Yesterday marked yet another milestone in the life of Adam Oster, Author. Career Day…
Okay, so it wasn’t career day, at least not exactly. I mean, I was officially more of a special guest who was asked to come in specifically about the writing process and, you know, try to help keep kids excited about writing…at least, I think that’s what it was about…maybe it’s just that the teacher was looking for an easy way to fill an hour and thought I’d be a quick grab 😉
So it was that I found myself looking at my webcam in order to make a group of 8 kids ranging in age from 8 to 10 years, who were eagerly sitting in their chairs in a classroom halfway across the country in California. When I was initially asked if I would do this thing, I had fears that I would be hooked up to a projector, being some frightening floating head peering down upon the children. Luckily, it was more of a small face on a tablet.
And although I harbored a great deal of anxiety toward the experience going in (I mean…I was the guy who left the education program with only a year left until graduation…), I have to admit…I had a lot of fun. I often forget how much kids really dig books, and these students seemed to be even more so than most I’ve come in contact with (outside of my own children whom seem to constantly be in need of having yet another book read to them).
But what was most interesting was the questions that they came up with. Sure, my good friend, the teacher of the class, may have prompted them with questions that might be worthwhile to ask in order to get a better idea of what the writing process might entail, but these kids really hit things head on, as far as the types of things you should ask when you’re trying to figure out the writing process…I mean, they even asked about the process of getting books printed and the use of genre and how to develop a hook…questions that I may not have answered entirely effectively, but hopefully at least gave them some motivation, at the very least.
I mean, at that age, my greatest concern with my writing was with trying to figure out how to make a story take more than one page to tell, I wasn’t concerned with hooks or genres or editing.
But what I found truly most interesting about the concept of talking with these kids what how much they forced me to really attempt to describe things that, in the past, have really just been non-verbal concepts hiding inside my brain. I mean, there are obviously many things that many people have said about how to develop a hook, you know, those opening bits to a book that get people to want to read further…but for myself, when I try to put together an opening, it’s always been much more of an emotional process, one in which I work on something until it feels right, not necessarily a scientific method. Of course, that’s not a very useful answer for a bunch of kids looking to break the code, so I tried to be a bit more grounded than that…I may have failed on that one.
However, what I really came out of this conversation with is the understanding of why young adult books (and younger) are such a large part of the market. I’ve never talked with adults about books and had them be anywhere near as excited about their favorites. When I offered that as a talking point for these kids, the room surged with excitement (across the interwebs even) as they all considered their favorite books and shouted them out. These kids (as well as many I know) love to read and they are just plain insatiable. And they love what they find. I’ve got a list of about 10 books that they told me they considered absolute must-reads, and there were a few more that I couldn’t even make out amid the audio issues and other troubles that come with such forms of communication.
Makes me think that I should consider changing my core audience…
Speaking of which…attempting to explain a book about an old man who goes up against the United States government in an exploration of different techniques of governing is not something that is very easy to do to a group of 8-10 year olds…I had intended to stick to the much easier to explain time-travel story, when asked about what I was currently working on, but slipped up on one occasion…and the kids really latched onto this idea, although, I think they were expecting something much more action packed, with a man facing off against an army with nothing but his hunting rifle in some sort of Rambo-esque fashion….Needless to say, I think they were a little disappointed with my explanations on that one.
Anyways, I survived my first (and hopefully not my last) classroom discussion about writing. According to the teacher, they came out of it quite excited and obviously having had enjoyed the conversation, whether or not they actually took anything useful from the experience. And I’m feeling pretty darned grateful for being given the opportunity. Definitely lifted my spirits 🙂
So, I’ve gotta get back to writing. I hope you all have a good one and have some fun out there already!