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.”
“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.