Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Talking to future s-f readers (and maybe writers)

My wife is a student teacher in a local third grade classroom. Recently, they asked the students to do a creative writing exercise. One of the kids took a stab at a time travel story, and that set my wife to thinking.

She asked me if I'd speak to the kids about writing - since I cover both fiction as an a-f author and non-fiction as a journalist.

I spoke to the kids for a half hour before lunch on the subject of writing - both the short stories and what I do for the newspaper - and then after lunch I read them the YA story that was published in Beyond Centauri last year, "The Honor of the Blue Devil Patrol".

Since the pivotal plot twist in the story centers on whether the Martian scout patrol will do the right (honorable) thing with the treasure they find, the classroom teacher was able to make little point on the subject of character to the kids.

The story was probably a little over the kids' heads, but they seemed to enjoy it. I tried to use some gestures as I spoke to illustrate the story to help them get the feel - like at the point in the story where the scout throws his canteen to distract the water-seeking skolopender. I was proud of the way I pantomimed lobbing the canteen.

I leaned on the skolopenders a bit - but the kids related to the "monster" aspect of the story. One boy asked me if the creatures are real. I said, "I sure hope not, but you're young. Why don't you go to Mars some day and let me know? But I'll be real old by then."

I put some term on the dry erase board to help the kids follows along - like skolopender, tovarish and such. I jotted down both Robert Heinlein and Stanley Weinbaum's names - because the craters named for them are mentioned in the story - and then introduced them as "Robert Heinwein".

At the end of my visit, I called up the boy who wrote the time travel story, gave him my personal business card. I told him he could call me for help any time. He have me a big hug in front of the classroom.

Well, I hope I did some good.

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