On Tuesday (10 Nov 2015), I had the pleasure of returning to my alma mater, Kingsway Regional High School, for what has become a truly cherished memory for me. I had been invited to address the students of the high school's creative writing classes, sharing my experiences as a newly published author. I'd spent weeks making notes on what to say, trying to find the right words, and make it as interesting as possible. I had no idea what to expect, and I didn't want to bore the students with the longwinded tale of how a middle-aged man finally achieved his dream of becoming published.
I've had a long history of public speaking, starting with my short career in radio broadcasting. More recently, I've spoken at large IT conferences, both in the United States and Europe. I told my boss once that I thrive on speaking before large crowds. But, that morning, I felt a little intimidated. The teacher, Laura Fiorentino, welcomed me warmly to a school that was as unfamiliar as it was familiar. Things had changed a great deal in the twenty-seven years since I graduated, and it was a bit overwhelming at first.
As I watched the students make their way into the seminar room, I nervously recited my opening comments in my head, making last minute adjustments as they took their seats. Their young faces staring down at me, as if saying "impress us". As Mrs. Fiorentino introduced me to her students, I suddenly felt as if I had nothing to offer them. No sage words of wisdom. No secret to being a successful writer. I had nothing for them.
Stepping forward to speak, I noticed a young girl sitting in the front row. Her eyes, which watched my every move, seem to hold a hunger, like she was anxious to digest every word I said. As I started to talk, I noticed the same thing in the eyes of the other students as well. When the first hand raised during my prepared remarks, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, it was an awesome question, and they just kept coming. Great question after great question. My prepared comments went out the window, and we got down to brass tacks. It was all about writing.
The students had a real passion for creative writing, and it showed in their questions. I was no longer speaking to students, I was speaking to fellow writers. We probably could have gone on for hours. I found myself being disappointed when the bell signaled the end of the period, and the end of my time at Kingsway.
There are moments in my life that I cherish, memories that invoke a deep emotional response. This moment has become one of those. The time was brief, but it was so enjoyable to see such an intensity in the students about writing. From their questions, it was obvious that creative writing was more than just a hobby, more than just an elective class. It was a fire burning within them that was growing with every new line they write.
I want to thank Laura Fiorentino and her students for their hospitality on Tuesday, and I hope they know how much I enjoyed my time with them. I wish all of the students the best of luck with their writing.
Oh, and one more thing… GO DRAGONS!!