A few years ago during the annual StarFest Convention in Denver, Kevin and I found ourselves “neighbors” in the Author’s Alley area with Shelly Goodman Wright, a writer local to that area. Over the course of the weekend, the three of us got to chatting and sharing “war stories” as our writing backgrounds were rather dissimilar. After the con was over we stayed in touch thanks to the wonder that is social media and in the years since our first meeting, we always make sure to get neighboring tables at each successive StarFest and even participate in con programming when such opportunities present themselves.
One of the things we learned along the way was that Shelly is a creative writing teacher for the Writers of High Country, a group of high school-age kids who are working to learn the craft of writing fiction and poetry. With Shelly and other volunteers guiding the way, the students have just recently published their first collection of short stories and poetry, Tales of the Strange & Unusual.
Indeed, last weekend while the con was still in full swing, Shelly was preparing for the students’ first over book signing. To hear her describe it, it went down in much the same fashion as I’ve come to expect from such venues as the Shore Leave convention, where fans wielding copies of a favorite anthology are able to run a gauntlet of authors who have a story in that particular book and are therefore able to get multiple autographs in rapid succession.
It was very cool to listen to her stories of how hard the students worked, writing and polishing their stories and poetry in preparation for publication. All were excited at the prospect of taking this bold step, knowing it could be the first of many if they continued to bring the same drive and determination which had seen them travel this far.
As part of our conversation last weekend, I learned something I didn’t know before: As part of her writing instruction, Shelly had occasionally shared with her students various anecdotes, writing exercises, and other bits of so-called wisdom that she had taken from other writers, including me and Kevin. According to her, some of these tips, nuggets of advice and encouragement, and other insights into the craft (and business!) of writing for publication proved informative and even inspiring to the kids. That was nice to hear, though I admit I often have a rough time accepting such comments or similar praise.
Then Shelly presented me and Kevin with copies of the finished book, fresh off the presses and autographed by all of the students, who requested we receive them as gifts.
Right in the feels, y’all.
Although I managed to keep my game face in place while we were on the floor, I have to admit to being more than bit choked up. In my mind, I didn’t think I’d done anything unique or special while talking to Shelly, but to hear that a young writer found value in something I said and that it helped with their own writing is flattering, and even a little humbling as the first thing I think is, “What did I say?” followed by variations of “Was it stupid?” “Did I cuss?” and/or “Did it violate an NDA?” along with assorted other panicked responses. Only one chance to make a first impression, and all that, amirite?
Many thanks to Shelly and the Writers of High Country for including me and Kevin in their celebration of this wonderful achievement. Tales of the Strange & Unusual is published by Many Hands Publishing. Go and give it a look-see, whydontcha?