Youth Brains—Gimme Some!

inspiration Some days you loll about hoping for a smidgen of inspiration and others days you just think, “Okay. I think I’ll read something, go for a walk or paint. Inspiration will come from my activities.” But, when receive inspiration from your work, it’s a good indicator you’re on the right path.

On Friday, I left my happy home again for the 3rd weekend in four weeks. I’m not a very good traveler and so I had been buffering my times away by taking, Robert, our dog along. He’s a great traveling companion and someone I can talk to, albeit, fairly one-way. Still, he provides a little comfort during lonely nights and on the long road to and from our island to, well, anywhere there exists a community larger than 8,000 people.

Most of my work outside my home is done by offering workshops and giving lectures and public speaking. I thoroughly enjoy my work and would absolutely love it were it not for the traveling. Living on an island is a glorious thing if you don’t have to work where your main thrust of working is getting the word out to the masses. Hence, I travel.

I wait in a ferry line for no less than an hour prior to the ferry’s departure. The ferry takes up to 1.5 hours to reach Anacortes. I drive 15 minutes to get to the Interstate highway and drive another 1.5 hours to Seattle. If Seattle is my final destination—making my entire ONE-WAY trip around 4 hours. ferry-line-waiting

If events occur in the morning or in the evening, I am destined to spend a night—either the day before or after—around the place of the event.

So, my work as a writer and the traveling required, can become a tad laborious for me. It’s so good to take someone along and luckily Robert has been my buddy for the better part of these past few years.

However, when he cannot join me, I feel sad and tend to drag my feet. My heart feels like I swallowed, in one gulp, a big hamburger has landed in my chest.

That’s how this Friday felt when I pulled out of my driveway, sans my puppy, and made the long lonely drive to Gig Harbor. There I was to offer at a Youth Writers Workshop through Watermark Writers.

When I pulled into Jerry and Pam Libstaff’s (who had kindly offered a room for the evening), after getting lost, my car clock beamed a red and glaring 8:45p. My neck felt hot and my mind, tight. We’d had a terrible 2 hour delay at the ferry caused by fog and then I ran into grid-locked traffic for a mile north and south through Seattle.

After chatting for about an hour, I relaxed somewhat and we all decided to retire. But, my head still spun from the ragged trip and the simple fact I was away from home and this time without my faithful compadre, Robert! Thank Heavens, Pam and Jerry have a dog named Mattie. She’s a gentle and sweet girl who welcomed me immediately, well, after the initial requisite hand-sniffing, of course.

So, upon waking, pouring two cups of coffee down my gullet, and showering we dashed off to the Roadhouse Restaurant for the event. One parent sat on a bench just inside the building, with her daughter. Another parent milled around the restaurant and saw us arrive and gathered her daughter. Jerry explained the night before that only three participants had signed up. After entering the meeting room the third participant showed up. This group, all aged between 13 years old and 15, shuffled in and found three seats together.

brain1Upon making my initial introduction to Jenna, Annika and Zoe, I set off on the lengthy discussion of how to write the novel.

Now, I’ve taught this workshop many times before to many hungry adults craving the information, but not once in my career have a group of people picked up the concepts to easily. I credit these young lady’s youthful minds. They understood conflict development—the difference between internal conflict, inherent conflict and external conflict. They easily tackled setting through the POV narrator’s perspective, that setting not only must visual to the reader but it must also offer some sense of attitude from the narrator. Not a problem for these girls.

We ate lunch. I marveled at how smart and fun these three were, how we sort of became one big happy family. Then, something earth-shattering happened…

…a boy joined the class! Arrrrrr! Johnny! Cute, cute CUTE Johnny with a sharp-looking fedora-styled hat. (OMGeee!). Squeal. The girls blushed. Johnny sat silent. The girls giggled. Johnny sat silent. The girls clammed up. And, still, Johnny sat silent!

But, after a while, Johnny’s presence softened and we all became one big happy family again. I rallied the four, shook up their brains and began talking novel structure. They focused, forgot their physical differences for a little while and like a wave of a magician’s sparkling wand, it was over. Time was up and we all parted.

Remnants stayed with me, however, remnants of these kids bright faces and hopeful smiles, their cheery attitudes and wonderful humor. Their honesty! Their truth!

Those qualities resonated in their writing making their stories genuine and direct. No slogging through trying to figure out what the author meant to say with them. Not at all.

I credit that to their youthful openness. Their joy in life. Their excitement. Teaching this workshop changed me, altered my way of thinking about writing and has set me on a path of awareness. I have many ideas now because of Jenna, Annika, Zoe and Johnny. And, I’m so incredibly happy we met.


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