I've been back to my sons first grade classroom a few times now. His teacher asked me to please bring in the childrens book I wrote a while back. A room full of six-year olds, staring me down as I read my work aloud? NERVEWRACKING. To butter them up and get them excited I pulled out twenty-five notepads and twenty-five carefully sharpened pencils from my handbag.
"You guys, did you know that writing is MAGIC? It really is. All you need is a pencil and a bit of paper and you can write about anything in the whole world. Anything. You can think up a story right now in your head and write it out, boom, magic. That makes you a writer, straight away."
I was given the gift of just sitting there and talking with these beautiful kids about my favourite thing ... storytelling. Bringing words to life. Breathing yourself onto the page. Making worlds appear. I was teaching them an art.
There was a mad scramble for the brightly coloured notepads. Three girls stood sadly in front of me, all the pink ones gone. I told them how lucky they were to have a black notepad, because black was only ever the colour I use and you get to feel like a spy, writing things down, reporting on the world! They bought it.
The #qanda session was next, where they all strained to ask me questions. A lot of kids forgot their questions and just wanted to talk. Somebody needed to use the bathroom. Somebody elses lead pencil broke and they cried until I rushed to hand them a sharpener.
But the main focus was about writing. We all wondered aloud, where DO ideas actually come from? I said maybe all the ideas were floating around in the air and they just had to reach out and grab one.
Then it was reading and writing groups again. I had a bad headache and even worse PMS but I listened to them all and their noisy selves for as long as I could stand. My patience is as thin as it's ever been, but we made it to the end and oh the beauty in watching them write their own stories! Magic houses and dragons and bees. Princesses, heroes, mums who work, dogs that fly. Miss Eden, I wish to be a writer like you! The sentences and spelling needed work and the punctuation atrocious, but they're progressing beautifully.
It's vital they learn the rules. How else will they know how to break them when they're older?