So Cat Valente told me a story about how when she was in school Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, visited. That visit helped to add kindling to the slowly building fire that would become Cat Valente. That’s one of the reasons why she loves going into schools to talk to students these days.
It’s a reason why I became involved with Second Story: We work hard to connect with neighbors across Indianapolis and collaborate with other community-based organizations that can use our help including youth writing in their efforts. Second Story is dedicated to helping students take advantage of their communal spaces. Just as we do with our in-school programs, Second Story currently brings trained teaching teams made of writers, educators and college students into existing after-school supplemental creative writing instruction in small-group settings.
As a fundraising event, we brought in Catherynne Valente, Laird Barron, and Gary Braunbeck … and we worked them. Between them, they went into six schools, spoke to hundreds of kids, did readings, put on workshops, and in general, were awesome.
I can’t help thinking about how none of us got to where we are on our own. We’ve all had people who inspired us, encouraged us, or supported us along the way, be they parents, teachers, or other writers. (I know I’ve been blessed by having Wayne Allen Sallee, Brian Keene, and Gary come into my life just when I needed them). Giving back is part of the tradition of stories, I believe, and Second story is all about that. Rather than bemoan how “this generation doesn’t read,” coming alongside teachers and librarians to raise up another generation of writers and readers.
Last year, I had the privilege of going into my sons’ school and speaking to their classes. A sea of brown and black faces seeing a face like theirs talking about being a writer. Letting them know that their stories are worth telling and can be told. By them. I saw the same look on dozens of little girls’ faces as they listened to Cat talk about writing about what she could relate to. And that they could do that.
So I’d like to thank Cat, Laird, and Gary for their selflessness and generosity, modeling what it’s like for writers to give back. Also the IHW for supporting and coming alongside this entire endeavor. And Second Story for providing the mission. It was an awesome weekend!