Last week, I had the privilege of visiting Wiley Middle School in Winston-Salem, NC. Invited by teachers Jocelyn Stone and Sarah Irvin and welcomed by principal Sean Gaillard, I was to talk to the kids about writing and rejection. I was tempted to walk in with Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” pumped through the library AV equipment, but I thought they were too young to really appreciate that song or those dramatics.
If there’s one industry that offers a lot of rejection opportunity, it’s this one. Publishing has facts and figures that make success feel futile. But I suppose success feels futile in any endeavor if you only look at your projected rate of potential success on a scale no one can truly verify. Nothing is guaranteed except growth.
So, I told the kids about my path and how responded to rejection by pressing on. I also explained that writing was an art and that opinions were subjective. Not everyone is going to like your work… and that’s okay. Actually, that’s kind of fabulous. We should be different… otherwise we’d be a boring lot. I also talked about the freedom of creativity and how you need to be true to yourself. When we stop measuring our success by the success of others, we’ll probably end up happier.
For one of our activities, I gave each table an interesting picture. (For reference, I googled “interesting pictures.” I DO NOT recommend you do this with small children nearby.) Anyway, the kids were challenged with writing a “hook” for the picture they were given. Some worked in groups, others worked alone… but they all worked. And then, volunteers (and some drafted souls) shared their creations.
Their creativity blew me away. Their energy reminded me that fiction allows you to be both fearless and unlimited. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see some of their names grace the spines of books in the future.
I applaud the teachers and administrators at Wiley MIddle for wanting to show the kids the world beyond the classroom walls and I’m grateful I was allowed to meet such a great group.