“What is the book about?”
“How many characters are there?”
“What are their names?”
“Where is the book set?”
“What is the story about?”
“Is it a book for big people?”
The questions came thick and fast at the end of a 40 minute presentation to first graders at the school my children go to. With author day coming up at school, a chance conversation with Pattu’s teacher turned into a promise to show up at school and talk to a hundred seven year olds about the writing process. I got off the car, butterflies in my stomach, hands full of props. A stack of notes on thick construction paper lay inside my bag.
Walking into the room, I felt overwhelmed. What could I, a novice to the craft of writing tell impressionable children? I write what comes naturally. There is no premeditation. Taking a deep breath, I introduced myself and started at the beginning. The Title. I picked a book the school is reading as a whole and started there. The anxiety lessened, the fluttering in my tummy settled and I even managed to enjoy myself. We talked about the title, the outline, the writing process and revision. We read the beginning passages from books and worked on a little project that made the children use words to show but not tell what animal they picked from a tray I brought to school.
Thanking everyone, I clutched a sheaf of papers and got into the car before driving home. Legs stretched, Laddu on my shoulder, I read some of the notes and smiled. The descriptions were literal. Some were vivid. Some blew my mind.
Putting the papers away, I chose to reflect on the last few minutes of Q&A. As the questions came, I felt my confidence rise. Answering questions on what I was working on forced me to pare the book to its bones. What is the story about? Who is the story about? Whom is the book for? If I struggled with writing the synopsis before, I now struggle with the draft I have on hand. The inadequacy of my work in progress struck me mid answers. It also validated my need to identify as a writer, as an author. It threw a harsh light on how much more I have to learn about the craft of writing. I walked away, a new respect in my heart for the teachers who teach our children each day, honing them into remarkable citizens.