Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kids Today. Honestly.

I just went to the annual yard sale in the school gym, and came home with...more books! Rob is thrilled! Maybe this means he gets to build a new bookcase! Instead of painting! And meeting his deadline! (Actually, a new bookcase is so unlikely that I'm saying this just to get my muscles primed for writing fantasy.)

But the big amazement was running into the parents of one of my former writing pals at the school, now completing her freshman year in high school. I ran into her, too, but she prated along about a sign she'd made for the school playground. Very nice, of course, but her parents told me the far more interesting news that she'd written a book, gone to ComicCon, and submitted synopses to a bunch of publishers. She got nice letters back telling her she had to get an agent.

This is not the first kid I've run into who's hell-bent on publication. Even the third-grader I'm mentoring talks about it. I am woefully impressed, by which I mean delightfully envious. Getting a book published wasn't in my sights until my early 50s. Where do these kids get the chutzpah?

I suppose some of it is Christopher Paolini. But also, I think schools today, for all their failings, have a practical approach to education that is enlightening and enlivening. They don't just tell kids to write fairy stories because it's good for them. They make the everyday connections and encourage them to see things through to the logical conclusion.

Can't remember if I've told this story on the blog before (I know I have on the forum I belong to). When Rob and I were building this house, he was figuring out the span of something or other, scribbling in pencil on a spare 2x4. I peeked, goggled, and said, "That's algebra!" He said, "Well, yeah, how else would you do this?" I said, "There's a use for algebra?"

The more I thought about this afterwards, the more pissed off I got. I hated algebra. It seemed like some exercise Miss Whatsername was making me do just because she was a nutcase. (Which she actually was...she left school in the middle of winter and then we had a sub the rest of the year.) Why, oh why, did no one ever tell the college prep kids that there was a practical use for all those formulas? (I'm sure the kids in the wood shop learned about it.)

My mother had the obvious response, saying tartly: "Another child would have asked." Rob seems to have figured it out, after all. And the same is probably true of the publication thing. I mean, Stephen King caught on when he was a kid, and he's even older than I am, I think.

But still. Wouldn't it have been OK to just tell me? I mean, what was this, a quiz show?

Whatever. Kudos to Kids Today. May their dreams see reality sooner than my new bookcase.

PS I just had a wonderful thought. I can put the books where the TV used to be!


Ruth said...

I never had a problem with algebra cos I actually LIKED it. Still do. Yup, I know I'm a geek. :P

How are you watching your DVDs now, btw? Won't you need the TV for that still or have you switched to the computer like us other TV-less people?

Ellen Booraem said...

We do use the TV for DVDs, but also the laptop depending on circumstances. We could easily switch to just the laptop. (Or the desktop computer, but there's no comfortable place to sit.)