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Fremd High School Writer’s Week Wrapup

    I’ve been meaning to post about Writer’s Week for some time. I’ve had difficulty finding the words to summarize what a great experience it was. Yesterday, however, I found a thick packet of letters from students in my mailbox. Rather than use my own words, I’m going to borrow some of theirs, which moved me more than my own ever could:

    “Thank you so much for speaking at Writer’s Week. You just happened to be the first author I saw, and I was glad I did. Being a freshman, I had originally thought that getting to see authors was another way for teachers to assign more homework. But I remember how you started out saying you were Fremd’s mascot, and you wrote about sex. This made me laugh, and made me realize this week was going to be fun.”

    “I like writing, but I don’t really write that often. But now after your presentation I feel more motivated to write. I don’t mean write for English class, but write to show my creativity and express myself.”

    “I’ve always been told to write what I know. However, what I know is not what is generally considered as socially acceptable: drugs, sexual and physical abuse, teen pregnancy. However, hearing your writing and some of the topics they cover hast taught me that I can break the social norms and still be accepted by my peers.”

    “I liked the fact that you went to Fremd, so you could tell stories about your years here. It was entertaining to hear that you were THE Fremd Viking and that you were able to show us a picture of you all dressed up.”

    “For the past 9 years of my life I’ve been learning all the rules of writing. You told me to break them. I’m pretty sure all my previous English teachers would not be happy with you. I tried writing without paying attention to the rules and I was happy with the outcome. Thank you for that tip. I think writing is a way to express yourself, and if everyone wrote by the rules, all writing would be the same. I think breaking the rules makes you stand out from everyone else. It captures people’s attention.”

    “I also enjoyed how you told it like it is, like when you said you couldn’t swear even though we’re saying worse things in the halls and our parents just want to pretend we aren’t.”

    SmokeLong Quarterly also seemed interesting because of what happens when a piece gets published. Having an artist read your piece and designing a specific piece of artwork for that work seemed appealing to my ears. I hope that one day I might get published in your online literary magazine.”

    “I think it is a nice thing to publish students’ writing. There are so many opportunities that are not given to teenagers. Thank you for helping us get our dreams in reach. I cannot wait to see you next year if you are coming.”

    “I really liked your quote when you said, ‘If there is something you want, just go for it and don’t let anyone get in the way.’ That was very inspiring and familiar because that is exactly what my father tells me. So when I heard those words, it made me sit up in my chair.”

    “I loved how you talked about failing, however never giving up because writing is your passion. I also liked how you shared with us that everything didn’t always go smoothly, and that sometimes you are going to face disappointments. I believe this is not only true in writing, but in life altogether. These things truly inspried me to follow my dreams, too.”

    “Some of your pieces were really funny, especially Stupid’s Rising Up. I found that piece funny because of the way you described how people don’t really think about what they are going to say before they speak. This is very true for most people because they just blurt out what they think or how they feel and that isn’t always the best choice.”

    “It’s nice to know that there’s someone somewhere out there that actually understands that highschoolers aren’t the innocent little angels our parents want us to be. You understand that we can take it We can be mature (when we want to be) and that we know more about the world than we are expected to know or even should.”

    “I liked some of the short stories you read to us, especially the one about the boy and the girl who experimented together and got pregnant. The story was pretty deep in that it covered a very serious situation that might arise in the world of today. Much of the details were left to the imagination of the reader, which adds to the experience and allows everybody to think thwat they would see as best in a story. The way which they interpret the story could also say a lot about them.”

    “Also, I want to let you know that I have visited your website and found some very good stories. Another question that I have is how do your parents feel about you writing? Do they support you and your writing or do they disapprove?”

    “Though I had haven’t had a chance to read any of your books yet, I am looking forward to reading them. The fact that you couldn’t read them on stage has a strange purpose for me because now I HAVE to read it.”

    “I want to be a nurse practitioner and I needed a little push to get motivated because it’s a lot of schoolwork and I wasn’t sure if I could have done it. But when you kept on saying things like never giving up throughout your performance, it made me feel better about myself. I feel that I can become a nurse practitioner and that I can do it.”

    “I also thought it was cool that you were the Fremd Viking and went to school in these very halls. When you said, ‘the cat-walk is the best make-out spot,’ I found it hilarious and could not stop laughing.”

    “I hope that in the future you are able to come back and present again to those who are younger than I am, and influence them the way you influenced me.”

    “I wanted to take a minute and thank you for coming to speak at Fremd. And although you may not have realized it, you really inspired me and helped me realize that writing could still bea part of my life. So thank you for the impact you had on even one student here at Fremd.”

    “I also liked when you said, ‘Follow whatever it is that you really like, and follow it passionately.’ I really liked it because it got me thinking about my future and what I wand to do with my life. I learned from you that I need to give one hundred and ten percent in everything I do so that I can have the opportunity to do what I want with my life.”

    “I can relate to you in ways because I used to do theatre and I still play in band but I play sports, too. So I don’t think you have to be a dork to be in the theatre productions or anything. I thought it was cool how you were just willing to say, ‘Why yes, I was a very big dork in high school.'”

    “i have to say your stores were so deep that they made me want to know more and more. The stories had such real poeple and such feeling that you would feel sucked into it. I still wonder what those people are doing now if they are real or unreal.”

    “I always wondered what the process of getting published was like and it’s very interesting how difficult it was. It’s good to know though, that I can just go on your website if I wanted to find out more about it. Is it hard to decide which people to publish?”

    “I also love how you said don’t be afraid to break the rules. I came form a strict Catholic school before Fremd and I feel like I can get away with anything when it comes to writing now.”

    “Not to mention that you are reading poems about teenagers losing their viriginity, On the Berm This is not a topic most adults are comfortable talking about with this type of audience. I am really glad that you did read this poem; it isn’t ever day that you get to see the vulnerability boys feel in high school or the other side of sex. The side that isn’t about passion or lust but about connecting with someone you trust and care about. How you got my peers to act so mature while you openly spoke about a topic that is so touchy I don’t think I will ever fully understand.”

    “It is always exciting to see past Fremd graduates that have done something very cool after high school and visit the school again. This helps me know that I can also become successful at the things I love to do, just as you do with writing.”

    “I love the fact that you said how you like when people break the rules of writing on purpose and I just thought that was so cool.”

    That’s one snippet from each of the letters I received. Some of the things in the letters that I haven’t shared here particularly moved me, in how much of their personal lives they allowed me to see. In particular, the letter with the quote about “write what I know” blew me away. I am deeply humbled and grateful for the trust that was in all of these letters, but particularly that one.

    The entire experience was amazing. I may yet write more about it from my own recollections, but for now, the students have done an excellent job of summarizing much of it for me. Thank you, all of you, so much for your letters. And thanks, too, to Gary Anderson and Tony Romano and all the staff at Fremd for putting together this amazing event and allowing me to present at it.

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