I know we're supposed to be talking about hot and cold this month - and I will, on the fifteenth. Today I want to share a remarkable experience I had a couple of days ago.
As many of you know, my husband and I moved from Minnesota to California last year. The year has passed in a whirlwind of activity, including buying and completely renovating a new home and releasing my first indie publication. In the midst of all that, I've relied on my online writer friends for support. I haven't had the time/energy/gumption to seek out other local writers. There's a small RWA chapter in the county, but I haven't made it to a meeting yet. A bit closer to home there's also a chapter of the California Writer's Association - haven't checked them out either.
I'm an introverted sort who's happier away from the madding crowds, but I do miss the regular company of other writers. So when I saw a small article in the Monterey Herald last month looking for writing coaches for a Young Authors Workshop at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, it caught my eye. Here was an opportunity to possibly meet other writers as well as mentor a budding middle school writer. I signed up immediately.
The workshop was Monday, and I came home drained. The coordinators brought together 100 coaches and 100 middle school students. Trust me, there was nothing quiet about this gathering. After a short training session, I spent an hour and a half with a shy, nearly silent, seventh grade boy, working on his essay on The Red Pony for the competition.
The students had been hand selected by their teachers from schools all over the county, and they represented four skill levels--from English-learner to advanced-proficient. I believe my student, Adrian, probably fell into the "emerging writer" category. He was a lovely boy, extremely polite, who clearly came from a home where English is not the first language. I tried to gently guide him in ways to improve his essay while respecting where he is on his personal writing journey. I hope he found it useful, but he was so reticent it was hard to tell.
I also met a fascinating man who claimed to be a retired CIA agent who's getting ready to self-publish a series of techno-thrillers this summer. He invited me to join his online national critique group, and I'm giving it some thought. When we were preparing to leave, he asked me how my day had gone. When I said I couldn't be sure, he made a an interesting comment about karma. I didn't understand at first, so he clarified by saying that helping these young writers was a way of giving back. I hadn't looked at it from that perspective, but he was right. More experienced writers have certainly helped my on my journey, and if I was able to help Adrian in some small way I am only paying it forward. Even though I may never know the value of my contribution, I plan to volunteer again next year. It's the least I can do.