I’m hosting a guest post today from the president of Dark Continents Publishing, David Youngquist – a.k.a. The Boss Man.
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I went back to school on Tuesday. Which on one hand isn’t all that strange for me, as I’ve taken a number of courses over the years. I’m one of those people that like to continue learning, even though I’m starting to get decrepit. This was going to be a little different though. I was going to be playing the role of guest teacher.
This isn’t overly unusual for me either. I did teach in a classroom at one time. It has been more than a decade, however, since I officially taught a class. I was a bit nervous. These were kids at the Ottawa Junior High. Not normally the age group I taught. Still, the teacher who invited me to speak about writing and such assured me the kids wouldn’t eat me alive or bury me in one of the soggy cornfields around the school. So I agreed.
First problem was I got lost getting there. I’m pretty familiar with Ottawa. I’ve done some book signings over there. I’ve shopped over there. I’ve done some paranormal investigations over there. Problem is, Ottawa is bisected by the Illinois River, and most of my experience is on the north side of the river. When I was given directions, the critical phrase “go across the river” was left out.
I hate being lost, and with time slipping away, I stopped, got directions, and got to the school as fast as legally possible (Ok, not so legally in a couple of places). Got buzzed into the building with a group of kindergarteners and was led through a maze of hallways to the library. Safe! And just in time.
As the librarian was pointing out where I was to be stationed, the first group came in and sat down. I’m used to thinking on my feet, and while I didn’t have time to set up, or hang my DCP banner anywhere, I got settled in pretty quick.
Introductions were made. The kids looked at me like I was just another boring guy for them to listen to, and they would move on to their next guest lecture. They had just come off a week of testing, and this was their day to let off some steam before they went back to their regular classes. They were, however, all the same age and class level as my daughter, and I told them so. So I was used to seventh graders and their goofiness.
Now for some reason, the person who set up the event at the school has a problem remembering I write anything besides ghost stories. And she seems to have a problem remembering I helped start a publishing company. These two facts she didn’t pass on to the teacher, and in turn didn’t get passed on to the kids. I was supposed to talk about ghost stories, rewriting and writer’s block.
I covered at least two of those subjects. I had an idea what I wanted to talk to the kids about, but you have to adjust as you go. So we started with a little background about me. How I got my start as a reporter. How I had a dirty little secret in that on the side I was writing horror stories. I called on the kids and got them involved in the discussion. Some of them were aspiring writers. Some didn’t even like to string sentences together for homework and tests, but they at least participated as I talked with them.
One thing I love about this age group is if you can draw them in, you can get them to participate. So I talked writing. I talked zombies. I mentioned how I hated the fact that in every zombie show, no one knew what to do, and the zombies always win. Even with The Walking Dead, no one really seems self-sufficient. I mean come on! These are a bunch of Kentucky and Georgia hillbillies. They should be able to kill anything that walks, and fix a truck with pliers and baling wire. That always annoyed me. So in a small river town, we talked zombies and writing.
One thing I mentioned is that EVERY writer, even the big boys like Stephen King and Tom Clancy, need editing. Teachers put all that red ink on their papers for a reason. They’re there to make the kids better writers. Especially as the boss, I told them, I get edited.
I also talked about writer’s block. Much to groans from the kids, I told each group the best way to break a writer’s block was NOT to sit down with a pile of video games. I told them this was a good way to actually kill brain cells. So I told them to go out and play. Hit the river. Go fishing. Play ball. Do something other than log into the system and waste time. Not a bad idea for all of us writers.
So it was a great day. I enjoyed myself, got some great energy from the kids, and got to encourage some young writers at a really critical time in their development. I might have to do this more often.