Earlier this year I read in our local newspaper about an assembly at the middle school that featured writers. Of course, my son, who goes to the middle school, didn’t mention the assembly to me, so I asked him about it. He said there were several writers and he couldn’t remember what they talked about. That’s about all I got out of him.
At the time I read the article, I wondered who set up the assembly and why I wasn’t invited. After all, I do have a son at the middle school (even though he doesn’t like to read and thought the assembly was boring). I can’t recall the writers who spoke at this assembly except for one who writes for our little local paper – which consists of mostly real estate ads, articles about the high school football team, and pictures of kids at the local Easter egg hunt.
I didn’t think about it again until this past weekend when I was sitting with a bunch of other parents watching a fall ball game (that’s off-season Little League baseball). I don’t remember how my friend and I got onto the subject of that assembly, but I groused about not being invited to speak when a small-town newspaper journalist was invited. My friend, who volunteers a lot at the school, told me that she lobbied to get me invited to the assembly, but the woman who was organizing it responded, “She writes romance. The middle school kids wouldn’t be interested in that.”
Our middle school comprises 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, which puts the range of ages for the kids at about 11 -14 years old. Does she really believe that 12, 13, or 14-year old girls aren’t interested in reading romance? While I don’t write Young Adult, I know those girls are reading it. Has this woman ever heard of Stephanie Meyer? I started reading Victoria Holt’s books at about the age of 13, and those stories inspired me to write.
Even if the kids don’t read romance, which I imagine almost none of the boys do, I wouldn’t have attended the assembly as a “romance” writer (and definitely not as Mia Varano), but rather as an author. I would’ve talked about the joy of reading – anything – and how reading makes you a better writer. I would’ve given them all kinds of examples of different word choices and how one word can change the tone or meaning of a sentence. I would’ve explored their imaginations with them and the stories that they have in their own hearts. I would’ve talked about the revision process, the editing process, the cover process, and the millions of other processes writers go through to reach a finished product.
Was she afraid I was going to talk about SEX? Does she think I’m stupid? I’m a parent! Was this yet another slight against romance writers and our genre? My friend assured me that this woman is completely out of touch and doesn’t know what she’s doing.
I think because of this woman’s bias or ignorance, the kids missed out. I’m also a former English teacher, so I have all kinds of tricks up my sleeves for keeping kids interested in the subject matter. I also think the kids would’ve enjoyed listening to someone that many of them know because they know my son.
I don’t know if the school plans on another writing assembly this school year, or if this same woman will be involved again, but maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t invited. My son informed me that if I had been speaking at that assembly, he would’ve gone to the bathroom and not come out until it was over...snort.