Hug Notes for Writers
A poet friend just e-mailed me with news about his son, who is a television writer. Another friend is a professional vocalist and music teacher and her daughter inherited mama’s vocal ability. My gymnastics coach’s kid grew up competing in the sport.
I think it’s great when a kid who shows a talent or proclivity and can benefit by their parents’ knowledge and experience in that milieu.
It’s equally awesome, maybe a little more so, when parents find ways to nurture their kids in directions they never themselves experienced. My friend’s kid who could sing? She went to tech school. My coach’s gymnast son is now a graphic artist.
One of my dearest cousins is very smart, a professional plumber and, growing up on a ranch, generally handy. He asked me to talk to his teenage daughter, who is showing interest in writing stories, one of the few things not in his skill set. He didn’t want me to tutor her or give her college advice; those things he can handle; he just wanted me to have a conversation with her, one writer to another.
It’s not an unusual request for me to get. Those of us who write might agree we’re a slightly strange breed. Props to the parent who is sensitive to nurturing a budding writer, especially the parent who doesn’t consider themselves a creative writer.
My mother had many talents—she was a scratch cook like no other as well as a fine seamstress and wonderfully skilled at caring for the elderly. She was all of these things and more, but she didn’t read literature and didn’t write stories. Yet, as an adult I came to appreciate that she in particular was critical to my development as one.
She saw value in my active reading and writing and encouraged it. She also didn’t give a whit whether I wrote or not—that was up to me. But when I did write, she was there to get excited with me about it. When I was eleven, she helped me cut up one of my old jumpers to make a cloth cover for my handwritten “book,” and I was so proud of it.
Working on the Little Novelist project—both a book and classroom concept intended as a guide for parents with kids who write—I’ve thought a lot about how to talk to kids who write. I don’t think it’s that much different than talking to kids who like to do other stuff, but I realize one very key element is to avoid urging the kid to write—or persuading them to write a certain thing. Once it becomes a chore, well, it’s a chore and we all know how that goes.
I’ll stay up most of the night wrangling with a story, but if someone tells me I have to write a story a particular way, well, I might write them in as the antagonist. Who trips on their shoelace.
Writers may be some of the best observers, and I think young ones are as observant as any, if not more so since they’re less fettered by convention and inhibition. In talking with some of the girls I’m interviewing for this project, I’ve been particularly interested in their acute awareness of the human condition. One fifteen-year-old writer described finding inspiration from reading about a girl who was terminally ill and deciding to write a novel based on the experiences of this other girl and as a tribute to the ill girl, whom she’d never met. Her plot was extremely well-conceived with one of the most beautiful ideas for an ending I’ve heard—and I won’t reveal it here as it belongs to her and hopefully we can all read it one day.
Not being a parent, I’m not always around kids and never really thought of them as potentially part of my peer group. Working on this project has been humbling, allowing me to grasp that the age of the writer doesn’t really matter; I’ve connected with writers of all ages over the act of writing and the pure enjoyment we derive from it. It’s certainly broadened my writing community as well as my perspective.
I’ll be teaching the first session of the Little Novelist Workshop in a couple weeks and am really excited to meet some more young writers and read and listen to their work. If you’re fortunate enough to have a young writer or two in your circle of friends, you’re very lucky, and I encourage you to pay attention to the fresh perspective they bring to the process of writing.
There’s more and more going on in Bellingham for young writers! For example, Whatcom Young Writers studio and Village Books’ “Friday Night Writes” for teens both foster events to bring young writers together.
Thanks to everyone who has been sending me their event notices. There is so much going on! Red Wheelbarrow Writers is gearing up its round robin project for NanNoWriMo; Whidbey Island Writers Conference is right around the corner; and Poetry Alive! will kick off October 27th. Check out my About Town page for details on these and many cool upcoming events for writers of all ages.
And, clean out your closet for a good cause! There’s a coat drive on Oct 25 and 26th, orchestrated by the Interfaith Coalition, for anyone who needs a coat or two, a hat, gloves, etc. There will be hundreds of people/families who otherwise wouldn’t have warm clothes to wear, so you can donate a gently used coat or a new one and feel extremely good about yourself in the process.
XO Laurel Leigh