Right now. And the nice customer service lady from India said it would stop. So I hope. (She was very proper, but kind of patronizing, and I had to keep reminding myself that it’s the middle of the night where she’s working, or she’d be more patient with me. That’s the downside of outsourcing, I guess.)

*That word always reminds me of that funny scene in Monsters, Inc. when Randall gets pushed through a door at the end. ” ‘Nother gator, Mama.” ” ‘Nother gator? Gimme that shovel.”

** Did you ever see the movie Kronk’s New Groove? Probably not. It’s the sequel to The Emperor’s New Groove, and isn’t very much what I would call entertaining. But it has one funny line, where Kronk’s two secretaries, Tina and Marge, get a little weepy, and he says, “Don’t cry for me, Marge and Tina.” Ha. There. Now you don’t have to see it.

Hanging with the GATE-ors

I just got back from a so-fun morning hanging with the 3rd and 4th grade GATE-ors at my Kids’ elementary school. (GATE is Gifted And Talented Education.) Our school has a great group of kids, and the cutest teacher ever.

She asked me to come in and talk to the kids about the “show, don’t tell” principle. Shall we let that sink in for a second? I had written 2 books before I ever heard anyone say those words, “show, don’t tell.” Well, okay, maybe not two whole books, but I certainly wasn’t nine. What a leg-up these little people are getting. I know what you’re thinking: And at such capable hands as yours, Becca.

Well, thanks.

So we talked about it. Then we wrote. It went like this. I wrote some sentences (very bad ones) on the board.

“Trevor was excited.”

“Meagan was tired.”

“McKinley was frightened.”

“Austin was angry.”

“Kelsey was happy.”

“Mrs. Pedersen was bored.”

Then I asked the kids to paint me a word picture, telling me about one of those sentences without using those words. Three or four sentences to show me those feelings. I did it, too. We wrote together in relative quiet for a couple of minutes, me with a clickable dry-erase marker (ah, LOVE) and them with furious pencil scratching on paper. I love me some furious pencil scratching. Then they read to me. They were awesome. They wrote what it looked like, smelled like, sounded like. They made up details. They put themselves inside a character’s head. They showed. For real.

Want to guess the sentence that nobody, nobody at all, chose to write?

Go ahead. Guess.

“Kelsey was happy.”

Not one. Isn’t that weird? I think it is. I’ve been remembering my high school English classes, specifically AP English with Mrs. Morris (who I am certain would never remember me) where I wondered out loud how come we never read anything with a happy ending. (Innocence and cheek, all at once.) She rolled her eyes at me from behind some really large, eyeball-distorting glasses and said something that was probably reflective of Tolstoy’s famous “Happy families are all alike.” So today, with this interesting (to me) piece of data, I was able to tell this pack of third-graders that you don’t have a story without some conflict. Character is most important, but no matter how awesome or adorable your character is, we don’t want to hang out with him until something troublesome/bizarre/dangerous/ironic starts to happen.

And they totally got it.

(But I still love me a happy ending.)

So thanks, Mrs. Pedersen, for having me come and play in your class. And see? I didn’t even burst into song. I keep my promises.


Goals? Commitments? I should be Committed.

Another great day in Mrs. Garloch’s classes. If I could teach JUST the honors students? Sign me up. So fun.

But I seem to have made a promise. Or a commitment. Or a goal.

Am I insane?

Probably.

I told these fantastic kids that they could do a galley project for me. That I would get my WIP as close to done as possible and send it in for their feedback within the next 5 weeks. Um? There’s a lot still to do in that there WIP. And I’m going to have to ramp up my writing mojo in order to make my stupid, self-imposed deadline. No that I can’t do it. I can. If I never again cook a meal. Or have a shower.

So here’s the Great Garloch Galley Project:
I’ll deliver a draft, and everyone who wants to read it will promise to send at least one positive and one negative point of feedback.
I’ll receive the feedback and decide which parts I need to change.
I’ll draft again.

Because that’s how we do it.

And really? I love going to schools. I (heart) teenagers who love books and reading and stories and life. What a great couple of days to spend with these remarkable students. Thanks, everyone!

Irony

I did a fun event this weekend – at the lovely Purple Cow bookshop. Loads of cute families, and even one of my favorite families from Many Years Back! The crowd was delightful, and the women who work that shop LOVE their books and the kids who read them. Thanks, Isa, for having me! *Sigh* It was lovely.

And something funny happened.

By funny, I mean… odd. Strange. Well, I’ll just tell you.

