Monday, May 11, 2015


Friday I gave my first talk at a middle school relating to Coyote Summer.

I've taught and read poetry to classes before but this was my first time talking to a group (actually two groups) of kids who had read my book. These kids read my book aloud for better comprehension, and one class was a bit older than what I think of as my usual reading demographic.

Not that I have any idea what that is. I've spoken to book groups whose readers ranged in age from 30 to 70, and I’ve been told my book has been read aloud to four to six year olds.

So I guess my demographic is 4 to 75, roughly. Sorry, three and under and those over 80, if I offend you. I’d love to count you among the roughly 232 people who comprise my Summerhood Island series audience.

The reading teacher who'd invited me emailed me a list of questions the students had come up with so that I could prepare myself.

Which was kind of cute because it assumed I would not be able to answer questions off the cuff but also thoughtful because she really had no idea how much experience I’d had with this sort of thing.

Not included among those questions was "Is it legal to dig a hole yourself to mine for diamonds?"  but I thought I handled that one pretty well anyway. 

Actually, as much as I joke, this was a great experience.  I mean, how often does a non-famous author get to meet with an audience of 20, all of whom have just finished a close reading and discussion of her book? These kids had good, solid questions, and equally solid opinions about what they did and did not like in the story.

And along with the usual questions about the island and about writing in general- "Do all the people who live on the island really know each other?"  (yes) and "Do you make a lot of money as a writer?" (no),  they proceeded to tell me why they thought Susan acted the way she did, and they filled in their own  backstory of Jessie and Amanda’s friendship, in the process answering questions I hadn't even asked myself.

When I was in elementary school I read a book by Nat Hentoff about a little boy left alone in an apartment who listens to a jazzman. It was actually a pretty horrific story now that I recall it, as the boy is left without enough food. In the end the boy is rescued and everything turns out perfectly. Or does it? I wanted to know if the boy really made it or if it was a dream and he died. The librarian said, “What do you think?”

So I wrote Nat Hentoff and he wrote back. One line. "What do you think?" 
Way to dodge, Mr. Hentoff.

(Of course, now that I search for the book I can’t find it, so maybe I made the whole thing up.)

I think I got more than I gave from those two classes of middle schoolers. But I hope they got enough from me to want to keep reading. I gave them everything I had. (unlike Mr. Hentoff.)

Including a quick tutorial on how diamonds are made (immense pressure on coal, so even though there’s coal around you probably won't find diamonds in your back yard). 

But go ahead and dig, girl.  Don’t let anyone tell you there’s absolutely nothing there. 

You just never know.