It is that time of year: teachers everywhere are crying, and perhaps a little terrified. I am a middle school teacher of theater and a class I invented, Writing For Publication. I work in conjunction with the Language Arts teacher. She is so busy teaching other stuff, that she has no time for ‘fun’ writing. I wanted to give students an opportunity to write whatever they wanted. I began this program years ago and we produced a few anthologies. Then, budgets being what they are, the program lapsed. Last year my principal was looking for ‘push-in’ programs, that is, an ‘expert’ comes in to a classroom to enrich curriculum. I resurrected the anthology. We had a blast. All first trimester we wrote and ‘shared’ documents. They edited and re-wrote and each week I taught a focus lesson: character, setting, dialog, etc. I told them I was their editor, not their teacher. That was fun for all of us!
Many of those students are also my theater students, so we already had a rapport and the idea of play scripts and film scripts was not new. So, we expanded on that as well. I got some amazing work. Some of it is what you’d expect, but much of it was incredible, considering they are 12 and 13 years old.
Second trimester, we edited and polished our best pearls! Third trimester, I formatted and got those puppies up on Amazon. Then we got to do ‘appropriate’ social media marketing. The school board was thrilled and so were my students and their parents. I knew they could do it!
How does that work for me as a mystery writer? I can only create new material during the summer. During the academic year, I am too full of ‘other worlds’ to create: we do two full drama productions a year plus special shows like the Holiday Program, the writing class, oh, did I mention I also am the student government advisor and school climate monitor? So, there are a lot of hormones flying around as well. I am also a mom and wife...
But my students are the best in the world. They energize me with their love and enthusiasm. When I break down a script with them, or we edit our brains out, I am also learning from them as well. They give so much energy and spirit that I am always remembering to give back. They thank me at the end of every class; they give hugs; they yell, “I love you!” across the campus at me; they give me chocolate (they know I work for food and bribes). So, I think I get more out of it than they do! For years, they have asked to be put in one of my books. I don’t really write for or about kids, but they wore me down. In the new K.O.’d, (K.O.’d At Banzai Pipeline) the police procedural series set in Hawaii, K.O., my heroine, is visited by her teenaged nephew when he enters the big surf contests. Raj and his friends are compilations of many students over the years, so this is my little homage to them and all the joy they bring.
Here is a link to a commercial we did for the county office of education.