Today I taught two different plot workshops as part of the Calvin College Youth Writing Festival. Honestly, my own plots have always lacked a certain luster, more like scared and scrawny fur-ball ferrets than proper weasels, twisting slyly beneath the reader’s eyes. But these kids were wizards with it all.
“We write in wonder and because we wonder,” says Richard Peck. And I wonder at how creative middle school kids are. Is there any way my mind was that agile 10 years ago?
The workshop informational sheet gave me some tips to pass along such as “Be willing to change a plot line that seems too limiting or uninteresting.”
These kids needed no such advice. I got a magical melons, lover-clones taking refuge on a Canadian houseboat, and—maybe my favorite—a magical rock which split into a thousand pieces and then floated in a circle above a boy’s head, crowning him prince of some magical land. Yeah, not bad.
We all remember Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader right? “His name was Eustace Clarence Scrub and he almost deserved it.” But I, for one, had never noticed that five times Lewis’ narrator says that Eustace’s problem was this: he “read the wrong kinds of books.” College sometimes feels a little like that.
At the end of my second session I had the kids write down books I ought to read over the summer, books they thought were good. It’s a treasure trove of a reading list and I intend to make good headway into it this summer.