Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Second Graders Are the Best
When I decided to write stories using my undisciplined hound dog as the main character and my new home in the "Great North Woods" of Michigan's Upper Peninsula as the setting, it was really just a self-indulgence. I thought it would be fun, and it is fun.
But then I started seeing those stories in the hands of children from the Upper Peninsula--as well as their teachers--and I realized something every writer is supposed to know almost as a genetic inheritance. A writer writes to share something important or amusing or inspiring, and an audience is actually a necessity. Visiting classrooms and seeing children excited about the stories of a dog living in their neck-of-the-woods, having adventures in places they can visit all year round has been really satisfying for me. And encouraging. Here I was setting out to write stories for the 7-year-old inside my head when there is an entire world of kids out there perfectly willing to be engaged.
And those kids have some marvelous ideas, not just about Jack but also about animals in their own lives. Recently a 2nd grade class visit yielded a treasure trove of really charming images of Jack.The kids had made them as a special gift and I wish I had a refrigerator big enough to put them all up. Even my office is not big enough, so I made the video at the top of this post in order to showcase these pictures and to be able to share some of the children's creativity (inspired by Jack, which is such a kick) with others.
I admire elementary school teachers tremendously, but I have to confess I'd make an awful one. I haven't got the slightest idea of how to maintain order (just ask Jack), or how to follow a lesson plan. I'm as likely to get caught up in a student's story as remember what we were planning to talk about! So I am especially grateful that teachers at local elementary schools (E.B. Holman and CLK Elementary) have allowed Jack and me to come to their classrooms and see first hand that Adventures in the U.P. is more than just a self-indulgence.
Now I just have to decide what his next adventure will be...