Friday, November 2, 2012

The Future Is Bright- My Chance to Talk with Rising Stars

A rare and wonderful thing happened to me last month. I had the chance to speak with two very distinct and distinguished groups. Despite their differences, each group shared a common label. They were all students. Distinctly different in that both groups were at opposite ends of the education spectrum: Middle School and College.

So what made them distinguished? Well I could say you had to be there because what incredible experiences they were... so let me tell you just a bit about the events- just a bit because it'd be quite difficult to fully relay the true excitement and awesomeness of my time with these groups.

At the beginning of the month, I had the chance to speak with my son's 6th grade class- we're talking over 100 sixth graders folks!! This was the largest and youngest group I've spoken to thus far and I was quite on edge about things before we got started. I hoped they wouldn't bee too too bored seeing as how I hadn't written anything that could be labeled as appropriate reading material for a middle school audience. You can't imagine my surprise when it was time to talk to this energetic crowd and have them appear literally riveted on every word. My talk centered around the basics of what it takes to be a writer and the process of a book going from concept to creation. I bought copies of my manuscripts, outlines, cover-flats  promotional posters, etc.

And the questions! The questions these folks had-phenomenal! They were so thought provoking. The kids wanted to know about my inspiration, what kinds of books I like, how I handled people who didn't believe in me, how much money I make :-). Seriously, the interest was equal on both sides- girls and boys. As the mother of a son, it was very refreshing to see so many boys interested in the book biz and to see their faces light up in recognition when I talked about my favorite reads and they saw me hold up my copies of Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events. The success of this visit thoroughly set the tone for an amazing week. It was an experience that I'll always treasure.

Two weeks later, I was blessed with another experience to treasure when I visited the College of Charleston to speak with my cousins's Black Women Writers class. Her professor; who also reads my books, was so welcoming. Before the class, she took time to tell me a bit about what the class was discussing. As we chatted, I was inwardly praying that this group would be as receptive as my middle-schoolers. After all, this conversation promised to be a lot more involved and a lot longer.

Again, I was blown away. It was such a multi-faceted conversation. With this group of young women (and one young man) we spoke on a broad range of subjects. We talked at length about the 'stigma' often associated with the romance genre. One issue that I had the chance to speak with the professor about before the class began, was the distinctions between literary and genre fiction. Why is it that when literary fiction- in which the black woman is heroine- doesn't leave us that HEA ending, it is more widely accepted and taken more seriously than in romantic fiction where the HEA is standard? There are those who say a happily ever after ending isn't real. Why not? It was exhilarating to speak with students on this subject.

During lunch, we discussed the fact that black couples struggle with many of the same issues as white couples; not spending enough time together, husband working too much, husband not wanting wife to work, etc... It's not all about finances and how is the light bill gonna get paid this month. Yes, we do live well, go on vacations, are educated, enjoy the theater. Yet there are those subtleties that distinguish us from other cultures. The conversation segued, merging between literature, state of the world, racism, the college experience, movies, music and of course romance.

So when I say it was an Amazing Experience  it truly was. I feel so honored to have had these opportunities. This October was one of the most hectic months I've had in a very long time. These two events made the challenges of the past month seem so insignificant.

The older generations (I include myself in that group) are understandably concerned about the future. We wonder whether the younger generations are serious, are they ready to take up the banner for change and to fight for it. Are they even aware of the need for change? From what I saw this past month, they are very aware of it. They are definitely thinking about the world and their place in it. I can say with utter confidence that the future is bright.

1 comment:

  1. Hi AlTonya, I can't believe my comment did not post on November 2. #notcool! Anyway, congrats on being able to share with two groups and I'm so happy to know that the results were better than what you imagined. It's amazing how our perceptions are so different from reality. Perhaps some of the doubters or those who have not read romance novels will pick up a book and realize that there is a lot of reality in some books and that the HEA is the bonus!

    Glad to know the future generation is really thinking and exploring a variety of topics.

    Good work! I hope you get a chance to have more of these talks with other students.