Today, I returned from a trip to SC and WV. In SC I visited with a group of 2nd and 5th graders at Tigerville Elementary, where my sister-in-law teaches. I hung out with her 2nd graders for much of the day, talking writing (mine, theirs, and others'). At the end of the school day, we headed to Pipestem, WV, to spend time with my in-laws, celebrating my grandmother-in-law's 90th birthday.
A recap: at Tigerville, I began the day by reading Big Chickens by Leslie Helakoski, a great picture book to show alliteration and rhyme, and according to my sister-in-law, prediction. Sure, why not--I missed that but the kids didn't. I then left to videotape students doing writing, since several of the teachers employ a writing workshop-styled class, beginning at the kindergarten level, on through to the fifth grade. It was exciting to see these kids be so into their writing. In kinder, the kids were working on an alphabet picture book, or whatever other project of their choosing, but they were writing. One kid was working on a letter to her Nana. Another was working on a comic book-like piece, using as characters three action figures that he was drawing then writing about. I talked with the fifth graders who had read one of my short stories, "Jump Away," which appeared in both Every Man For Himself (an anthology edited by Nancy Mercado) and Boys' Life. Later, I sat on the floor with my sister's kids again, and talked to young writers about the Writer's Life, talked about being observant. There is a story, potentially, in every minute of the day, if we are living like writers. Later, I taped the fifth graders in workshop, then wrapped up the day by talking to them and the second graders. I loved every minute. I didn't get to sell copies of my first novel b/c American Eagle lost my bag, in which I had the books. But that was cool b/c it was at the house when we got back before heading out to WV.
WV: got there late at night, having driven in with Maria, my sister-in-law, and my father-in-law. We went through Bristol, where, incidentally, it was race weekend, and I'd never been that close to anything real NASCAR. I got pics (or my sister did) of several of the trailers and the Bristol Motor Speedway, traffic slowed down to a crawl since the entire town just about is taken over by fans, walking and riding and driving. I was awed. On the way out of town, we stopped at a brand-spanking new Cracker Barrel, up on a hill. What a view of the mountains. So we get in and I'm back with my wife and kids, and by brother-in-law and his wife and their friends, over from Dubai and Sweden, respectively. On Saturday, we spent a bit of time with Grandma Neely, then left to get ready for her birthday celebration. What a party! Everyone of her sons and daughters, grandkids, great grandkids (which Lukas and Mikah are), and even her great great grandkids were there. What an experience. We enjoyed a walk on the farm, family, and left over dessert. Sunday we spent at Cooks Chapel Baptist Church where my father-in-law taught Sunday school. Then we went back to Grandma's for some last minute family hanging out, then the Ryan's buffet, and back to Greenville, for the night, and I flew out today.