My favourite part of publishing is being invited to read to students. On the other end of the scale is editing but that’s a topic for another time. I’ve been lucky enough to be in schools, bookstores, and libraries all over and each time is a unique adventure filled with energy, creativity and brutally honest feedback.
Whenever I am lucky enough to read some of my spooky stories , I inevitably hear from the elementary school age audience that my story “wasn’t that scary.” While that may be true, I silently note that most students in the crowd are holding their breath while the monster consumes the elementary school age child. But I have to take their feedback as honest, since that is what kids are great at. Telling the unfiltered truth, with no regard for the consequences. My favourite piece of feedback was from a little girl in the back row of a classroom who said, “did you really write that story? Cause it was actually pretty good.” She couldn’t believe that something good came out of someone with a face like this. And I have to agree.
Often the student’s ideas are truly inspiring. For legal reasons, I have to say that each story idea is my own and I have never taken (or will take) any idea(s) from a student and used it in one of my stories. However, I have often been inspired (which is perfectly legal) by the many amazingly creative students I have met. I often get to lead classrooms in writing exercises and the results are often wonderfully twisted tales of flesh-eating zombies and child-hunting monsters (I just happen to have amazingly similar ideas in my new books). I need to say, that is simply a coincidence, each story is the intellectual property of Dundurn Press, and we have excellent lawyers.
The energy from a room full of kids is like fire. It is raw energy that can be destructive when used incorrectly or neglected. But if directed and focused, it can be extremely beneficial. Whenever I finish a reading I am an exhausted sweaty mess, because that is what it takes for me to be able to get a room full of kids to focus. I have seen many teachers, librarians, and helpers focus the fire without needing to use my loud voice, constant movement and over the top buffoonery. They are the true masters. I can imagine a time when I might do the same, but I also love doing my werewolf howl till my voice echoes off the wall at the back of the library, miming the movements of the zombie as I stumble toward the smallest kid in the front row and describing a disemboweling while staring into the huge eyes of the kid who is too scared to breathe (but will soon tell me it “wasn’t that scary”).
If you are a student, thanks for your attention, your energy, and your non-copyrighted ideas.
If you are a parent, thanks for raising a reader, fostering creativity, and I am sorry about the nightmares
If you are a teacher, thanks for your invitation, your enthusiasm, and I am sorry that for the next 6 months each writing project you assign will be filled with werewolves, vampires and the spilled entrails of trick-or-treaters.
Jeremy John is currently ranked as the sixty-second most famous person from Brantford, Ontario. (Look it up. There are a lot.) His broadcasting career has included co-hosting shows on 680 NEWS, KiSS FM, and Breakfast Television. Jeremy lives in Sudbury, Ontario. Learn more here.