One of my favorite things about being an author is the specific opportunities that it brings to reach out not only to my own generation, but to the generations after. One of my short stories, ‘Wanakufa’, is read as part of a partnership between myself and a local high school freshman English class. The first year, I was able to come in personally and talk to the students. This year, because of work conflicts, I made a YouTube video introducing myself to them and explaining some of the parts of the story. One of the big points of this partnership was for me to focus on what kind of thought processes go into the writing process, what influences the story, and what kind of things really do mean ‘something more’.
Each time, I really thought I knew what I was going to tell the kids. I thought I knew what kind of questions they would ask, or what kinds of things would impress them. And each time, I have been so ridiculously wrong it’s not even funny.
That’s not to say that the students I was working with missed the point of the story or missed the things that I had thought were of utmost importance. But the story hit them, as young readers, wildly different than it did me, the older author. When I did the full presentation face to face, the students were able to ask me questions when I was there. Even though its been a year since that particular presentation, I still am struck with the questions they asked- things like, ‘why would you name the main character after your little sister’ and ‘how do you keep so happy now, when the story seems so scary and sad?’ Unlike with my peers, who tend to analyze the story entirely on its own, these students were making their connections to me as a person, and it was that interaction that seemed to capture their interest the most. I still have the ‘thank you’ notes sent by that class, and almost every single note compliments me hand in hand both as the author of a story they liked, and as a person they looked up to.
Since this round I did a YouTube video, I have been taking questions from the students via snail mail (which, considering I love writing letters is awesome!). Right off the bat, I’ve gotten questions that are so personal and important that it’ll probably take me a day to think, pray and consider how to reply in a way that would be most helpful for the student.
It amazes me, this power of storytelling. Teens who have never met me face to face are willing to write me, to ask me questions about faith, about hope, about fears, all because something in a story I told ignited something in their young hearts, and gave them the courage to begin to tell their own stories. The whole concept of that is unbelievably humbling, and has given me a sense of gratitude and love this week that I feel that I have been lacking a bit lately. I have been in dark places, and I have experienced great, untold joys. I am grateful for both, for the ability and the opportunity to share in the development of others in situations like these.
It’s something to keep in mind, going forward. Things I say, as an author, as a woman, as a person… even if I may not be wildly popular, these things are being heard. And they are being taken to heart. It is a good reminder to keep myself vigilant with my words, to acknowledge my responsibility for them, and to be grateful for what good they can do.
Now I’m off to respond to what letters I can before I go off to Ireland later this month. If you’ve ever felt like reaching out to me, whether through comments or e-mail, please, always feel free to do so. Know that I truly enjoy discussing things with my readers, and getting to know you! It gives me the courage and motivation to keep writing and to always strive for better, more honed skills.