This really nice lady who was there being an author talked about being a young girl and wanting to write. What she loved was Historical Romance. Swoony period stuff. She was so excited to write and share that she took a manuscript to her grandmother. She was in sixth grade. The writer. Not the grandma. So her grandma read over her work and said to her, “Why in the world are you writing this kind of trash?” I know, right? Heartbreaking, soul-crushing, disastrous. But what this woman learned (eventually, I’m guessing) is that you can’t listen to critics. Criticism kills. I’m totally with her at this point. Nodding my head and everything.

Then.

She introduced her daughter, also working at  being a writer. And she said that this daughter (maybe she was in High school, at least that’s how old she looked to me) is really into paranormal romance. Actually, she said “vampire love fiction” and she said it with a Very Noisy Sneer in her voice. And then she actually said, “I hate that stuff. Hate it. I won’t read what she’s writing.”

And didn’t even seem to sense the irony.

Part of me wanted to laugh. Because, duh. She is her own grandmother. But another, bigger, maybe more sensitive part of me said, wow. That is so, so sad. She has no idea what she is doing. She has no idea that she is criticizing a whole genre, and more importantly, a very important person (hello, her own child!) for participating in it. She sneered at her for reading it. For writing it. I had to sit on my hands to keep myself from walking over to that daughter and saying, “Hey, guess what. Lots of people like the thing you do. And maybe it’s a phase. But write it anyway if it’s in your head and in your heart, because maybe you’ll come out of this phase a better writer than you went into it, and someone (even if it isn’t your mom) will read and like some of the work you do.”

But of course, I didn’t say any of it, and that’s probably because it’s none of my business. But hey, writers? If you’re writing something someone thinks is dumb, or overdone, or lame, or copy-catty, or fluffy, or too pop-u-lar, here’s what to remember.

1. Writing (writing anything) makes  you a better writer. Write. Write. Write.

2. Criticism kills. Don’t let it kill your important relationships.

3. If you love it, write it. Because nobody else’s love is going to validate your writing like your own love will.

End of lecture. But I just have to wonder, what am I doing that I totally miss on a regular basis? What deep ironies of my character are invisible in the mirror?

Another Day, Another School

You know how some people are insufferable about telling you how cute their kids are? I just want you all to know I’m refraining.

I’m meeting with the “Young Authors’ Club” at Kid 1’s high school today. Kid 1 is not involved. She thinks writing anything longer than a Facebook status update is akin to torture. But there are a couple of her friends, and at least one very cute boy involved, so she may come. I’m not sure what we’re talking about, but that totally works for me. They can ask questions and we can talk about writing. For a while. Or we can talk about food. Because I just made the yummiest. It’s like apple pie, but a cookie bar. There is goodness all around. Or we can talk about clothes, but I don’t know much there. Or we can talk about the playoffs (but only for a minute, because I think baseball is boring unless I actually know a player) but for all I know, that could be over. But basketball’s starting, and there’s always my fictional boyfriend Kyle Korver… so maybe we shouldn’t talk sports at all.
But whatever we decide to talk about, there will be a few laughs, even if I have to purchase them with vomit stories. Because if I know one thing, it is that kids who laugh with you will be fans, at least for a minute. And if I know one other thing, it’s that vomit stories make most kids laugh.

Yea for Visiting!

Last week I talked to Mrs. Hall’s 4th grade class about all things authory. We had a pretty good time, if I do say so myself. They had good questions and great ideas.


One thing we talked about was goal setting. How we can get a real sense of accomplishment from setting, monitoring, measuring and achieving realistic and important goals. We talked about how a daily writing goal can give me a reason to say, “Yea, Me!” and how that’s an amazing part of life. I told them that I hope they all have something to say “Yea, Me!” about every day.

Today I got a large (poser-sized) thank-you letter from Mrs. Hall’s class, and tucked inside were “Yea, Me!” notes from the kids in her class. They said things like, “Yea, Me! I am awesome at soccer.” “Yea me – I am good at math” “Yea for me! I can make songs rhyme!” “Yay me! I can read! I can write! I learned to tread water!” “I am awesome at getting my math done” “Yea me! I won my football game 21 to 0” and “Yes Me! I am a beast at soccer!”*

They also recommend chocolate instead of popcorn for curing my rejection dejection. I’ll take it under advisement.

I am so glad for great teachers who work to make learning fun for their kids. Yea, Mrs. Hall!

*There was one that said “Yay me! I lick my life” – but we’re all going to remember how much editing I need and not make a comment about that one.