“Alice says hi! Remember, Alice?!” asks my dangly earring wearing, future rockstar friend.
“How could we forget Alice? Hi, Alice. Welcome back,” I say.
Alice replies in frog (which is not easy to understand). Alice is a plastic frog and the unofficial mascot of the BBL Elementary School Creative Writing Club.
Hands shoot up—others want a turn to share their Item of Inspiration. Teddy bears, pencils, poetry. It’s how we begin, every Friday morning. Before the actual writing.
The members of this club are big on inspiration. And, they come in all creative shapes and sizes.
The serious sort, craving instruction.
The prolific powerhouse who I am careful not to praise too much for fear that others (me) will shutdown in her presence.
The future accountant (or maybe software engineer) who balks at the mere whiff of hyperbole.
The silent observer who studies her colleagues before choosing her own way.
The always on time conscientious scribe who brings extra pencils (just in case).
And of course, Alice-the-Frog’s owner who radiates creativity like a July heatwave. She is every quirky, brilliant character ever written. But, way more interesting.
I may be charged with leading them but these inspired fourth and fifth graders are my muse.
Each week I start with a plan. A writing exercise, discussion topic, and a list of things that need to be accomplished for the impending publication deadline.
We, the creative writing club, are after all responsible for the BBL Courant Literary Page (which we promptly renamed Fun Fiction after a member of the club pointed out that literary sounded too much like the word literal. Who needs that?)
Our time is short—45 minutes before school, which is really more like 30 once we get through sharing and questions and the late arrivals and…
Some mornings are without a doubt more productive than others.
Case in point, Halloween fell on a Friday this year. On the one day a year when mere mortals transform themselves into goblins and ghosts and fairies to collect pillowcases full of candy—“Why bother?” was what I was thinking.
I embraced the challenge, best I knew how, with a single sentence.
“Halloween is cancelled!” said Mrs. Huppelpup. “Put your costumes away and resume normal activity immediately!”
“Is Halloween canceled?” asked my serious friend.
“Look at the name, it’s a character,” whispered the conscientious one.
Alice-the-Frog hadn’t yet taken notice of the prompt. Her owner was too busy adjusting the large spider attached to her head.
Minutes later my petite scribes were deep into compelling plots unearthing why Halloween was canceled and what would happen to the evil Mrs. Huppelpup (one young schemer took the liberty of renaming her Mrs. Howley). We barely made it to the to-do list that day but the activity was a Halloween home-run.
Of course, one month later when their actual stories and poems were due, we could have used that time back. Such is the creative dilemma…
I hope our time together sparks something that will linger in them, as it already has in me.
A reminder that:
People (young and old) do their best “work” at play.
But, ultimately we all need a deadline to get the piece on the page.
And, while it’s great to be inspired, it’s even more satisfying to be inspiring.
(Oh, and plastic frogs are super cool!)