We had my daughter's birthday party last Saturday. Luckily, for my sanity, it was only three hours long. But, everyone seemed to have a good time, which is the important thing.
After the party was over, April came by to visit and we were able to discuss a few things about Shattered Mirror. She's going to be looking over what I've written for Chapter 2 and will be getting started on Chapter 3 here pretty soon. I've been working on Shattered Mirror and CSD: Dragon Couchant, but I really haven't made great progress on either of them lately. Not quite certain what my problem is, but I've developed a bad case of the "I just don't wannas". No excuse for it, just being lazy.
I submitted two things to The Muse, Howard Community College's literary magazine, but it looks like I may have submitted too late after all. Sigh. Oh well, I may save them and try to submit them for next year's magazine.
But, the fun part of the week was doing a presentation at my daughter's middle school on being a writer. As I told the students, I've been a journalist, a technical writer, a novelist, a reporter in the Army, a song writer and a comic writer. I talked a bit about how I began writing, what it's like to get your first masterpiece back from an editor with enough red ink on it to drip through the envelope, how to take critique (both good and bad). The kids seemed really interested that I'd done books based on comic characters and video games. (Go, me!)
However, the highlight of my presentation, as far as the English teachers were concerned was my writing philosophy: 1) To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader; 2) Go out and observe life, seek out as many new experiences as you can; and 3) Write a little something everyday. It doesn't have to be good, but you can't edit a blank piece of paper.
Which led to my other part of the presentation I put in just for the teachers. We discussed editing your work. I suggested they try reading their work out loud. I tried to keep it light ("If you run out of breath before you reach the end of the sentence, you probably need a comma in there somewhere, or else you've shoved two sentences together.") I also recommended they get someone to look over their stuff before they turned it in to the teachers, preferably someone who was going to be honest with them. But my third piece of advice really got their attention (amidst a lot of laughter). I told them to read their assignments backwards, starting from the bottom and working up. As I pointed out to them, most people read entire sentences at a shot. We glance at the words and fill in the missing letters because we know what the word should be (not necessarily what it is). By reading from the bottom up, it's like reading a foreign language you're familiar with, but not fluent at. You slow down and look at each word as a single entity, making it easier to spot misspelled words. (Also warned them not to trust a spell checker on their computer any farther than they could throw it.)
Well, from the reports my daughter has brought back to me, I guess I did OK. No one fell asleep and no one threw stuff at me. Now, did I keep the attention of all the seventh graders I spoke to? Of course not, especially when we had combined classes where it was harder for the teachers to keep an eye on them. But there were a number of really good questions about the writing process, about writing news for the radio station (I did the sports desk for the campus radio station at Central Missouri State a long time ago . . . ), how do artists and writers work together on comics, have I met any famous people since I've been a writer, and so forth. They'll keep you on your toes, that's for certain and at that age, they're not exactly shy either.
Hey, I got home and my daughter said I hadn't embarrassed her. That's high praise these days. ;)
The English Department wants me to come back and speak to the 7th graders again next year, probably first quarter, this time. They really liked the emphasis I put on revising your papers. We may make this an annual event if it goes over well again next year.
However, if I want to have any new stuff to show the kids, I'm going to have to get off my duff and actually write some new stuff.
(ties up nagging conscience and rolls it into a corner.)