Today, I drove to Calvin College to speak at the Youth Writing Festival - Middle school edition. I fussed a bit beforehand about the long drive, lousy weather and the work involved in compiling talk.
Okay, I admit it. I had fun. I was reminded why I write novels for teens. I had a terrific group of enthusiastic kids, and their writing skills are AMAZING.
My talk is on How To Write Fight Scenes, always a popular topic with the middle school crowd. The talk begins with general instructions on good writing geared toward fight scenes. I discuss the Fight or Flight reaction. (I'm a former scientist; I can hardly help myself.) After explaining 11 rules for writing fights, I give them time for them to write a fight scene. Then they read their scenes aloud and I make positive (gushing) comments on their writing.
Trust me. It is not difficult to compliment these kids' writing skills.
Here are a few shining moments:
One boy had some behavior issues. He had a hard time listening without speaking out. He announced his writing was horrible and he wouldn't read it out loud. He did read, eventually, a gripping scene from the point of view of a dog with a cruel master.
One boy was only in 4th grade. He was in a gifted and talented program, that allowed him to participate in the festival. He was too shy to volunteer, but teacher who accompanied him asked me if he could read. The boy's well-executed scene employed enough technical language to show me he trained in martial arts. He asked me to autograph his essay.
A girl read a a fast-paced scene involving both a sword fight and a wrestling match. After the session she asked my name, because if my books are ever published, she wants to buy them.
Does it get any better than that?