Normally, I wake my children, feed them, make their lunches, wash their faces and haul them off to school, then return to the quiet of my desk. My house doesn’t speak. It doesn’t watch. It breathes and dreams and breathes and dreams, and I write stories in that quiet world.
Sometimes, however, I must expose myself. I must use my voice and my stories and my body and my face to communicate to other people what I do. I do this so that people can learn. I do this so that stories can be told. I do this because it’s too easy to forget that stories matter, that we were built for this work. We were born to tell stories and read stories and listen to stories, and believe in stories.
Last weekend, I taught a class at The Loft in Minneapolis called What We Write About When We Write About Magic, and then I sat on a panel with Pete Hautman, Heather Bouwman, Sheila O’Connor and Kurtis Scalata and I blathered a bit about my writing process and my thoughts on how children read stories. I don’t know if I made any sense. I don’t know how truthful I was. But if it got one person at that conference to trust themselves and trust their voice and trust their work, then it was time well-spent, I think.
(The conference, by the way, was the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference, and it was awesome. And well worth your time for next year.)
Today, I’m powering up at the local Caribou Coffee and getting ready to spend a week teaching story writing to fourth graders at Chanhassen Elementary. I have no doubt that their stories will be magnificent.
This is an intergal part of my work, though teaching – by its nature – thwarts my work. Stops it in its tracks. Teaching is wonderful, but it saps me utterly. I will, at the end of the day, be spent, hollowed, deflated. I will be a dry, dry husk. Still, this is important because it reminds me that stories are primal, vigorous and alive. It is our birthright to tell stories. This is what I will tell these children, and this is what I believe.
And my desk, my office, my dreaming house will all be waiting for me when I return.