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Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Speaking

Well, NaNoWriMo is over and I managed to hit 50K before the month was up and validate everything, so I'm happy. The story I was working on, working title CHERISH, still has a long way to go before I can say the first draft is finished, but I'll keep slowly moving forward with it. I can't say I love it as much as I loved WALLS, but we'll see what happens by the end of it and after a few rounds of editing.

In other news, last week, I was a guest speaker at the school my mother works at. The year 5/6 teacher wanted someone to speak to her class about writing and the writing process, so my mother volunteered me. They were a good bunch of kids and the teacher said I could talk for as long as I want--the longer the better and if I could take up their whole morning before recess then that would be great. I thought I'd speak for maybe an hour at the most and then be on my merry way ... I might have underestimated the enthusiasm of these children.

I had two things which the teacher agreed I should talk about: the process of writing and editing and producing WORDLY Magazine and also the process of writing and editing my own creative pieces, especially my novels. I spent maybe a whole 10 minutes talking about the student magazine and the editing process and when I finished explaining the three stages of editing submissions, I asked if there were any questions, and one of the little tykes popped their hand up and asked, 'What's your favourite part about writing?'

Me: 'Well, that segues nicely into my next topic ... '

Teacher up the back of the room: *rolls eyes at my use of the word 'segue'*.

I ended up spending the following hour and a half talking about the process of novel writing and the art of editing a large piece. I started by taking them back to my first attempt at novel writing, which happened on a girl guides camp on a notepad one weekend in November in early high school. I told them about the project my English teacher gave us in year eight, where seven other girls collaborated with me to write a novel for an assessment piece and I was in charge of editing all the different styles of writing they came out with so the piece flowed and matched up. Then I talked about my first serious and successful attempt at writing a novel, when I wrote EVERGREEN: A FALLEN STAR for a subject my school designed for the year nine students called the Journey Project, and how it was self coordinated and we had to do a big evaluation at the end, and my first draft was over 80K at the end of the year, but how I'd edited it more time than I can count and cut it down to about 65K and let a friend read over it for me and give me some constructive criticism and how I've now put that novel aside because I'm planning to re-write it after I finish my children's literature minor study at University. I told them about writing KATHERINE in year 12, and writing WALLS for NaNoWriMo last year, and how I printed the manuscript off and blue tacked it to the walls of my bedroom on res. I showed them a photo of one of the walls, all covered in pages--their reactions were great. But their best reactions was when I told them how long it was when it was finished--88,732 words of first draft.

Basically, I was trying to tell them that it was okay for them not to get everything right the first time, and that it was normal to have to write and rewrite and edit many times before their work was at a high standard--and that they should work hard and be dedicated to their writing if they wanted to do something with it. I got to tell them about NaNoWriMo and challenging yourself and writing to a deadline, and writing a lot of words to a deadline. I left that website with the teacher for future reference, and I also left them a link to a novella competition for high school students (Somerset National Novella Writing Competition, which was where I tried to submit KATERINE back in 2012) as the year 6 portion of the class would be moving on to high school next year.

They had so many questions for me about the stories I'd written and what it was like to study writing at university. I think that's what took up most of our time was questions and answers. But I'm glad they had questions, because it prompted me to say things to them that I might have forgotten to mention otherwise. They asked me about who and what inspired me to write, and what my favourite book was, what genres I like to write and how much I have to write just for university. One of the kids even asked if I'd come back and read them something I've written--maybe I will.

But it was a really good morning and I think the kids were really engaged with what I was saying. The teacher commented to me afterwards that she hadn't expected them to be so quiet for me and listen so well, so she thought that getting someone to actually come in and talk to them--someone who wasn't too much older than them, still a student, but out there really doing as much as possible with their writing--was going to help encourage them to go for it in the future. My mum told me a few days later that the teacher had ended up telling her that I'd even inspired her to pick up a pen and start writing again, so I feel rather flattered!

So, if you ever get a chance to talk to young minds about writing, don't let the opportunity slip away. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire them to give a serious attempt at writing a try.

What have you all been up to, fellow writers? 
Bonnee.

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