PURSUING THE WRITE STUFF
My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.
If you’ve never been to John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, you need to remedy this void in your life as soon as possible. Taking classes in basketweaving, blacksmithing, weaving, or any one of dozens of other old time crafts classes will make your life more creative and fun. But if you can possibly manage it, teach a writing class. This summer I taught my eighth class in writing for children, and I had more fun than is probably legal. After every JCC class, I say, “It was the best group I’ve ever had” and every time I mean it. Maybe especially this one in August, 2017 deserves this praise. We had seven people, including one man ( a “real man” we called him), and during five days of writing, reading, critiquing, and revising, we got to know each other well. The main thrust of the course was using real experience to make fiction more real. This group got that right away.
And they also got that the real events and the real people are only a beginning point for the stories we want to write. We laughed and cried, and just about everything in between over the course of the week. One woman had us all on the edge of our seats every time she read. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who can create such tight suspense even in a scene when nothing is happening except waiting for a traffic light to turn green. One of our students (a retired science teacher) modestly mentioned the goal of writing about science in such an involving way that kids would have fun reading and learning. Easier said than done, of course, but this writer did exactly that.
Another writer had us laughing until we cried with different witty essays, and yet each piece had us thinking about serious matters such as faith and who should be trusted to rule the world. In this last piece she eventually concluded that kindergarten teachers should take over from the politicians, who could then take the vacant teaching jobs! Poor kids!
Another woman used a mouse as a main character who explores the Folk School. Like me, this mouse didn’t look in on any class he didn’t want to take. The enthusiasm of the mouse was contagious. All of us were soon thinking of possible ways to expand his adventure.
I could go on, but you get the picture. This was a talented group and I probably learned more from them than they did from me. So it was no great surprise when we had a full and enthusiastic audience for our reading on Thursday afternoon. I thank each of you for a great week at John C. Campbell! I’ll be looking for your books on the library shelves.
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