I was maybe in a blind panic about visiting my first class of real-life high school kids. I’m not great at talking about myself or my book in the best of times (I MEAN. That’s why I WRITE.) But my friend, Michele Fecher, is a wonderful teacher at Bordentown Regional High School and she promised me her kids were not going to murder me or fall asleep while I talked. (Though, there was that one kid in the back who definitely sounded like he was snoring…)
I panicked for nothing. Not because I’m so wonderful, but because kids are magic. I already knew this; I have two kids of my own. But I didn’t realize these high school students would be so curious about me and so willing to share their own writing.
There was slam poetry that made me laugh and want to weep, almost at the same time. There were sweet love stories and spooky ghost stories. I was astounded by the sheer creative talent and energy.
In one class, an elective on YA Contemporary literature, I got to chat with the kids about what they liked, what they loved and what they wished they could find. I handed out book recommendations like I was handing out Tic-Tacs. A book that skillfully managed several, interwoven time periods? THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON by Katherine Locke. Books with f/f love stories? Beside mentioning THE GRIEF KEEPER, I recommended GEORGIA PEACHES & OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Jaye Robin Brown and WILD BEAUTY by Anne-Marie Mclemore. One kid, who read an amazing poem about wishing to see a different face in the mirror, asked for own-voices trans YA recommendations. I gave him a link to Ray Stoeve’s website (http://bit.ly/2SlC5y8) . For the two kids who claimed they were not ‘good readers’ I recommended anthologies; FRESH INK and BLACK ENOUGH.
I left my copies of these books for the teacher to loan out to whoever wanted them and I was thrilled to put a few favorites into eager hands. (Mental note: consider a job as a librarian; you certainly have enough cardigans.)
I haven’t had so much fun in a long time and being with these kids absolutely re-charged my batteries (not to mention just giving me joy.)
I know that not all visits will be like this. There will be bored kids. There will be rude kids, uncomfortable kids, uncomfortable teachers and moments that make me shake my head. Worst of all, I can guarantee that while talking about my book and other books I will encounter the dreaded apathetic kid. But I’m ready for all that. Because I know about the magic.