There are certain decisions that become more important when you know they will be on display. Which travel mug to use? The ceramic Starbucks hot air balloon. Lip color? Nothing too dark. The shadows can make you look like you’re going for the goth look. Pants or skirt? Pajama bottoms – it’s Skype, headshot only.
If you’re on my social media, you know I had the amazing opportunity to visit with a class of tenth grade literature students from Lycée International Nelson Mandela, Académie de Nantes. For those of you who have no working knowledge of French “Académie de Nantes” means school of Nantes. As in Nantes, France. Nantes, France is approximately 5,000 miles from my hometown of Bend, Oregon. Needless to say, I had to get up early that day. But not to travel, just to do my hair and make sure to catch the students before they went home for the day. There's quite a time difference between the west coast of America and France.
Last July the very innovative teacher, Marie-Hélène Fasquel, invited me to participate in a project with her class. Together we chose an excerpt from one of my young adult books. I provided some witty and charming information about myself for a slide show, which included a picture of 13 year old me standing under the Eiffel Tower, and Marie and I agreed on a date in October.
At the time it felt so far away, but I’m pretty sure I blinked and it was 6:00 am Pacific Daylight Time, Thursday, October 13th, and the first student was taking the hot seat in front of the camera.
“What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest thing about writing?”
"Middles are the hardest!"
Each of the students came and sat in the hot seat to ask their question and listen to my answer. I was so grateful to Marie for arranging for me to meet each student like that. Plus my writer brain was exploding from all the fabulous character fodder. These students all had an uncanny confidence and attractiveness.
One of the students asked if kids in American classrooms study my work like they were. I was a little sad to say that though I’ve done a number of classroom visits none of them have been after they studied a book, but then I remembered there is a class reading one of my books together and I’ll visit when they finish. So it’s happening. Yay!
There were some questions that are always hard for me to answer; favorite author, favorite books. When asked if I’ve ever read a book and realized my own books had influenced the writing, I hated to admit that I suspect I’m too dense to ever recognize that. Seriously, I can totally imagine myself thinking, "This is good. I like this author’s style." But never making a connection. Ha ha.
“Do you have to travel a lot as a writer for inspiration?”
“It isn’t required, but it’s a good excuse!”
I turned the tables a little and asked if they read my excerpt or listened to the audio recording. They all chimed in that they read it. Such smart kids! I mean, I don't write in French. I asked who liked to read and they all raised their hands so we talked books a bit.
The visit was just under an hour and it went way too fast. I’m beyond thrilled to know they spent time studying my work. I hope it resonated in some way like meeting them has within me. I can’t thank Marie enough for opening that door.