Yesterday I spent the day at our local high school, speaking to 11th grade English classes about The Writing Process and Voice. What a blast! I thoroughly enjoy these discussions because the kids start out thrilled that they don't have to listen to their teacher for a day, but soon get into the spirit of the discussion and participate in ways that often leave me laughing until tears come to my eyes.
In order to demonstrate how voice varies from author to author, I gave each class a specific line to incorporate into a brief paragraph and then read all the excerpts aloud. Even they were surprised by the results. We had paragraphs about dead bodies, superheroes, transvestites, leprechauns, and rap artists. I also shared opening paragraphs from published works, asking specific questions regarding setting, where they thought the story might go, and what mood the writer conveyed. I even read the opening paragraph from A Little Slice of Heaven, in amongst works by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sarah Strohmeyer, and Jane Heller. After reading all four selections, I asked them to guess which one was mine. Out of five classes, not one student guessed correctly! (I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'll take it as a compliment.)
At one point, one of my daughter's classmates turned to her and said, "Your mom is so cool. I wish my mom would do something useful with her life." I'm betting her mom probably does a lot of useful things in her life: for all I know she's an ER nurse or a police officer or a stay-at-home mom with three kids under the age of ten to care for. Me? I'm just a romance writer. But I thank her for the vote of confidence nonetheless.
Arriving home after a long day, I played my answering machine messages and heard my son's fifth grade teacher's voice. Her request? When can I come in and speak to her class? I'm thinking in two weeks might be good...
I'll keep you posted!