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.
Stay tuned for one of these children’s stories to be featured on askasheville.com this August!
Also contact Loura McRae at 828-515-0661 for more information on child care! She’s awesome!