A few days ago, Mark Wallinger praised what he called my "body of work." Mark has a way with words. Sparse. Inspires pause.
His "body of work" praised and aged me. He thinks I'm old enough to have a body of work.
(I could argue. I think it's a Body Of Play.)
What motivated his comment was a new video from the Bexley Education Foundation. It's at the bottom of this post.
But first this.
A Moment That Changed Everything
Years ago, Kent Brown (you've read about him here) invited me to a Highlights Foundation Workshop on writing children's literature. I wasn's so keen on writing for children, but Kent's one of those folks: when he calls, I answer.
I'd do anything for Kent. Especially serve as his guest at an educational retreat. So, I went.
In the long run, I didn't quite learn how to write for children. But I did learn to write to adults as if they are children. (I hope you're happy.)
But this isn't about that.
A Unexpected Message
The welcoming speech, a keynote at the opening dinner — attended by dozens of students and faculty — was presented by a writer, and role model, Bruce Coville.
Mr. Coville gave a barn-burner of a speech. Everyone cheered with approval several times.
The central message — at least the one that reached me, the one that changed everything — was something like this:
In all the biggest cities, at the top of the tallest office buildings, there is a belief. It is that the most important people are at the top of these buildings. Men sit with men — most often white men sitting with white men — and they think they are having the most important conversations in the world.
But their conversations are only about the world as we know it today.
Elsewhere, in the schools and homes, there are other conversations. Children are talking with adults, mainly women. The women and children are talking about something much more important than the here and now. The women are telling stories to the children. They are talking about the future. Because, in fact, these children are the future.
There is nothing more important than these conversations with children, no one more important than those who tell stories to children. The men at the top of the buildings are mistaken. The future is children. They will have this world.
My paraphrasing doesn't do justice to Mr. Coville's words.
He rocked the dining room. We cheered and cheered. My spine still tingles at the moment.
I looked around and saw the people who have the most important conversations in the world. I was surrounded by writers: a faculty of accomplished, published writers, mixed with the energy and potential and earnest ambition of the students.
It was magical.
I've never recovered from that moment.
(I saw Kent Brown, sitting on the periphery, surveying his own Body Of Work, a roomful of writers being ignited.)
So Here's The Video.
A few weeks ago, I spent the morning with three panels of young people. It was a joy. They were so delightful, so smart, so good natured, so collaborative.
I write to adults as if they are children. Here, I speak to children as if they are adults.
Both of those strategies are the purest demonstration of respect.
Feel free to learn more about the Bexley Education Foundation.