May 23, 2011
I wish this day on you. It was that kind of a day.
I spent 7 hours at a school, speaking to 800 students, one grade level at a time in their auditorium. Was met with a thermos filled with hot coffee, thermos was mine to keep. Only in Hawaii, I’m greeted by beautiful floral leis with a kiss and hug.
Wordsworth the Poet was selected their May book-of -the- month. I read the book to grades K, 1, 2 and discussed writing and authoring to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.
Enjoy some of their comments.My responses in ( ).
“You have a pretty face.” ( smart kid)
“How old are you?” ( Old, very old, I said.)
“Why did you write this book?”
“What’s a poet?”
( I asked the classes to answer it and one child said, “A poet writes poems.”
I added, “Yes, and a person who paints or draws is an artist, a person who writes music is called
“Are poems rhymes?”
“How did you think of those beautiful words in the book?”
( I read, read, read a lot and wrote as much to see how language works, etc.)
You must be very rich.
What’s your favorite book?
4th Grade (Publishers, please read this twice)
“You must be very rich. Do you get all the money from your book?”
( No, when you publish a book like this, the artist and the publisher get a certain percentage and I get paid a certain percentage.)
“ Oh no, the publisher should give you all the money because you write good books.”
Before I began, a boy raised his hand and asked:
“Can you read your books without looking at it since you wrote it?”
“How many books have you written?”
“What is the point of view of WW the Poet?”
“How old were you when you wrote your first book?”
( I published my lst book, Sand Grains, while teaching at this very school. I was very old.)
“Do you have other books about Wordsworth?”
“Where can I buy WW books?”
“Are you writing more books?”
How did you name the characters?
( They gave a loud groan and moan when I told them why WW’s best friend Emily will be gone
In the 3rd book. One child asked me not to get rid of her)
I have a title for another book. Call it “Wordsworth Makes a Difference.”
Why don’t you let Wordsworth marry Akiko, the new character?
Are you going to write until…you know, the end?
( Good question, yes,I hope I can still be holding a pen as I take my last breath)
One of the things I spoke about was the process of writing…how imagination gives us permission to be as honest as possible in our writing, how only the author knows his or her source of writing. They said yes, they censor a lot because they don’t want teachers and parents to think they actually experienced some of the things they write.
“Just having a dream and wishing for it to happen,” I told them, “doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We need to work to make it happen.”
A Chicken Skin story:
A woman called to say her granddaughter heard me in school today. The 8 year old told her “An author spoke to us today” and handed her my business card. The woman (Leiko) called me and what a magical moment. Her family, a very generous Hawaiian family, and we were extended families in Kapoho. They were my source of learning about ancient Hawaiian culture. We spent all holidays together and slept at each other’s homes. Her brother Sonny and I were the best of friends. We made a pact that he would marry me if by age 25, no man married me.
I told Leiko, I had spoken to over 800 children today and only one child came to ask me for a business card. What are the chances that this 8 year old kid would be her grand daughter. Leiko thought my card was given to each child.
Another poignant interaction:
A fifth grader came to see me after the session. She asked, “You talked about how you kept your dream of becoming a writer since you were in the lst grade. How did you do that?”
She left with tears glistening in her eyes and said,” I understand. I’m going to keep my dream just like you.”
(I told her my dream became a tool for forgiveness when people treated me unfairly and were mean to me…and when there was nothing I could do. I merely told myself, “That’s okay. Someday I’m going to be an author and you’ll be buying my books. She thanked me saying she will work on becoming a singer/musician and will not let her dream go. That she understands about being treated with meanness but her dream will help her, etc.”)
Walking to the parking area at 2:30, kids began running to hug me from the back, from the side and front. They stood there just holding on without a word. I understood. This happens with poetry and writing, even with adults.