by Tom Owens
We are two authors who may have just uninvited ourselves to a school visit. Meeting with an elementary school staff recently, we heard some disconcerting views from an assistant principal.
“We do a lot of read-alouds with nonfiction,” this person said. “But I’d like our kids to get more into some creative writing. And I’d like them to know that they can all be authors. They can get that from meeting you.”
I looked at the closed door of the principal’s office. I didn’t want to be objectionable in front of the entire faculty. My wife, fellow author Diana Star Helmer, sat one chair over. I didn’t make eye contact with her, although I wished for an approving nod before I responded. However, I was guessing that she might have been counting the dots in the ceiling tiles, trying to avoid having two people in the room register looks of dismay.
“With all due respect,” I began, “I need to disagree with you. All writing is creative writing.”
Narrowed brows and a frown awaited me.
“Yes, all writing is creative,” she yielded. “It’s creating something…”
I raised my hand. I wanted to be sure I got called on, if that was what it took. After all, school is school.
“I need to be clear on something else,” I blurted. “We don’t come to school to convince everyone that they should be like us. We don’t want to make everyone be authors. I see elementary schoolers with their own dreams for their futures. They want to grow up and be themselves, not me.”
I sighed. This wasn’t the standard “career day” message this administrator expected (or extracted) from every guest speaker.
“Why do we visit schools?” I asked. “We visit to convince all students that they can all use words. Words can be their tools. Words can be their friends. That’s not being an author. That’s being a reader and a writer. That’s being a communicator.”
Don’t get me wrong. School visits are wonderful fun. They help our published books and unpaid bills. They remind us of the readers awaiting our next writing.
I mean, creative writing.
When I visit a school, I check only my coat at the door. Never my honesty. I’ve seen more than one worried young face lock eyes with me in classrooms.
“Do you have to go to college to be a writer?”
Every time, I’ve said NO. Specifically, I say, “You have to read more and write more. Tons more. You can do that without being an English major in college. And you can do that NOW. You don‘t have to wait until you‘re old enough to go to college.”
Never once have I had a student quit elementary school.
When I visit classes, I check only my coat at the door. Never my honesty. When students meet me, I share what’s in my head and my heart. They deserve nothing less.
Writing as Thomas S. Owens, he is the author of several books on sports, sports card collectibles, history, and health. Tom is a frequent contributor to the Children’s Literature Network’s Radar magazine. He and his wife, Diana Star Helmer, who is also a children’s book author, reside in Boone, Iowa.
Copyright CLN 2009. All rights reserved.