Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back to the Heart of the Matter

Children's books can take kids to some amazing places (grown-ups too!)

       Hello again! Remember me? I know, it's been a while and yes I KNOW I haven't stuck to my New Year's Resolution of two posts a month. I could explain my really, really good reasons why I haven't posted in a couple of months, and I'm sure you'd agree they are really, really good reasons. But let's just get to the good stuff, yes?

       I've been wanting to read aloud my MG manuscript for a while, partly just so I can hear the awkward sentences and the confusing parts for myself, but also to get some audience feedback. I started reading it aloud to my husband who is a wonderful listener but a not-so-enthusiastic reader. That went fine, but he's not my target audience. Plus, because he's been my sounding board all along, he already knows the plot and all the surprises along the way. 

       So, after finally finishing Jessica Lawson's The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher aloud to my 4th grade students, I decided to try something I've never tried before: I began reading them my novel. 

       They don't know it's my novel. Since they're in 4th grade, they still love everything their teacher does. I mean, I'm kind of a big deal in Room 302. I desperately want to tell them it's mine, but even more desperately want genuine feedback. So, I am going to wait until we finish to tell them. For now, they think it is the work of one of my writing group friends. (If you teach with me and are reading this, SHHHH!) They were SO excited when I told them they were the first kids in the world to hear this story.

       And, THEY LOVE IT! It feels absolutely amazing to see their reactions when something exciting or twisty happens, and my heart sings when it's the end of Read Aloud time and they whine for more--especially if I've left off on a cliffhanger, which I love doing to them. Every now and then I'll have moments as I'm reading to them: "I don't think they're going to know all these words," or "It's getting too confusing for them. Do they get it?" But when I ask them to summarize a chapter or tell what a character is like, they nail it. As we line up for PE class, they are still buzzing and murmuring to each other their predictions or guesses as to what's happening in the book. Happy dance! 

       This is exactly why I started writing in the first place, and I love being reminded of it. If you are a pre-published author, I highly recommend getting your work into the hands of some children.With all the revising, conferencing, querying, worrying, second-guessing, and rejections that come along with writing a book, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. The heart of the matter--I write to entertain and thrill children's minds. To create a fantastic place for them to go where the words on the page can let their imaginations soar. So, no matter what happens with this novel, my heart is content knowing that at least a few children have come into the little world I created and are loving every minute of being there.