I have the privilege of attending both the National Writing Project annual meeting and the National Council of Teachers of English convention this week in St. Louis. I arrived this afternoon, and overall my impressions of the people here are overwhelmingly positive. The people at the airport, the shuttle driver, the hotel workers, all have been exceptional. And the conference attendees? Wonderful.
You see, things like this are a little overwhelming for this introvert. I was really shy as a kid, and to this day my social skills aren’t the best. I try, I really do, but I’m just sort of awkward. The good news it that other people are far better at this stuff than I am, and they’re frequently kind enough to include me in their conversations and plans. The mixer this evening started off really uncomfortable for me, but ended up very pleasant.
I circled the ballroom (and it’s a beautiful ballroom) several times, not seeing anyone I knew. I eventually struck up a conversation with a woman who looked about as lost as I felt. Turns out she’s from my state and we hit it off. A few minutes later a woman I met in New Orleans (who’s from Missouri) turned up, and joined the conversation along with her colleague. Not long after that another New Orleans connection turned up (from Louisiana), and so on. I never did see any of the folks from my own group, but that’s okay, I’m sure they’re around somewhere.
Tomorrow the serious stuff begins. I’ll be leading a round table discussion in the afternoon, and attending other sessions led by other educators. I’m excited to share information with them. In honor of this conference and the experience, I’d like to share some writing I’ve done with Writing Project kids over the past few summers. It’s a rough piece, done in my composition notebook while the young writers worked on their own pieces.
The prompt was “My Awesome Life.” What does your awesome life look like? Here’s a snapshot of mine:
I wake up when I want, fully rested and unhurried. I prepare to face the day and I feel good about the work I’m about to do. Midday I head off to a school or library or community center or bookstore, knowing that readers and writers will be there waiting for me. I bring along a box of my latest title — a give-away to thank them for being such loyal fans and readers.
When I get there I do a presentation that enthralls and inspires the audience. I answer their questions, take a few pictures, and sign my books. Then, a smaller group meets me to do a workshop. I’m so impressed by their dedication to making their work the best it can be. I love days like this.
Later on, at home in my studio, Lila lays at my feet as I write. She is a soft, quiet companion who grounds me and reminds me that I must occasionally take breaks.