Okay, it was a captive group of eight-year-olds warned to be on their best behavior. Most writers climb the ladder of success one rung at a time . . . so what if mine was a step stool made from flimsy plastic. My grandson, Carson, invited me to speak to his third grade classmates after learning that Victoria Lea at the Aponte Literary Agency offered representation. In his eyes, the news of an agent gave me the necessary qualifications to teach creative writing.
I prepared goodie bags filled with bookmarks, pencils, and notepads. The rebel in me wanted to win over my audience with sugared donuts, but my grandson squelched the idea. “Don’t bring food,” Carson said. “Everyone will be eating and I want them to pay attention to what you say.”
Instructed by the little suck up (Clancy’s thought, not mine) on the importance of punctuality, my daughter and I arrived at Willow Elementary School 30 minutes early. I discussed my topics and writing games while we waited in the car with Ella, an active three-year-old. “Mom, it might be a bit long,” Nikki said. “They’re only eight. Cut it short if they start staring into space. Fifteen to twenty minutes tops.”
With five minutes to spare, Nikki, led the way to the front office, signed in, and promptly stuck a name tag on my jacket. I entered Mrs. Sanderson’s classroom wondering if the name tag would leave goo on my leather jacket, introduced myself, and stared into Carson’s beaming face. “How many of you like to draw pictures?” I asked. Every hand in the room shot up. I had to stop myself from doing the happy dance. My captive audience was participating. “As an author you are an artist,” I began, “but instead of using a brush and paint, crayons or markers, you draw the pictures with your words.”
“Tell about Little Miss Sunshine and the Class Clown,” Clancy says, nudging my subconscious.
“I almost forgot about the every story needs a beginning, middle, and an end lively discussion.”
“I’ll setup the story that crushed Little Miss Sunshine,” Clancy says, raising her voice inside my head like the sudden decibel on a television commercial. “Billy finds a fairy in the garden, places it in an empty jelly jar, and then conceals it in his bedroom closet. It isn’t long before the fairy’s wings curl like dried autumn leaves due to the lack of sunlight.”
“I shouldn’t have asked the ‘Class Clown’ to end the story.”
“He was the first one to raise his hand,” Clancy says. “I knew by the smirk on his face he’d go for the shock factor. I loved that kid.”
“I heard the girls gasp in unison when he said Billy’s mother let the fairy out of the jar and then killed the fairy by smashing it with a broom.”
“You laughed and applauded, said it was a wonderful ending and that stories don’t always have a happy ending. In fact, you went further and said unexpected endings made writing fun.”
“That’s before I looked over my shoulder at Little Miss Sunshine. Her mouth was open. Were those tears in her eyes?”
“You let her have the last word,” Clancy says. “And you love twisted endings.”
“I melted when I looked at her cherub face. Besides, her ending was sweet. Billy let the fairy out of the jelly jar. The fairy flew back to Fairyland, lived happily ever after, and was never, ever, ever, ever, put in a jar again.”
I don’t have permission to post a picture of Little Miss Sunshine’s thank you page unlike Carson’s, but there isn’t any harm in sharing what she wrote.
Here’s her thank you letter:
Thank you for the writing lesson. I learned a lot from you. I liked your games. At first I thought that stories could have only nice endings. Now I know that stories have fine or awful endings. I loved the writing lesson.
– – – – –
“A future romance writer,” Clancy says, fading from my thoughts.
I finished my topics and games, gave the students a rally clap for their participation, bid farewell, and stepped into
the parking lot to the sound of my daughter’s laughter.
“I knew you were going for the gusto after twenty minutes passed,” Nikki said.
“How long was I gone?”