Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Like the Coolest. Just the Coolest.

Today I visited rehearsal for the play Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle. This is the play I wrote the script for, adapting my book by the same title. It will be the first show at St. Paul Academy and Summit School's stunning new performing arts center.

I hope you'll attend. Shows are 7:00 on Friday, October 23rd and 4:00 on Saturday, October 24th. Admission will be free; seats, first come, first served.

You may be thinking, A school play? Could that be any good?

If you're thinking that, you've never seen a play put on at SPA. I'm lucky enough to teach English at a school whose theater program regularly produces remarkable shows. The actors are talented and dedicated; the directors are experienced and visionary.

So, anyway, I was at rehearsal today. And my goodness, is this thing shaping up. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life to sit with actors (students at our school!) and talk about where the characters in the show come from. This is my most personal book. Most of the characters are inspired by people in my life, and so I could get very specific as actors asked questions.

And then I got to watch them rehearse the first two-thirds or so of the show. To have actors speaking my words! Inhabiting characters I put on the page! Like the coolest. Just the coolest. I felt for one day like a big-time writer.

I hope the play makes you laugh. Maybe your heart will soar.

If it sounds like I myself am soaring tonight--if I'm brimming over (annoyingly) with self-congratulations--don't worry. My dog will eat one of my shoes or something tonight, I'm sure. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Writing is hard, and yet it's doable. And rewarding. And important.

So, as many of you know, I'm a teacher. More specifically, I teach English to middle- and high-school students. That means guiding young people as they learn to read and discuss with greater awareness and confidence. It also means guiding young writers. If you're visiting this website, there's a good chance you know that, in addition to being a teacher, I'm a writer. Perhaps  you've read one or more of my books.

Being these two things at once, a teacher and a writer, is just about the best professional life I can imagine. It's a life of trial and error. Of invention. Of telling stories and appreciating the stories of others.

Anyway, I just read a really wonderful piece by another teacher, Jessica Keigan, whom I've never met. In the piece, she champions the idea of teachers as writers. This means students should watch their teachers write at every stage of the process--not just when something's finished but at the beginning and in the middle of the process, when everything's messy and difficult. I encourage you to read Keigan's article, which you'll find here. Keigan argues that when teachers show students how writing works--how it's hard but rewarding, how it's never perfect--students don't feel so alone in their own writing struggles.

Keigan's article also reminds me of a book manuscript I finished writing in the past year--a book that my publisher is considering at the moment. It's a novel-in-vignettes, sharing a genre (I believe) with Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. Anyway, I've also written an essay that I hope will be published in the back of this book. The essay does what Keigan talks about--it demystifies how writing happens. Actually, it lays out a formula readers can follow as they write their own novels-in-vignettes. I explain, in the essay, how writers of any ability can write a meaningful novel in a matter of months. If and when this book (Slingers, about an eighth-grade girl who's a basketball phenom and battles jealousies all around her) is published, I hope to tour with it and, as I talk at schools and camps and other places, encourage as many young people as possible to write books of their own.

So there's my spiel. If this sounds interesting to you, let me  know at thunderstrikebike@yahoo.com. I'd love to visit your school or other youth group to deliver just this message.

My brother (the author Patrick Hueller) and I have recently talked about touring together, sharing our books and (what we think is) witty banter--but all so that the writing of stories looks to young people like the fun it really can be, even if it is hard work.