This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
This week, Caldwell County kids got a dose of desire to pick up a pen (or, more likely, poise their fingers above a keyboard) and write.
Tuesday and today marked the annual Little Read, which brings nationally recognized authors – some of them based in North Carolina – to fourth-graders in the Caldwell County Schools, always after the students have read one of the author’s books.
A little schedule shuffling, made necessary by a morning power outage in Lenoir, brought Frances Dowell to her first meeting with Caldwell County students at Valmead Elementary on Tuesday. Dowell, who lives in Durham, is the author of the bestselling “Dovey Coe,” a novel set in the fictional Indian Creek, which is based on Boone.At the beginning of the Valmead assembly, Caldwell County Schools community services director Libby Brown asked the students in attendance how many of them wanted to be writers when they grew up. A few hands went up.
Then Dowell started talking, her job to get the kids interested in being writers – in any sense, from plotting future novels to writing A+ papers.
Dowell talked, in various ways, about words. She talked about the joys of the fiction you tumble into as a kid – for her, “Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret” and “A Girl Called Al”; for them, “Harry Potter” and the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.
She talked about her experience teaching at Elon University and about leaving that job to work as a housecleaner in Boone so she could write, in the spare time she suddenly had with no papers left to grade. She talked about the moment when the first line occurs to you, about writing like you’re on fire and feeling like the characters are hovering next to you, dictating the words you’re supposed to write.
She talked about finishing the first, fiery draft and not quite knowing what to do, because writers need editors and “no book just happens.”
Then there were the kids’ questions, which are, arguably, the best part of any school assembly.
Where do you sit when you write your books, they asked. Where did you get the name “Dovey”? Is anyone in your family an author? Do you know (insert author’s name here, many times over)?
The answers, if you’re interested: anywhere; maybe from a gravestone; no; and maybe on Facebook.
Then the kids were asked again – how many of you want to be a writer one day? And more hands went up.
“One day I would like you to come to me – or whoever is here – and say, ‘I would like to be your Little Read author,” Brown told the kids.
The event wasn’t just for kids who dream of being novelists, though. It was about writing – for kids who want to be published authors and for kids who want to get their papers done and get good grades.
“You are all writers, and you’ve got a lot of writing ahead of you, so you should start taking yourselves seriously,” Dowell said.