It Was the Best of Times….*

On September 7, writer Jacqueline Woodson visited my Introduction to Media Studies class. A children’s author, Jacqueline has written too many books to count (but, 30, if we’re counting) and won dozens of awards including the prestigious Newbery the “Oscar” of children’s book publishing. Her latest picture book, Pecan Pie Baby, comes out at the end of this month.

Jacqueline spoke to the class about the publishing industry which has undergone massive changes in the last decade, largely thanks to the internet. Jackie has managed to roll with publishing’s punches and branch out from print: Her novel Miracle’s Boys, published in 2000, appeared as a TV miniseries in 2005. It was filmed in Harlem and directed by Spike Lee and other well-known directors. She rewrote her 2003 novel¬†Locomotion as a play,¬†and it’s opening at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC later in the month.

Even in our 21st century media landscape, Jacqueline urged students to work on the basics: good writing. At the end of class, I assigned students to write the first 300 words of a novel or memoir that might like to some day publish. Here are excerpts from several of the best:

I am almost a silhouette, but the bright morning light form the large windows in the living room sinks all the way into our window-less bathroom. I can see one of those windows just over my shoulder. It is quite beautiful. –Jonathan Alvarado

When someone takes your name, who do you become? I am a companion piece, part of a set; I am a twin. — Sarah Grossman

Students in sixth and seventh grade are usually just entering puberty, a turning point in their teenage lives. Between getting braces, body changes, and new voices, young adults struggle to fit in in school. I was just that, an awkward skinny girl with braces. But I had another kind of brace: on my brace for my scoliosis.–Aveena Ramoutar

I don’t give a damn. I really don’t. In fact, everyone can go screw themselves for all I care. If it was up to me, I would let the world know what’s coming, right away. I can’t though, and I probably won’t do anything about it. In fact, I probably won’t do anything about anything. –Luis Ortega

I tried so hard to avoid it because I knew how I’d end up feeling. You’re a force, you’re a force, you’re a force. You knocked me down and all I wanted was to knock you, too. But I couldn’t even make a dent. I couldn’t break you down. I couldn’t let you i. I couldn’t give you anything to hold on to. –Amanda Rivera

*It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)