About a year ago, I sat on the couch with my eleven year old. She had a book on her lap, I had a laptop upon which I was furiously typing the final chapter of my next story. All of a sudden she closed her book with a slap and chucked it – without comment – across the room. I looked over. Her face was set with exasperation and rage.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“Why,” she asked, “do evil villains insist on incessantly trying to rule the world? Can we have another plotline, please?“
“What about evil villains who try to rule the multiverse?” I asked, giving a surreptitious glance at my own work-in-progress, thinking more critically about the motivations of my own evil villain.
“Same thing,” she said.
Drat, I thought.
“Is it just that writers themselves are power-hungry megalomaniacs? When writers write villains, is it just because they’re living out their fantasies?” She gave me a sidelong glance. “Do writers secretly plot to rule the world?” She gulped. “Do you?”
I had to act fast.
“Let’s have ice cream,” I said, changing the subject. Next I knew, she’d be asking about my alter-ego, or my secret lair, or my army of steam-powered automons with laser-beam eyes that I have in the garage.
“No,” she said. “I don’t trust it. And I am so on to you.” She narrowed her eyes. “Princess Barnhill.” She flounced away (though, I noticed, she picked the book back up, and took it to her room to read.)
Yup.I thought. She’s onto me, all right.
Because it’s true: I’m a total megalomaniac. And a power freak. That’s why I write fiction.
Incidentally, that’s why I like teaching as well. Now I’ve blogged before about my passion for corrupting the youth of America, and I stand by it. But what I haven’t written about before is the rush I feel – both in teaching and in writing.
Take this picture for an example:
A classroom full of bright-eyed, fresh-faced minions! What’s not to love?
Because it’s true: In my classroom, it is my land, my kingdom, my realm. And I am Princess. When I was a classroom teacher, I had a hundred and twenty kids refer to me as Princess Barnhill. Now, every once in a while, I show up at a school to do a week-long residency wearing a crown.
When I stand in front of a classroom – when I have every eye, every mind, every heart tuned to what I’m about to say – I’m creating a singular, insular, perfect world. I make the rules; I guide the thinking; I can make it wonderful or scary or boring or fun. And when I get a room full of kids thinking about stories, and talking about stories, and imagining new stories…..and THEN, preside over that same room with thirty kids bent over their desks, spinning stories on the page, when the only sound to be heard is the sound of pencils scratching and papers rustling and open-mouthed breathing…..
Honestly, there’s nothing, nothing better.
I love teaching. I love pulling kids into the world of story-making. And I love, love, love being Princess for a little bit. It’s not exactly ruling the world. But it’s close enough.