2nd Hand Writing Advice

My 12 year old is not a writer.  Just a few months ago she spent a day and a half trying to write one sentence.  And, in the end, it wasn’t even a very good sentence.  So when she told me that her language arts teacher had selected her to attend a meet and greet with an author, I was a bit surprised. “She asked Miriam first,” Paige told me.  “But she didn’t want to go.”

So, with the credential of being willing to show up, Paige went to the school library yesterday to meet an author.

“Who was it?”  I asked, my interest piqued.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I can’t remember her name.”  After a pause, she added, “I think you have one of her books, though.   I think I recognized it.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah.  I think it’s called My Skin I’m In or something…”

“WHAT??? You met Sharon Flake?”

“Yeah,” she said.  That’s her name.”

“Paige!! That is awesome!  What did she say?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  Stuff about writing.”  She sounded bored.

“I would have loved to meet her.  I love that book,” I told her.  “Did she say…” My mind desperately searched for a possible topic.  ” Did she say who influenced her?”

“Oh, yeah.  She said she was influenced by Langston Hughes.”

“Langston Hughes?  That’s so awesome!”  I wasn’t sure if I was more excited that Langston Hughes was Flake’s influence or the fact that Paige knew who Langston Hughes was.

“Do you remember anything else?”

“Well, a lot of people asked questions.” (I didn’t ask if Paige had been one of the people asking questions.  I kind of already knew.)  “Someone asked how she starts a story, and she said that she doesn’t start with an actual story.  She starts with a character that she really likes.”

“She starts with a character?” I clarified.  “That’s what she said?”

“Yes,” Paige said.  “That’s what she told us.”

We talked for a few more minutes about the visit.  Paige seemed most impressed with the fact that Flake’s publisher once took her on a free trip to Disney World.  (“She got to go to ALL the parks!  And she stayed in the really nice hotel you can take a boat to!”)

But my mind kept going back to the way Flake starts a story. I nestled the information in the back of my mind, hoping that someday I’d remember it and put it to use.











  1. andresenb · March 3, 2016

    Wow! Your humor really shines through in your writing. Your voice is so clear. The best part..by far…was that ending!


  2. Adrienne · March 3, 2016

    OMG. Imagine how she would feel if you met her favorite singer (or whoever she is into) and you gave those answers. You really captured her voice in this piece, even though she doesn’t say very much.


  3. Lisa · March 3, 2016

    Maybe this has inspired her to read, if not write. Sounds like she and a great day, even if she seems a bit apathetic. So cool that she knows Langston Hughes!


  4. neylonk · March 3, 2016

    Your dialogue put me right there in the moment! I would have done the same thing. How cool is that she has such a fantastic writer to help her out!


  5. Wendy · March 3, 2016

    “With the credential of being willing to show up…” HA! Love it!

    Adrienne’s comment reminds me of when Bruce Springsteen married an Oregon girl, a model from a nearby wealthy suburb. My dad was a freelance photographer, and People called and asked him to stake out the family’s house to try to get some pictures. We had an exchange student that year, a girl from New Zealand who had Bruce’s rear end plastered all over her room. She was over the moon that he was nearby, and that my dad might actually see him.

    My dad kept calling him “Bruce Smithsonian,” which I now suspect was deliberate teasing on his part. It drove her absolutely crazy.


  6. Dana Murphy · March 4, 2016

    This is great. Your excitement – her passive acceptance. I love it. I love that writing advice, and I especially loved that you ‘tucked it away’. You may need it someday.


  7. Peg D · March 6, 2016

    I love the perfect depiction of what is like talking to a teenager. A lot of times it really is like a real life example of The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash. Glad you were able to get some fabulous advice out of her that might have otherwise been forgotten. 🙂


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