Once upon a time, middle schoolers frightened me. I thought a specific anointing from God was required to teach the little ruffians. When I began to teach seventh grade geography so many years ago, that all changed. I discovered how wonderfully creative middle school students can be with the right direction.[callout]This post was originally posted in October 2014, but as my teacher friends prepare for a new semester, I wanted to remind them of the potential of every student who walks through their doors. Do your best to be the one who unlocks your students’ potential. Your awesome brings out their awesome!
My Hero’s Journey
I was back in the classroom yesterday, not as a teacher but as an author and guest of Ms. Bledsoe at Southaven Middle School, sixth grade language arts teacher. Her students are in the midst of an assignment called “My Hero’s Journey.” (It is also Spirit Week, but I didn’t get the memo that yesterday was Alien Day. If only I had known…)
Between two different class periods, only one student fell asleep, so I felt pretty good about that. A great percentage of the students indicated that they would one day like to write a book. I enjoyed speaking with young writers in this class about the writing process and helping equip them with what they were already learning but in different words from their teacher. (Hey, that’s what “experts” are for, right?) And, as always, I enjoyed teaching them about values storying, the passing of values from one generation to the next through the stories we tell…and re-tell.
Why I Love Speaking to Young Writers
My favorite part of speaking to the writers of tomorrow is the question/answer time. That’s always a risky proposition with middle school students. The first question usually sets the stage for the rest of the questions. It it’s a good one, the others tend to be, too. If the first question concerns the price of cheese on the moon…well, you get the idea.
Yesterday’s questions showed a maturity far beyond the students’ years. I’ll share some of them with you and hopefully answer any lingering questions that you may have as a new reader (or even as a long-time readers).
How long does it take to write a book? Once I decided to write Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), the entire process took about eight months. I am writing my next book according to what I have labeled the Busy Writers 123 formula. It is a pathway for others to write the book that matters that they never thought they’d write. My goal is to write my next book in four months (123 days), all outside of the normal 8-5, Monday-Friday work week. That’s me and my first two self-published books. Others take years and even decades to write their books.
Update: My second book, Stories from the Roller Coaster, was published in November 2014. The Busy Writers 123 process rolls out in early 2015, and my next three book projects are on the table for 2015. Check out this post for more on those projects.
What are your sisters’ names? This question resulted from a reading from Lines in the Gravel in which I mentioned my two sisters and my brother, mentioning my brother (Andy) by name. The short answer to the question is Lu Ann and Wilagene. I had to give them more, though, so I summarized chapter five, “Wilagene, Bless Her Heart.”
Who inspired you to be a writer? My seventh grade English teacher, Ms. Ann Knight at Florence Elementary School, gifted me with a strong grammatical foundation. She was that teacher that was so hard at the time that you appreciate greatly years later. My eleventh grade teacher, Ms. Leigh Ann Scharr, saw a gift in me and brought it out through challenge and encouragement. Finally, my mom never let me forget the writing ability that I under-utilized for far too long.
When (not if–that’s why I love speaking to young writers!) are you going to write your next book? Right (pun intended) now. I have over 50,000 words written on a first draft and a really cool plan for a two-day writing retreat next week to edit and re-write.
Update: The retreat took place at a retirement center of all places. A great deal of revision happened in two short days.
What’s the name of your next book? Stories from the Roller Coaster (Still not settled on a sub-title)
Update: I settled on Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life).
What will your next book be about? Stories from the Roller Coaster is about living a life of faith. It is an analogy between trusting God and riding a roller coaster with all its twists and turns, not to mention when it suddenly turns your life completely upside down.
Update: My new next books will #3 and #4 on this list.
Where can you buy your books? Now, that’s a question a writer loves to hear! Click here and let me know when you order if you would like me to sign your book. The book is also available on Amazon, but I can’t sign those (if that’s important to you).
I look forward to any opportunities for speaking to young writers in 2015 and teaching them the importance of passing down our values through the stories we tell…and re-tell. Because I know there will be teachers inspiring them to greatness in the middle of the everyday grind.[bluebox]Sign up here to keep up with Values Storying with Al Ainsworth.[/bluebox]