Saturday, May 26, 2018

Poopy Pants and Butterflies

Nerves and butterflies are fine -- they're a physical sign that you're mentally ready and eager. You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that's the trick.
~Steve Bull

"Of course, I'd love to come!" I lied to my son's teacher when she asked if I'd speak to her second-grade class about writing. I always dreaded speaking opportunities. I am a writer, not a speaker -- an introvert who deliberately chose a solitary profession. I hated to speak in public. Besides, what could I say to a bunch of kids about my career?

It got worse. The teacher called the next week to say they wanted me to speak to all of the second-grade classes. They would divide the six classes into two groups, so I'd have to give my presentation twice. Double torture.

I called my sister, Karen, an elementary school teacher. She'd had her share of authors in the classroom. How did they keep the kids' attention? What could I possibly say that would interest children? Fortunately, Karen's memory was better than mine.

"Do you remember when you wrote your first book in second grade, and it was the most popular book in your classroom library?" she asked.

How could I have forgotten? The title of my "bestseller" was The Girl Who Pooped Her Pants. Fortunately, my mother had saved my masterpiece, and it still contained the library card filled with kids' signatures. They'd all laughed at my tale about the girl who got in trouble with her mom for her lack of toilet training. It definitely wasn't brilliant writing, but I had learned the first lesson of children's writing: Meet kids at their level.

To my own children -- all boys -- poop, boogers, cooties and farts were their favorite topics! They loved my book when I dug it out of storage and read it to them. "Read it again!" they told me over and over. I knew I'd found the perfect icebreaker for my presentation!

The day of the classroom visits finally arrived. My stomach was churning, but I felt fairly confident that I'd prepared well. I'd brought a bag filled with some of the books I'd written and showed them to the kids. "Is that really your name on that book?" They were definitely impressed.

My story about the incontinent girl was a big hit! I followed it up with several poems I'd written for my boys. One was about leaving a tooth under my pillow for the tooth fairy. Another was about chocolate cake that cause a bellyache. A third poem described my fat cat that fell off the chair. "As you can see from my silly poems," I told them, "you can write a poem or story about anything! Write about your baby brother, a baseball game, or even a peanut-butter sandwich!" I could see the light bulbs go on in their heads. They, too, could be writers.

The next day, my son's backpack was bulging with thank-you notes from second-graders.

"I loved your story about the girl who pooped her pants!"

"You inspired us to write!"

"I think I will be an author when I grow up."

Many of the notes contained short poems and stories the children had written for me.

I'm sure I'll still have butterflies in my stomach when I get the call for another classroom visit. But I'll pull out the letters from the children and remember the joy I saw in their eyes when they were inspired by a writer.

by Susan M. Heim
This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers ©2013 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

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