Speaking to High Schoolers

It doesn't take much to wing me back into the mental angst of high school. My friend Ed and I spoke today to a group of freshman at Page High School in a creative writing class. We ran into my friend Bernie right after the class and she asked how it went. "They didn't throw anything," was our jubilant reply.

Kidding. We had a great time. The kids loosened up after about 20 minutes (which may or may not have had anything to do with Ed quoting Hemmingway that, "All first drafts are shit."). By the end of class, we had multiple hands in the air as they asked us to describe the high and lows of writing (seeing your name in print / dismal pay), do people every steal our work, and how to turn a paper in on Monday when they can't think of anything to write. (Hint: Don't be a perfectionist. Be willing to put something--anything--down on paper. You can make it pretty later.)

One girl raised her hand and said, "This isn't a writing question, but I have to ask you where you got your necklace." Whoo-hoo! I made the clique! (Seriously, I probably selected my outfit today with more care than I would if attending a formal dinner party. They don't play around in high school...)

There a million bells in high school. There's a five-minute bell, three minute bell, one minute bell, and close your classroom door bell. One kid tried to slip in the door not even 2 seconds after the close the door bell had rung, and the teacher sent him to the office to get a note. I was struck, as I sat in the classroom before class began, how very closed off the room is. Thinking of VA Tech, there truly would be nowhere to hide or run should someone come in the door.

One girl shyly asked me at the end of class if I had any tips for someone who wanted to write an advice column. Oh--they're so young. I just want to hug them all up and make them see how each of them is bursting with potential...

All in all, a good day.