Today and tomorrow, I am tucked away at Balacava School teaching a keen group of 11-13 year olds the art of being a good writer.
I think today I dismayed then and inspired them. They are much better than I was at their age or when I was 10 years older or even 20 years older. Damn them.
They already know it sucks when you have no ideas; when you can't make your story do anything; when you are completely stuck! Wahh. These guys are so young to know such painful truths!
But, they also do not seem to yet understand the importance of the reader and his/her power. To appreciate the need to carefully manipulate the trajectory of the story arc nor the potency of the reading experience.
Today we looked at where to find ideas and what to do with them - more specifically structure, conflict, character creation and the use of dialogue.
Tomorrow, we will take what they have started to write and do what we kids used to do with the sheep skins back on the farm: wash and comb and tug out burrs and knots and anything overlooked by the fleesos. Comb and comb and comb until the fleese was a soft fluffy thing without a hint of its former life.
It's a great credit to these young people that they have given up two days of their school holidays (and some of them and their parents have travelled long distances) to sit in a classroom to learn some things which might improve their writing.
I suspect that in years to come, based on what they had read to me to far, we will hear of these authors (for this is what they are) in the future.
Warm weather in Dunedin is a rare thing and I might be resentful of losing it to a classroom for ten hours except I don't notice because of the joy of hearing the voices of these most articulate and intelligent children.
Also one knows about the Banquo's Son trilogy and another read Grit, one of my books. Now that's a good thing in my book: know what you're facing.
Teaching writing is a very, very strange thing my fellow tutors agree. We just hope the kids go away inspired.