Friday, April 17, 2009

Career Day at Valley Middle School

I just have to post about the great day I had at Valley Middle School, where I was a student once upon a time. It was Career Day, and I was honored to be invited by Math teacher Melissa Frame. It was my first experience going into a classroom and talking about my writing.

I was paired up with Jon Burnett, a weather anchor for KDKA TV in Pittsburgh. Jon gave a great talk and although I'm not the kind of girl who watches TV in real time, I'll be recording his broadcasts in the future.

During the day, I had five groups of students that rotated through the classroom, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many of them want to be writers.

I told the groups the great things about my job: working from home (I'm writing this blog in the hammock under the gorgeous afternoon sun), a dress code of pajamas, my only co-worker being my dog (who's a few yards away right now barking at the neighbors), freedom to make my own schedule, the ability to be creative, and the chance to do what I love.

But I also told the kids about the downside of writing. I've just finished my first book, and there's no guarantee it will ever be published. I believe it will be. You have to have faith, but realism is an important quality as well. I also talked about freelance writing as basically hunting for your own food. If you're not up for the hunt, you better not be looking to eat anytime soon.

That led to the main focus of the discussion - the ambition and motivation writers must have, especially in the beginning. If I don't finish my latest book, there isn't an agent or publisher in the world who will care. A published writer (sometimes) has a contract to fulfill, so the pressure of a deadline is a motivator. But right now, the only person hurt by laziness is me (and the readers out there who will love my books, but just don't know it yet ;-).

At the end of our discussion, I challenged the students to write a "What if..." question for a book they would like to write. The idea is that a book starts from that specific question. What if....happened?

Of those students willing to share their questions, there were some pretty good ones. Students, if you're out there, feel free to post your questions here, anonymously if you wish.

Since I write young adult stories, I'm hoping to come back to Valley Middle School to talk to the eighth graders in the fall. Until then...thanks for the invitation and best wishes to all of you.


  1. Hello! I was one of your students... in the first group. I have red hair... I asked you about where you got the Bird by Bird? I'm hoping this sounds familiar to you. Probably not. You had a lot of kids. Anyway, I thought maybe I'd share my question and see if you liked it?
    What if the world was going to end in eight days and everyone had to say goodbye to their loved ones? Or tell their friend that they were in love with them?
    I've been thinking for a while about writing a story like that. I don't know if it would be a good book, though.
    Also, I have a blog here, too. That I just started today. I thought maybe you could check it out.

  2. Hi! Of course I remember you! I just checked out your blog, and I love the name. Tres bien!

    If you've been thinking about writing this story for a long time, you should write it. Ask yourself some other questions (like the ones on the "What if..." handout). I have a couple for you...How is the world going to end? Who's going to try to stop it?

    Get writing, and see what happens. No matter what you do, make sure you have fun!