Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In the Hallowed Halls

At the end of March, I combined a trip home to Beavercreek, Ohio, with several promotional events for my historical novel Like Mayflies in a Stream, including a visit to my former high school. There I spoke to about 250 students in four creative writing classes, four ninth-grade English classes, and the school book discussion group.

Some students were excited to have me there and asked many questions about writing and publishing; others were bored; others were too cool for school. I gave them all handouts with writing hints. The handouts included my email address, and I urged them all to use me as a resource for their writing and publishing questions.

Speaking to the Beavercreek students was rewarding in many ways. I recommend other writers take the opportunity to visit their alma maters to inspire future writers from their home towns.

The most thrilling moment of my high school visit also saddened me. I asked in one ninth-grade class how many had a drive to write (several hands rose) and then how many had a drive to create. To my surprise, nearly every hand shot up. I thought of the many adults who live a humdrum existence with no creative outlet and wondered, what happened? And will these thirty-some enthusiastic students also dismiss or suppress their creativity as they get older? That moment by itself validated my visit; the students were able to see in the flesh someone from Beavercreek who had followed her dreams and succeeded.

Thanks for stopping by today. Please come back on April 22, when I'll give some hints for having a successful booksigning.

—Shauna Roberts


Liane Spicer said...

I read recently where ALL small children are raring to create, and never say they can't sing or dance or draw or tell a story. Somehow as the years pass the vast majority of people stop believing in their creative ability.

Interacting with creative people must surely encourage young people to see that creative pursuits can be viable.

Shauna Roberts said...

LIANE, I'm not around small children much, so I was interested to learn that. That makes visiting schools or children's events even more important for an author.

I agree that most people stop seeing themselves as creative, and I blame the school system. There's such an emphasis on developing "natural talent" instead of viewing kids as able to learn just about anything, just with varying degrees of difficulty. For example, the selection for band in my hometown's school system is the same as when I was in school 40 years ago: Instead of asking what kind of instrument you want to play, they give you a test to find out what instrument fits your current abilities best. One would think it obvious that fewer kids would drop out of music lessons if given an instrument they want to play, even if it's harder for them than something else.

I believe that achievement is at least 90% hard work and that talent plays a minor role except for the crême de la crême de la crême, such as Lance Armstrong or Yoyo Ma.