Every year, the last day of school comes as a surprise. I prepare for it for months, planning activities to keep the students entertained while the clock ticks down, but it’s still a surprise when it arrives. By fifth grade, the students know the year is over when grades close so everything after that is a challenge to keep them interested enough not to die of boredom.
This year, I filled some of that time by reading On a Wing and a Dare to them. I’ve had some experience reading my work to adult reviewers and having adults read it themselves. Their comments and questions have been relevant and helpful as I polish this manuscript, but they are not my target audience.
On a Wing and a Dare is Young Adult fantasy, so I like to get young adult feedback when possible. Now I know my newly eleven year old students are hardly young adults, but they read voraciously and they were available. But reading to children is very different. Adults respect the effort it takes to write 65,000 words. Adults recognize that those words represent a piece of your soul. Adults temper their comments so as not to offend. Children don’t do that. Don’t ever read your work to a child unless you are prepared for blatant honesty.
If you lose their interest, they start side conversations while you are reading. They laugh out loud and you realize they are laughing at something a classmate did, not your work (which is good, since you weren’t reading a funny part). You start to read a new chapter, and a few groan out loud.
But I never set out to appeal to absolutely everyone. In my class there are students who hate Hunger Games, other students who despise Twilight, some who cannot stand Eragon, and a few who dislike The Mysterious Benedict Society. With my novel-in-progress, I offer them the opportunity to change what they don’t like in a book before it is published. It’s a heady power.
So most took it seriously. Most of them were able to remember a chapter that they loved. They followed the theme, understood the message, and loved or hated the characters they were supposed to love or hate. They gave me a good discussion about a chapter I was having trouble with, and helped me rework the ending.
The biggest problem with reading to children, though, is that they are demanding. They want the next novel NOW. Don’t they realize it took me two years to get this one to this point?
And that’s what summer is all about–writing! I’m looking forward to reviewing other writers’ work and finishing On a Wing and a Dare’s polish. I’m working on a historical fiction piece called Under the Almond Trees, and I guess I’d better start outlining another flying horse saga. The first day of school is August 17–I’d better get busy!
On my Kindle: Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
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