Thursday, February 16, 2012

Little Buddies

Today I met with a mentorship program on campus that brings elementary school students from nearby Cloverdale to spend the afternoon with college student mentors: little buddies and big buddies. One of the most motivated and wonderful students from my winter term class on children's book writing is an organizer of the program, and so I came at her invitation.

Although I speak regularly at elementary schools, I have to confess that I was surprised at how unused I am to being around so many kids in such an unstructured setting, without the constraints provided by school authorities. These kids had so much energy! So MUCH energy!!! Nadiyah asked me to talk to them for about ten minutes - which was plenty! - and then open the floor for questions, which I did.

The fun part came as they settled down - well, sort of settled down - to write and illustrate their own books. I circulated around the room, admiring their efforts. Some had long, complex stories dictated to their mentor/helper; some wrote the stories themselves and read them to me (a good thing, as I could never have guessed how what was written on the page corresponded to what was being read aloud).

One child decided to call her story "The Digging Dog" - great title! Then she asked me: "What should the first word be?"

The question caught me off guard. I spend a lot of time thinking, as all writers do, about what the first line or sentence of a story should be. I had never before thought about what the first WORD should be. She settled finally on "Once." That is certainly a time-honored first word! I had to leave before she decided on the second word.

No one ever said that writing was easy. We writers have to come up with word after word after word after word. I don't know if I helped these little buddy writers today to make it any easier. But it was fun to watch one young writer giving every word so much thought and loving care.

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