With a book fresh off the New York Times bestseller list, young adult author Marie Lu stood in front of more than a hundred 7th and 8th graders in our library and talked about imagination. Her stories took the students back to her time interning at Disney, to her work designing video games, and to the moment she told her parents that she would not be going into the high money profession they’d hoped she might, this delightful author provided Diegueño students with pure inspiration. She had many, many fans on our campus, and stayed late into the afternoon signing copies of Legend for the kids, but the best part of it all was to hear her talk about the power of imagination and following your dreams, and to see the kids really listen.
I met my first real live author when I was in college. A literature major, I drove to Powell’s Books to hear John Barth read from his latest novel and carried home an autographed copy of The Sot-Weed Factor that still sits on my bookshelf. Over the next few years I managed to take a creative writing class from a novelist named Craig Lesley, and hear a couple of big names speak in person. By the time I heard them, I was well past my most formative years, and took away less inspiration than admiration, more appreciation for the books they’d written than belief that I could write one of my own. Not so with our middle schoolers.
From stories about dragons to teens in apocalyptic landscapes, Diegueño students have been treated to talks by more than half a dozen authors, all organized by the magician, Ms. Coy, who runs our library. The impact has been powerful.
To see students experience a discussion of the creative process, and to see them engage in the discussion of ideas with women and men who have made writing their life’s work, is astounding. The kids offer enthusiastic questions on imagination, creativity, and the hard work that is making art. The authors have responded with smiles, encouragement, and inspiring stories about what it was like for them as they grew up and grew into the lives they now live.
Our most recent author visit saw four female science fiction authors come to campus together and interact with the kids as a quartet of “Girls Gone Sci-Fi.” In an education world turning its face toward STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), I could think of no greater compliment to the great work our science, art, and math teachers do than this.
Do I think the next Stephen King or Toni Morrison is sitting in the Diegueño library? Maybe. I do know without a doubt that the opportunities our kids have, and at the age they have them, provide fuel for lives of greatness. Learning is being inspired, and inspiration comes from many places. I’m proud that one of them is the family room of Diegueño, where books don’t stay on shelves, and authors don’t stay on book jackets.