A few days ago, I had the pleasure of attending career day at I.S. 238 in Queens, NY. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate, since Salt and Silver is very definitely an adult novel with adult themes, no matter what my precocious inner 12-year-old insists. After some thought, though, I realized that I really wanted to attend—the career days that my school had always included teachers and police officers and doctors, but never a writer. Although it wasn’t my plan to be a writer when I was 12 (I was dead set on being a rock star), I would have been thrilled to see some kind of artistic career represented for my edification.

Sure enough, when I arrived at the school and checked out the day’s program, I saw that most of the speakers had those feet-on-the-ground careers. Cops, teachers, doctors… even a Baptist pastor. I was the only novelist!

I did everything I could to encourage kids to be creative and express themselves during my talks. I talked to three separate classes, and structured each talk the same way: a couple of minutes of explanation about who I am, what I did, what the book is about. I used that to segue into a discussion of “write what you know” and how that doesn’t always mean mundane details of gaming systems and television shows. I explained about how I create characters (more on that in another blog post), and I gave the kids ideas for how to come up with their own stories.

The kids asked a ton of great questions (most frequently asked: 1. How much money did you get paid to write the book? 2. Do you and Kat believe vampires are real? 3. Did your tattoos hurt a lot?). I had a blast talking about my favorite books and television shows. One of the classes even engaged me in a lively discussion about the nature of evil, and I got to talk about whether or not vampires are truly evil. “They suck human blood and kill humans!” protested one of the kids, to which I replied, “And you eat cows!” which seems to be the perfect illustration of how vampires can see themselves as “not evil.” Moral relativism is an important life lesson.

There was also an excellent discussion about Twilight, specifically Edward vs. Jacob, and I used that to illustrate a point I made continuously throughout each class that one of the best ways to come up with story ideas is to read or watch something and rewrite it or change one of the major plot points to get it to a place where you’re happier with the text, or you think it’s more interesting. The kids were completely disinterested in my creative suggestions, though; it came down to all the boys in the class rooting for Jacob and all the girls in the class rooting for Edward. As for me… well, I always have to be contrary:

“I think the Twilight series sucks,” I announced to scandalized gasps. “And,” I added, “I root for the Slytherins.” I then posed the question that had a lot of the kids lighting up with ideas: “How would the Harry Potter books be different if Harry had been Sorted into Slytherin?”

I’d really like to think that I made some kind of impression on these kids, that I helped show them that being a writer isn’t out of their grasps by any stretch of the imagination. Or, at the very least, that books are complicated and fun, and that there’s more to life than Twilight. I’ve got to be honest, though: What impressed them most about me wasn’t the gory descriptions of different hells or my tantalizing details about real life demon hunters and ghost hunters, nor was it the foiling and embossing on the cover of Salt and Silver that so thrills me every time I look at it.

No, what impressed all these kids the most was the fact that my mother is their beloved reading teacher, and I look just like her but with dark hair.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 at 2:14 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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