Thursday, January 8, 2009

So Right

*This post was written last night, but due to completely aggravating internet problems, I was unable to actually post it until this morning. I only mention this because I really am trying to do better at posting on my blog. It's just not always my fault.*

So, today was an absolutely awesome day. Seriously, one of the funnest days I've had in a while. My sister, Rebecca, is a Junior High teacher, and today, for some crazy reason, she allowed me to speak to her Creative Writing class. It was SO fun, for so many reasons.

I started off the class by telling them the whole saga of how I became a writer. Then I told them all about the publishing industry and getting an agent (at which point I had to sheepishly mention that I had not yet been able to land one myself. I worried that I would lose a little credibility, but they were actually quite forgiving. :) ) Anyway, then came the really fun part. I borrowed an idea from Orson Scott Card, which I read in his book Character and Development (great book, by the way,) which he calls a "Thousand Idea Session."

We had a very basic start: boy or girl MC, and how old? The kids all shouted out answers, and we settled on a 14 year old girl.

"So, what does a 14 year old girl do?" I asked.

Many answers thrown out, but we picked "Go to the mall."

"Okay," I said. "Spending whose money?"

The class shouted in unison, "Her parents!"

"And how do they feel?"


"They make her get a job," one kid shouted.

"Where?" I asked.

Again, in unison, "McDonalds!"

And it took off from there. :) After a few moments, we had a fairly outlandish, but amusing plot, chock full of conflict. The point of the whole exercise was to show them that we could come up with an interesting plot from almost nothing, just by asking questions and exploring ideas.

Well, they had a lot of fun, but they weren't off the hook there. I then explained the importance of having the first page of a story hook the reader. So, I had each one of them write the first page to our Shopper-girl-working-at-McDonalds story, and then share. The results were fantastic. They were funny, smart, and surprisingly good. I was very impressed.

Overall, the whole day was just a blast. It felt so right to be up there, talking to the kids about writing. I was totally in my element. If I could have, I would have taken the job that day. It's good to know that if the whole published writer thing never works out I can always be a Junior High Creative Writing teacher. :)

Of course, I guess I'll still aim for famous-published-writer-who-gives-writer's-workshops-to-teens. Yeah, that'd work too. *dreamy smile*


Natalie said...

That does sound like a lot of fun! Glad the kids were nice to you:)

Kiersten said...

And you'd be so good at it, too!

I've thought that teaching creative writing in a junior college would be fun...until I think about the types of things they would probably write about. Junior high would probably be nicer reads.

JaneyV said...

I would've killed (well maybe not literally) to have had a class like that in secondary school. Creative writing was just homework back then. It was never taught in an interesting way. I remember when I was about 16 they had someone come in and talk to us about Shakespeare and what made his plays so great. (I already knew because I'd played Titania and there's nothing quite like performing a play to make it come alive). By the end of the afternoon everybody came away with an appreciation for The Bard that 4 years of High School had never given them.

I bet those kids will still talk about the afternoon the fabulously famous writer Renee Collins came to teach them, for years and years to come.

Renee Collins said...

Natalie-They were nice. A few of the boys got a little, let's say enthusiastic during the thousand idea session, but overall they were sweet kids.

Kiersten-I hear you. :) Junior High kids are so full of enthusiasm and hope.

Janey-When I was in Junior High, I had an English teacher who inspired me, otherwise I seriously could have started to "hate" writing like so many that age think they do. Such a shame.

Also, the last part of your comment made me grin. :)

Kasie West said...

Awesome. That sounds like a blast. By the way, when you switch from reading your blog to the comments section there is such a sharp contrast between the black of you blog to the bright white of the comments that my vision is impaired for at least 30 seconds. You need like a warning label on your blog: Readers beware my blog has been known to cause temporary (and in one rare case, permanent) vision loss. So readers be warned. LOL Sorry, I had to share.

Joanne said...

Sounds like an amazing experience, I like that writing exercise. How nice to hear about such enthusiastic students too. Kudos to you for motivating them!

Renee Collins said...

Kasie-You make me laugh. I never noticed about the blog-to-comments-section color switch, but you are right. I might have to make that disclaimer.

Joanne-Thanks. It was fun for me, but if I did motivate any of them, I would be totally pumped. I hope I did.

nova said...

That was great! I, too, would have LOVED to have a class like that in school... lucky students!

giddymomof6 said...

Oh my gosh! I'm sooo totally jealous! LOL! I lOVE LOVE LOVE teaching teens! they're so awesome and creative and amazing! And it sounds like you did a great job with them! Too cool!

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh wow!! I think what you did was awesome!! And I absolutely loved the idea of how you got them to write a story from questions!
I think I would faint if I had to stand up there and do that! SOmeday you will be a speaker for sure!!

Jill Wheeler said...

Kids are amazing. Will you come talk to my Creative Writing class? :)

Becca said...

Oh Ren - You were brilliant!! I'm so glad you had so much fun - the kids adored you!! You really should be teaching that class - Not me! Do you want a permanent guest speaker spot...Mrs Collins? (:

Renee Collins said...

nova-I think Creative Writing is one of those classes that always gets cut when the budget goes south. It's so sad!

Jenni-I really was amazed at how creative they were! And so impressed. :)

Terri-It was neat to see their mind working during the thousand idea session. I think it was a real eye opener for them to see that we developed a plot from nothing, just by asking questions.

Also, I was pretty nervous at first. :)

Jill-Hey, anytime. :)

Becca-Oh Becca, they are lucky to have you as a teacher! That said, I would happily come in again. It was just too fun. :)

lotusgirl said...

That sounds like great fun! I used to teach HS, and it's amazing what great stories the kids will come up with. Even those who are challenged by the actual process have great stories in them.

Lady Glamis said...

Love your blog, Renee! I'll stop by often.

Great post! What a great class!

Courtney said...

Renee, I was one of those students in that Creative Writing class. I had a blast with all the fun activities we did and all your fun (FANTASTIC) stories. You made that day an AMAZING memory, which I will NEVER forget, I am pretty sad I won't be able to take that class again. But, I hope that someday I will be able to read your books (especially Miss Midas) Ever since you told us what that book was about, I have been DYING to read a good book. And I bet yours is AMAZING. I hope that maybe, just maybe I will be able to read it. Good luck with your books!