I have (mostly, I think) survived the plague. I am still weak and shaky, but the cough no longer brings up hard bits of stuff and my nose has largely decided to shut off overtime mucus production. (Bet your life wasn’t complete without knowing that, right?) I am fairly sure I am non-contagious, which is a good thing, because today I dress up (as much as I ever do, that is) and go answer the questions of a fourth-grade class about being a writer.
Kids are a tough audience–they take absolutely no prisoners. Plus, they can smell fear. I usually bribe them with baked goods, but it will be all I can do to drag myself through the shower and into something that doesn’t look slept-in. I’m reserving the bulk of my energy for when I sit on the floor with them and answer questions. I’ll come back and edit this post later with the most hilarious, candid, or just plain awesome questions they ask.
So, off I go, and wish me luck. I’m pretty sure I can outlast most of them running, but they’re quick in the short distances. Guess all that agility training will begin paying dividends now…
ETA: The fourth-graders were curious, bright, generally well-behaved, and attentive. Of course, this is a class that I’ve gone on field trips with (and been the “bad cop” during) and they’re used to seeing me around the school, so there was that going in. There were a lot of questions.
I’ve noticed that middle-schoolers ask about getting an agent, movie rights, how much of a book’s price an author gets, and if you really can write whatever you want even if it’s dirty or mean? Elementary-schoolers ask more basic questions having to do with the magic act and brute mechanics of writing itself. These are the ones I can remember, and it’s by no means an exhaustive list:
* How do you get the picture on the front of the book?
* How many books have you written?
* When did you start writing?
* How do you write long stories?
* Are there bad words in your stories?
* Where do you get your ideas?
* What do you do when you don’t know what to write?
* How long does it take you to write a book?
* Do you write horror?
* Do you write on a computer or with a pen?
* Will you write a story for us?
* Did you go to college to be a writer?
I took along a few samples of my books to show them, as well as ARCs, different editions, and a revision letter and bound manuscript to show them what a book looks like in different stages. We talked about being specific (the difference between She wore a skirt and Becky wore a long purple skirt, frex) and about revising (it gave me some pleasure to hear them giggle when I told them how much I hated revising too) and about how to write longer stories (one word at a time). I was hugged and told I was an inspiration. We talked about leads (first sentences that have punch and pizazz) and how long I’ve been writing (thirty years or so) and how long I’ve been published (six years? Seven?) and how many books I have out now vs. how many I’ve finished. (Hint: the latter number is MUCH LARGER, and we talked about why those books won’t be published.) I circulated while they had their private writing time, and several of them wanted to show me their work.
One particular young gentleman (the one who asked if I went to college) informed me that he was going to go to college for a long time, because he was going to be a biologist-engineer-writer. (“You’ll have plenty to write about, then,” I said.) One young lady told me “I have six story leads now!” (“See? Those are all stories only you can write, and they’re waiting for you.”) Another young lady confided, “Sometimes I add things that didn’t really happen. Like, my stepfather didn’t shoot a bear. He shot a bobcat. I saw the claws. He’s got lots of guns.” (“That’s pretty scary. But maybe a bear is better for your story. Also, you’re ten, so whoppers are expected.” Boy, did her eyes light up. I may have misjudged that one.)
So all in all, it was a great visit, and I didn’t drop a single obscenity. (Those who know me will appreciate that.) I did have to tell the kids there were plenty of bad words in my books, and the how and why of using bad words (“they’re like pepper, a little makes it tasty and real but a little too much and it’s nasty and gross and mean. You have to know when NOT to say them.”) and that was when the “will you write US a story, one that WE can read with no bad words?” came up.
Yeah, I walked right into that one.
They also made me promise to come back when they “publish” their own stories. Which means I’ve got a deadline for a certain story having to do with aliens landing in the soccer field behind their school. I have a monstrous headache, and my flu-scraped throat can barely produce a croak now after the nonstop answering.
Still, though, I feel pretty damn good. There may be better jobs than mine, but you know…today, I doubt it.