I Knew Them When…

SYWCI got to do something fun last night. A few months ago, I got an email out of the blue from a local high school junior asking me to come lead a workshop on creating realistic fiction for writing club. Giddy just to be asked, I accepted and promptly spent the next few months alternately fretting about it and researching what to talk about.

To my amazement, December came and went and before I knew it, January was here. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, January had arrived and brought with it my workshop date. Thankfully, I’d spent so much time thinking about it beforehand that I was quite prepared when the big day arrived.

I normally get nervous and shaky before public speaking, but it wasn’t so bad this time. I think it’s because I was speaking about writing, which is mostly all I ever think about, and also because it was a great group of kids. I think a receptive, enthusiastic audience can make all the difference in a speaker’s level of nervousness.

We had a lot of fun, actually. More fun than you’d think talking about character arcs and inciting incidents can be. I brought along a few writing exercises, we discussed the pros and cons of North Korean tourism, and I managed to not get led down too many rabbit trails (which, if you know me, you know is pretty impressive considering I’ve never met a rabbit trail I didn’t like).

It was fun to see what the creative young minds did with these concepts. When we were discussing protagonist motivations, I urged them to go deeper than just “Save the world” and, to their credit, they did. I was impressed with their grasp of realistic motivations and enjoyed hearing how they came up with fresh ways to tell old stories.

One of the kids even asked for my autograph after the workshop, and that made me feel like a rock star. I have no idea what the kids will do with the information. For all I know, I talked way too fast (as is my wont) or used words that were way too big (as I am perpetually predisposed to doing) and most of it washed right over them, but given the way they participated in the discussion I think the information got in there just fine.

What will be really cool is if some of them end up being bestselling authors someday. They’ll be sitting down on a talk show someday and say, “A pivotal moment in my writing career was a workshop with this author named Erika Mitchell.”  I’ll be able to say I knew them when they were just green little authors helping me make up stories about milk runs gone wrong.

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