Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

30 Minutes with Grade 4L

I am privileged to get a lot of invitations. I get invited to galas and parties, dinners and press conferences. It isn't all the time that I get invited to speak about blogging and writing, though, which is why the invitation from the Grade 4L class at Westview Public School was exceptionally special to me.

There are a few things I am passionate about: my kid, this community, my writing...and youth in general, because I think our youth have such incredible potential. I am always amazed at the way they think, and the chance to speak to them about writing was an opportunity I could not miss, which is how I found myself in front of a class of fourth graders for 30 minutes first thing this morning.

I was extraordinarily pleased when two of the students met me at the front office and escorted me to the classroom, chatting as we went. I was honoured at how excited the class seemed to be, and we immediately launched into a back and forth conversation on blogging, writing and the world in general.

Their teacher, Ms. Tebay, had contacted me a couple of months ago to ask if I would be willing to read the blog the students had been contributing to over the course of the year. I said yes, of course, and I read every single entry, commenting as I went. Their blogs were of the best kind, a blend of fiction and fact and stories of their lives. In every single entry I could see budding writers, and I could see that they were developing an appreciation of the written word.

This morning the students and I talked a lot about blogging, and about how you can blog about any subject you can imagine. I told them about my friends who blog about fashion or hockey or cars. I shared with them the fact that you can blog about anything you like and how it is all about telling stories. We talked about engaging readers through asking questions and sharing photos and videos. It was a far reaching conversation about the world of blogging, and the kind I rarely have the chance to participate in.

They were ready with questions, and they peppered me with them as we went. They asked about how and where I get my ideas (everywhere!) and I shared with them how I keep a notebook to jot down story ideas that come to me out of the blue so I don't forget them. We talked about how different things inspire different people, and one student asked how I deal with "negativity". I shared with them that as long as I am happy with what I have written then I can stand by it proudly and even if others disagree I can be content that I know I have done my best and been true to myself (at which point one student exclaimed "Believe in yourself!" - such wisdom from a nine-year old).

It was a pretty active little conversation as we covered topics from writing to cats to pet fish to how we came to be in Fort McMurray. We spoke a lot about storytelling, and about how that is really what writing is, and I shared with them my adventures in professional writing, including being published in newspapers and magazines. I laughed when one asked if I am "famous", a suggestion I denied, and I told them that writing isn't about seeking fame but just about writing for the love of writing and because you want to share the stories.

I must admit that by the end of it I was delighted by how excited they all seemed to be to do more blogging and more writing, and I suggested some of them start thinking about submitting poems and stories to places like Northword Magazine. I told them about the joys of being published, and about how not every piece you write will be published (and we even talked about editors and editing, too). We covered a wide range of the experience of writing, and while I hope they were inspired I think I was the one who was truly inspired.

When you have been writing for a long time you can lose a bit of your drive and inspiration - and yes, the negativity can get you down. Sharing my love for what I do with a class of Grade Four students had a more profound impact on me than I anticipated, because it reminded me of why I write at all - to share stories, and simply for the joy of writing. Seeing their excitement, answering their questions and talking to them about their writing and their interests renewed my own spirit.

I made the students an offer, too. I told them that if they wanted to write something I would share it here on this blog, and so in the coming weeks you might see some posts from some young people in our community who are just beginning their adventure in writing - and in life. I hope you will join me in encouraging and welcoming them, just as they welcomed me this morning to their classroom.

To Ms. Tebay and ALL the students in 4L at Westview I want to say a sincere thank you for being such gracious hosts this morning, and for sharing their stories with me - because their stories have reminded me of how very fortunate I am to share my own with you on this blog every single day. It was the best start to a day I have had for a very, very long time, and it was all because of an unusual invitation, and an exceptional group of young students - and bloggers.

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