Today I did my second solo high school author visit. (I visited a group at Capital High School in Olympia recently with several fellow authors, but going it alone is a whole different animal.) Today, I spent the morning at West Seattle High School in – you guessed it – West Seattle.
In some ways, this visit was a very different experience from my visit to Edmonds-Woodway High School earlier this month (read about that visit here). For one thing, Edmonds-Woodway is in a brand-spanking-new building, while West Seattle High is literally “old school” – in fact, it reminded me of the high schools I attended back in the ’70s. For another thing, while Edmonds-Woodway is predominantly white, West Seattle High has a very diverse population. The groups I presented to had a mix of African-American, Latino, Asian, and white kids, as well as a few girls in burkas.
But in many ways, my experience at both schools was similar. The students seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say (in spite of the studied look of boredom on some of their faces) and asked some excellent questions. The most popular question seems to be “How long did it take you to write the book?” Today, when I asked the students to guess how long it took, their estimations ranged anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. When I told them I did eleven revisions over the course of six years, their jaws dropped. One boy asked, “Was it worth it?”
I wish I could say that I immediately answered with an unqualified yes. But in all honesty, I had to think about my response. The past few years haven’t been easy. There have certainly been high moments – learning that Flyaway was going to be published rating top among them – but there have been incredibly low moments, too, moments filled with frustration and disappointment.
So I just stood there for a second, unsure of what to say. Then I gazed out across the sea of desks and saw all the faces looking back at me and realized that those kids are the reason I write YA novels – it’s not for the money or the notoriety or the reviews, but for the teens themselves.
“Yes, it was worth it, ” I told them. “And you know what makes it worth it? Being able to stand here and talk to you.”
This statement from the bottom of my heart was greeted with eye-rolling and sniggers, but I didn’t mind. In fact, I loved it. Because that’s what teenagers do.