The Best Questions

Last week, I flew back home with my daughter. Side benefits included lots of play time on the farm for Kaylee, but the main reason for the trip was because I’d been asked to come back and do a reading and signing at the county library in my old home town.

Very cool, you might think, and as far as I’m concerned, you’d be absolutely right: it was cool, and I was extremely flattered and excited and not a little humbled by it.

Then the librarian (who is also the librarian for the high school) told me that he’d spoken with English teacher at the school, and she was also interested in having me in to speak with her seniors, specifically the seniors who were gunning for the horizon with college-level or college-prep curricula.

At which point, things went from very cool to semi-terrifying, for reasons I doubt I need to explain to over thirty.

Still, I got myself under control and made contact with the teacher, who told me that what the seniors were interested in more than anything (she guessed) would be me talking about how I’d gotten started writing seriously, and how that had turned into a finished, published book.

Oh, I thought, that’s just me talking about NaNoWriMo, then. I shrugged at my computer screen. Well, that’s a piece of fucking cake.

And not to give the ending away, it really kind of was.

The school building I went to as a senior was torn down a few years after I graduated, so it wasn’t quite a perfect homecoming, but there was a enough there that I recognized (names, faces, a particular sandstone archway), and enough new stuff (the theater, oh my god you guys, the theater) that I didn’t mind. Like finding a favorite bit of memory, but restored and updated, rather than perfectly preserved and sterile.

Or finding one of these things in the back corner of your closet.

And then there were the kids. Holy crap, the kids were awesome. I’m sure I’ve done many things in my life that were more fun than talking with two groups of high school seniors about to graduate from my old high school, but it easily tops the list of Hidden Things-related events I’ve gotten to do.

So I talked about writing. About where ideas come from. About my first few years doing NaNoWriMo. About bad guys I’d covertly named Shit-Eater. About the inspiration that comes from living in a place so harsh and simultaneously amazing.

I answered a lot of questions — easily the best questions I’ve been asked in a long while. Funny questions. Serious questions. Tough questions.

Best of all, questions that didn’t worry about whether or not they were too mean or too hard or too silly — questions that wanted nothing more than an honest answer.

I wish I could remember them all, and what I said. I tried to be as honest as they deserved.

I had a great time.

I did. The teacher did. I had no idea if the seniors did.

I mean, I hoped. I thought maybe the answer was yes, but I didn’t know.

Until the next day, their teacher emailed me.

Of the twenty kids I talked to, five wanted to try writing a book. Right now. Wanted pointers. Had her send along their contact information and one more big question:

“What’s the deal with the NaNoWriMo thing? How do we do it?”

And just like that, I’m back to semi-terrifying territory again.

But damn are we going to be fun.