I had a perfectly wonderful outing last night. It was all fairly last-minute-arranged, but I was offered the opportunity of going to chat to a bunch of teenage writers at a semi-local library (well, Mt Vernon is about a half-hour's drive away from me...) and I jumped at it - so that's where I presented myself late Thursday afternoon, and found myself in a room with some eleven extraordinary kids whose average age hovered somewhere around 14, I would guess.
I told them a little bit about how a book is born (MS to actual volume) and since one of them was an artist as well as a writer we discussed covers as well - they were interested, enthusiastic, and asked QUESTIONS. And laughed at all the right places, too. Then we played a "memory game" where I showed them a box full of objects for some 30 or 40 seconds and then asked them to write down the ones they remembered - they did pretty well, from 12 objects most of them had eight or nine down. Then we talked about how little things like this could spark stories. For instance, one of the objects was a tiny padlock ("WHat does it protect? Who has the keys? Keeping someone or something in or out...?") which prompted one of the kids to come up with a story that they'd heard about a bridge in Europe where lovers would lock a padlock in a metaphorical declaration of everlasting love adn then toss the key into the river (a "Forever" gesture) "But what happens if they then get divorced?" a practical and cynical teen inquired. The original story-bringer blinked. "But it's in EUROPE," she said. (whereupon I kind of had to take it upon myself to shatter youthful illusions and affirm that people in Europe occasionally get divorced TOO...) Then I told them to pick one of the objects and to tell me its story, and they scribbled dutifully for a little while before sharing the stories with everybody. One of the young men blew my mind with a sentence that still haunts me - he was writing about the candle in the box, fairly innocuous as and of itself, but this is what he came up with: "The candle was three hundred years old; it had been bathed in the blood of its owners four times, but it had been touched with fire only twice." MAN, I want to read the rest of THAT story.
Two hours sped by. Four of the kids bought copies of my books, afterwards, which was the highest compliment. And I enjoyed myself immensely.
My heartfelt thanks to the library staff who arranged all this. You have a perfectly AMAZING bunch of kids there, and I can see some of them actually going the distance. It's always a privilege to be there to witness the beginnings of this... to see the candles being touched by fire.
I'm still basking in the glow of it.
But now, it's back to work.
(now POST this, LJ, or I'm going to have WORDS with you...)