Child’s Play

I was more nervous than I thought I’d be when Loura McRae, the owner of All God’s Children Child Enrichment Center, asked me to speak about my job to a group of children. First of all, there was the age range; 5-10 year olds. How was I supposed to get a 5 year old excited about writing when she can only spell a couple words? How was I supposed to convince a 10 year old at summer camp that writing is fun, and this isn’t like school?

I thought back to my beginnings…the age old question I’m always asked, “Lorna, when did you start writing?”

“Always,” I answer, “I wrote before I even knew how to hold a pen.”

I realized I wasn’t going to convince these kids of anything. My original plan was to go in and have them co-write a story with me. I’d start them off, and we’d all add events until we had a finished product. Then I stopped and thought…that is just a writing activity. Yes, I’d be asking them to use their imaginations, but on something I prompted. It was an assignment. That would never inspire them; it would have been a task with a beginning and end, and would never linger once I left the room. It would be about something I asked them to do instead of something they discovered on their own. I had a real shot to introduce these kids to expresssion, and had to be careful not to make a lesson of it.

I started by asking them their likes and dislikes…movies, books, video games, activities, and showed them how without writers who chase the things that run through their heads to write them down, we wouldn’t have any of it. I then asked them what they know about some place they’d never been…another city or country, and opened their eyes to how writing, voice, opinion, and personality connects us to the things we haven’t even experienced.

I let them know writing has no limits at all, and it isn’tabout a pen and paper or computer. It is about creating and experiencing, and making it so other people can too. It is communicating humanity. It’s art. Writers give legs to the lame, vision to the blind, and music to the deaf.

All I knew to do was share my passion with them, and that’s what I did. I started telling them about blogging about a hot air balloon ride on a magical morning, and how the words came when I simply imagined myself there again, letting the experience speak for me. They started telling me things they had seen and felt, and what they’d been reminded of in certain experiences. They were so excited, and they were writing to me already!

I then read them an unpublished manuscript of mine based on a fairy hunt I created to stop a friend’s daughter from crying after a bee sting. I explained how a fairy tale was born from just reflecting on something that really happened. I could see little light bulbs flashing on in their eyes…they were thinking up things like this of their own.

When I passed out journals I’d made for them, they couldn’t wait to fill them with the stories and ideas that were starting to generate. They loved that it was not to turn in and no one had to ever see it. The younger children were excited to learn they could even draw their stories, or simply tell them to anyone who’ll listen.

These kids were fired up when I left, and the warm reception I experienced at All God’s Children was definitely soup for my writer’s soul. It gave me a chance to remember the early days when I was writing just to get it out, because something was that exciting to me. That’s how it should always be. Writing isn’t sentences, grammar, or impressing people. It’s making connections with anything and everything outside the words that become the sweetest deliverence. Just connections…that’s it…child’s play.

The smiling faces at All God's Children with their journals!  They even let me photo-bomb :)

The smiling faces at All God’s Children with their journals! They even let me photo-bomb 🙂

Stay tuned for one of these children’s stories to be featured on this August!

Also contact Loura McRae at 828-515-0661 for more information on child care! She’s awesome!

Western North Carolina Nature Center Visit … A Must!

There are so many fun things to do in Asheville, and only so many hours in a weekend to fit them. If you find yourself looking for a great way to spend a few hours outdoors, may I suggest a trip to the Western North Carolina Nature Center. 

Nestled in the trees off of Azalea Road, The Nature Center is a quiet and peaceful place to look at many of the animals who call the Southern Appalachians their home. They house over “220 animals who represent more than 60 species.”  From snakes and frogs, to wolves and cougars, to bears and otters, it really is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.     I’ve visited the Nature Center twice in six months with my now three year old.  She doesn’t get bored because she gets to run and jump and look at really cool animals hanging out in their homes.  Our favorite exhibit is the Otter Habitat.  In her words, “Mom, they are so funny!”  

 The Amphibian Room is a really cool place to see the local snakes, turtles, and frogs. This exhibit offers a hands-on experience to feel the animal pelts and view the rocks and tree trunks up close.  

 The North Carolina Farm is a great place to get up close and personal with the farm animals.  The farm includes a section where you can pet the angora goats and sheep.  This area is monitored by a Nature Center employee and there’s plenty of hand sanitizer.  

Just a few tips on preparing for your visit: 

 There are hills. We live in the mountains so this is to be expected, but it is wheelchair friendly.  Parking Lot A is handicap accessible for those who need it.  There are plenty of spots to stop and take in the scenery if hills aren’t your thing.  To parents, I would suggest bringing a stroller. As energetic and excited as my three year old is, she still had spots where she became tired.  The first time I made the trip, I didn’t bring the stroller and I wished I had.  Also, the Nature Center is a great place to pack a lunch.  They

have a picnic area inside the center.  

I hope you enjoy your visit, and also hope you get to hear the white wolf howl!


Address: 75 GashesCreek Rd., Asheville, NC 28805,  (828) 259-8080

Hours: Open 7 days a week from 10am – 5pm.

Admission: Adults: $8, Kids (Ages 3-15): $4, Seniors (65+): $7


 *I took the information of hours and admission from the Nature Center’s website.  I would suggest visiting their website to make sure the prices and hours have not changed.*




Tracy Tanner is a Mom. Artist. Photographer. Lover of all things on and off the beaten path. Retired Roller Derby Queen, lover of Alice in Wonderland & Doctor Who.