Yesterday I do believe I had what can be described as my First Event As A Writer.
It was not what I had envisioned–though I will say that I haven’t envisioned much in terms of *writer events.* (What are writer events beyond book signings, maybe, at book stores? Real Writer Events are moments like this one when I’m sitting in silence with my laptop. And who wants to attend this?)
But yesterday was definitely all about my being a writer: I was invited because I write, have written, am on the cusp of having a book published.
Yesterday I was the speaker at the Writer’s Club at Neal Middle School.
I tried to attend prepared. Understanding that the students were wanting to meet a Real Live Author, I packed my bag with evidence: the full folder and (separate) stack of papers that are drafts, edited copies, notes and charts and reminders to myself–all the once-essential means by which I got myself to where I am now. To this unruly mess I added two ARC’s and the copy of the book that I am currently working on. And a pen.
And off I went.
The girls were waiting in the classroom. They were Autumn and Mackenzie. They offered me tea. And handing me my tea (peppermint) in a white ceramic mug, they explained that the third, Peri, was sick. They added that she would be Most Disappointed to have missed me.
We sat together at a triad of chairs-with-desks-attached. These desks were familiar: I noted but did not make time to read the penciled graffiti on mine. But unlike the orderly rows in which I was educated, all of these desks were oriented for conversation: they were triangulations, grouped in threes and facing one another in an attitude of conversation. Or conspiracy.
I liked this very much.
And so we sat, the three of us, and talked about books, about words, about writing.
I wanted to know what they like to read: Dragons, mystery, magic. Excellent. And I told them about the publishing process: Agents and publishers and ARC’s (Advanced Review Copies), and this bizarre time of waiting and publicity, of talking *about* the book instead of really Talking About The Book.
I think they understood that.
They listened politely while I read them a passage from my book (I am given to understand that this is a Thing Writers Do) and, wide-eyed, they praised it. As they did my book itself–despite its being only in ARC form.
And I showed them carefully, deliberately, how I am making my way through my own copy, underlining and circling typos, folding down the corners of those pages, looking to correct the errors before it’s too late.
(Here their teacher chimed in: You see, girls, that everyone makes mistakes, that editing is important for everyone, that you mustn’t let your perfectionism get in your way.) So Very Wise.
These girls are writers. Both of them have full-on novels underway, and both of them are plotting (separate) novels for the (eventually) (surely) upcoming NaNoWriMo. They have pen names. They are one another’s editors. Both of them already struggle with things like writer’s block and character development, the blind terror of having to figure out How to Tell It. They use words like “dystopia” and “apocalypse.” They readily identify various types of figurative language. They devise plot twists.
And to escape writer’s block in one project, Autumn has decided to write yet a second novel in the hopes that the character development in this one will help her work out the troubles in the first.
Both of them are Light Years beyond where I was at their age. When I was their age, yes, I read all the time. But when I was their age, writers themselves did not exist beyond the stories I read. Stories and books simply were— like my parents, like trees, like breathing.
Light Years, I tell you.
We sat in our triad for almost two hours, but the time never grew long. I brought a poem for us to study, just in case we needed it– and we studied it, but we didn’t have to. There wasn’t a moment of silence, of dull space. What was it they said? “Just think about all that can come of just twenty-six letters!” (Be still my heart!) They said that, more than once.
It was a beautiful afternoon.
I realize that these girls are products of the twenty-first century. I have no doubt that they have more technological wizardry in their pinkie fingers than I have in the length of both arms. But we sat together for the span of two hours and talked about Books and Writing, Writing and Books.
Toward the end, it was Mackenzie who said it: “Reading books and writing books gives you so much hope.”
I looked at those bright, open faces and thought, but didn’t say it: “So do you.”
And at the end, they wanted my autograph.
I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I’ll be asking for theirs.