By Ellen Leventhal
I’ve had better summers. My house flooded, I broke two teeth, and I gained five pounds. Did I mention my house flooded? I watched parts of my life, including manuscript upon manuscript, float away. In the aftermath, I found soaked stories and putrid smelling poems. Ideas scribbled in journals were illegible, and water oozed out of notebooks and folders. Along with all of this, my creativity seems to have drowned too. I have to assume that it will resurface at some point, but for now, I’m focusing on the creativity of seven and eight year olds.
Every year, teaching at the Writers in the Schools/ Rice Literacy and Culture Creative Writing Camp is the highlight of my summer. This year it saved my sanity. I usually teach older kids, but this time I was assigned seven and eight year olds. I was a bit concerned about working with such young kiddos, but there are definitely some advantages to working with kids this age. Here are a few.
- They laugh at my jokes and don’t roll their eyes.
- They are silly. And they don’t care.
- They ask questions like, “Why does glitter glitter?”
- They write about unicorns and kidnappers all in the same story.
- They love everything they write and think that “wings” and “fins” rhyme.
- They know that writing is better when it’s done in neon green, and the margins are decorated with pink hearts.
- They totally get that if you sing while you write, you can conquer the world.
- They know that writing with a friend is the best. Especially when you giggle and illustrate your work.
- They fall over laughing when they read their work aloud.
- They smile. A lot. And cry. Just sometimes.
These children’s creativity bubbles to the top. It hasn’t been buried under concerns about state mandated tests and grades. They are filled with wonder, and they are carefree. They make me smile. So when I am with them, just for a few hours, I am not worried about FEMA, insurance, and the fact that I need to adjust to a new normal. I just take a neon green marker and write a story about unicorns that save the earth. And of course, I decorate the margins with pink hearts.