Speaking to students is one of my favorite things to do. There is something about meeting young writers, full of hope and ideas, and letting them know I believe in them, I know they can do it if they really want to. That seems to me to be the most important factor: desire. The desire to write, to express what's inside, to complete a work of fiction or non-fiction, to want it so badly you won't give up on yourself or the work. When I was a child, my mother was getting her master's degree in education, and she practiced on my sisters and me. She would have writing workshops each summer morning, and we'd sit at the oak table in our cottage at Hubbard's Point. She'd tell us to write a story about crabbing at the end of the beach, or swimming out to the raft, or to compose a paragraph about the clouds in the sky, or something beautiful or ugly or enchanting or disturbing we'd seen that week. In that way, she helped us realize the dailiness of writing, the way our ordinary lives could add up to an essay or a story.
Years later I began holding writing workshops--one day each summer, never planned in advance, just when the spirit moved me--and I'd invite children from Hubbard's Point to come to my house for a few hours of writing. Frequently the cats would join in, sitting on my desk (including Tim and Emelina, shown here in their favorite basket), and providing inspiration.
It is important to be steady and write every day--you must actually write and not just read about writing, dream about writing, or look online for other people writing about writing. You have to do it. And you have to train yourself to be good at it.
Thursday I had the privilege of speaking to Joe Monninger's English class at Plymouth State University. I met his students, told them what it's been like for me, talked about research, heard their questions about ways of writing, possibilities of publishing. Outside, the trees were turning red and gold, maybe the foliage was at its peak, and the sky over the White Mountains of New Hampshire was brilliant blue.