Friday, December 12, 2014

Today, I Met an Author by Debra H. Goldstein



Today, I Met an Author by Debra H. Goldstein
Today, I met an author. Physically, she was petite, but her words packed a solid punch.  The holiday tale she read me was well crafted – it had a defined beginning, middle, and end and contained two interesting and unexpected twists. The characters were simple, but well drawn and names like Elfy and Santa served to enhance the story.  Even though the author’s spelling and punctuation, especially forgetting to use quotation marks, was distracting, the use of dialogue and narrative was effectively balanced.  Best of all, many of the story’s pages contained cartoon like illustrations that allowed poorer readers to follow the story.  What I read might be called a rough short story, but I expect we’ll be seeing more polished offerings from this author in the future.  After all, she only is a second grader.

I was in her classroom to discuss Chanukah and to answer questions about being a judge and a mystery writer.  The children I spoke to were all wonderful – active, bright, and engaged.  Their outfits reflected their personalities and the fact that they probably all now chose their own clothing for school. Some of the boys sported red Alabama hoodies, there was a lone LSU t-shirt, and one girl had sparkles on her shirt, jeans, and sneakers.

After I talked about mystery writing, the teacher requested me to discuss ways to get around writer’s block.  I told the students they could journal or write a few lines about something they observed in their respective lives and that maybe, one day in the future, one of their notes would become the basis for a story.  We role-played taking a simple observation and fashioning it into something more.  With the give and take of the class, my speaking time went by quickly.

I was packing up my Chanukah props when the teacher asked if I would listen to a student’s story. “Of course,” I replied.  I cringed at the request especially when I realized the would-be author reminded me of Luna in the Harry Potter books. Throughout my talk, the child had never cracked a smile.  Her clothing was a mishmash consisting of old tennis shoes with pink laces, striped blue and grey leggings covered by a green frilly skirt that only stayed on because of its tight elastic waistband, and a flowered grey and green shirt. She looked from her teacher to me and back to her encouraging teacher.  Then, her long blonde curls dusting her shoulders, she glided from the story circle to her desk.

She came back with a blue cloth-covered journal. We pulled two second grade chairs next to each
other and then head bent, finger under each word, she slowly read to me. When she finished, she glanced at me and then stared at her journal.  Neither she nor I said anything for a moment. I don’t know if it was fear or simply shyness that kept her silent.  Me? I was blown away.

I found my tongue and praised her work by making comments about how it was structurally better than many stories written by adults.  I pointed out how well she had developed high and low points that worked as act changes that successfully moved the story forward and I told her repeatedly how mature the final resolution was.  As I spoke, she visibly relaxed. When she was slipping the book back into her desk, I thought I saw the sliver of a smile when I told her to “keep writing.  I look forward to reading more of your work.  You have the gift.”

She may never write another story, but I hope she does because today, I met an author.

8 comments:

  1. And someday, when someone asks who influenced her writing, she'll say Debra H. Goldstein. Thank you for this lovely story!

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  2. Thank you. Your comment is too generous, but I know that personally, my willingness to try certain things was influenced by my mother and one special teacher and my return to writing was spurred by a few words from a dear friend. We never know where our confidence and belief in ourselves will come from.

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  3. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I know that your mother would be proud you were able to pass along to this shy child what she had given to you.

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    1. Paula, thank you. Your words mean so much to mean - especially now.

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  4. Great story . . . hope she follows through . ..

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    1. I hope she does, too. One thing I know for sure, the second grade teacher this child has will spend the remainder of the year encouraging and nurturing her to believe in her own capabilities. The teacher is the kind we can only hope all children have.

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  5. She will remember that conversation for a long time.

    Thank you.

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