Saturday, October 31, 2009

Readers Humble Writer

A writer is often humbled. An honest critique from a writing group bites, but helps improve craft. A rejection by an editor hurts, but offers a chance to decide: Have faith and stand by one's story? Or re-think and revise?

Then one day, without warning, a book you have sent out into the world goes somewhere unexpected and drops a pebble in a pond radiating ripples far beyond your expectations. This humbles in an entirely different way. It takes all the humility out of humble and replaces it with gratitude.

My middle-grade historical novel Fire in the Hole! found a home with some very unique college students. At Gonzaga University, better known for its Zags basketball team, a thriving English as a Second Language program caters to students from all corners of the globe. The department chose my novel for reading comprehension class. Instructors like the book because it has an accessible reading level for students learning English, but introduces new and varied vocabulary and a compelling story.

The novel details events in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Silver Mining District, where labor war exploded in the 1890’s. Students from China, Ukraine, Iran, Columbia, and Korea learned American history as well as English words like dynamite, ciders, foothill, canyon, mineshaft, pincushion, seize and surrender.

Invited to the class, I expected their curiosity about time and place. I was surprised by their many questions about my characters, and how much they cared about them. One student wrote a song, with verses to cover the plot from beginning to end. While the class sang, small groups of students acted out the scenes.

I joined their fun and laughter, while wiping tears from my eyes.

1 comment:

Gail said...

What a wonderful story, Mary. A tribute to your work and the power of story - and music - as a way to inspire learning. Thanks so much for sharing. Gail Petri from the Library of Congress