How to confuse the kids

I played hooky from work today so I could go to school. Which isn't that different than when I used to play hooky to get outside, though the first time was to avoid lunch. Didn't want pigs-in-a-blanket, so first grader me hid out under the steps until the bus left.

Instead of working, I went to Asotin Junior High School and talked to the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes about writing and publishing. Mrs. Beggs, one of my daughter's former teachers, was the teacher for the four periods I attended. She did a great job of bailing me out when the conversation would slow down by asking a few questions of her own.

The kids were also pretty terrific. Since I coached a bunch of them at one time or another, I wasn't surprised. I hadn't seen the 7th graders in a while - the girls en masse decided to play basketball last season instead of running cross country, and the head coach and I wished them the best of luck. Junior high is a little too early to worry about specialization. There's plenty of time for that later. Still, it was nice to see familiar faces. I suspect a couple were trying desperately not to be noticed. The sixth graders had a slew of my runners, including Thing 1 and Thing 2, Version 2.0.

The fun part for me, though, was getting introduced to them as an author since most of them had no idea that I had written a book, much less three. The ones that know me think of me as "Coach Paul." The second fun part was surprising my two beta readers, Carmen and Maia (the original Thing 1 and Thing 2 from cross country), by showing up. Carmen I had seen over the weekend at her sister's graduation party. It somehow slipped my mind to mention I might be presenting in her class. Pure accident that I forgot.

The cool thing about junior high kids is they will try to embarrass you. Maia introduce the whole class to the nickname she and Carmen gave me.

No, I'm not sharing it. Ever, if I can help it, but I got a good laugh and a lot of weird looks.

The kids also asked some great questions. Natalie wanted to know about my writing process. That answer could've taken the entire period, so I gave her the brief version. I'll write out a longer answer later.   

One asked why I always wrote from a female perspective. Interesting observation and question. I didn't have a great answer other than, that was were the story was.

Some of the questions were more traditional, who my favorite authors were (Hemingway, Heinlein, Doc Smith, Robert Parker), did I travel for my stories (not yet, planning a trip to Kenya next year), what was my style (darned if I know), why did you start writing (I wanted to actually finish a run without ideas distracting me. Hah, like that worked.)

One girl, and I'm afraid I didn't catch her name, wanted to know what to do when you didn't know how to end things. That led to an interesting discussion about never being nice to your characters.

More than a few like the brief synopsis of the book I'm working on now. One question directed by Mrs. Beggs concerned the lack of reading by boys. I gave a two part answer, based on my boyhood. First, I usually preferred to be outside and playing when the sun was up. Second, modern boys' books pretty much stink. The second generated a rousing shout of agreement from the boys. Time to figure out some ideas for the dudes. Got one already, so we'll see. Mysteries seemed popular with them.

The Kenya trip comment didn't draw a stir except with the eighth grade class and only from Carmen and Maia. Go figure, the two runners that made me look good as a coach want to go see the great runners. I'll have to remember to check my luggage for stowaways.

As usual, I ran out of time with each class.  Also as usual, visiting with the kids made my day.

Even though Maia, code name Thing 2, tried really hard to make me squirm.