Friday I was a presenter at the American Fork Junior High Writing Conference. I had to get up at 5:30 to be there by 8:15 and took the back road through Cedar Fort. Everything was fine until twenty-five minutes into my drive two deer stepped into the road in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and tried to swerve but still ended up hitting the back end of the last one with the passenger corner of my van. It broke my heart to know I'd hit the deer much more than it did to see the slightly buckled hood. The last time I hit a deer I cried when the guy who stopped to help me said "Oh, it's just a baby!" I did not cry over my totaled vehicle. Anyway, I was able to drive on, but my heart was heavy.
I arrived at the conference five minutes late but they were totally understanding when I told them why. I was running on three hours of sleep since inspiration didn't hit me until the night before. I created my first Powerpoint presentation and am now a HUGE fan. I taught the kids about where writers find their ideas or How to Become an Idea Factory (Thanks, Kristi, for the phrasing inspiration!) It went awesome.
I had twenty to thirty kids raising their hands at a time when I asked them questions. They got really excited about the topic. About half-way through, after teaching them about the "what if?" game, I gave them a five minute exercise to use the technique to write while I ran to the bathroom. Very important not to pee your pants in front of the kids.
From there we talked about using all of your senses to get inspiration. I played a few music clips for them from different types of music they would't normally listen to. I showed them a few pictures to inspire thought. We talked about smell and how it brings up memories and creates pictures in the mind. What was the most awesome part of the whole thing was seeing it click for them. They got it and it was thrilling knowing I got to be a part of that.
After my friend Haley did her presentation and the kids took a short break, one of the students approached me and said "can I have your autograph?" You could have knocked me over with a breath. It had never even occurred to me that these guys would think of me that way. I wasn't going to say no, so I spent the next thirty minutes signing autographs for kid after kid after kid. It was one of the most humbling and happy moments of my post-writing life. I felt a bit like a pretender since I didn't have any books to sign, but I didn't care, not really. I kept thinking this must be what it feels like to be a real author. One of these days I'll have a book to sign, but in the meantime this will do.
I hope they ask me back again or I have the chance to do more things like this. I love teaching teenagers and I think I'm good at it. I have always felt like teaching was one of my purposes in life and it felt great to have an opportunity to teach something I love so passionately.
Anyway, despite the bad start to the morning, it ended up being an amazing experience. I even gave them a handout with quotes from several of my Authors Incognito writing friends about where they get their ideas and the kids (and even some of the adults) seemed really excited by it.
Today I feel blessed. Very, very blessed.