Teach to Learn
I gave a presentation on the relevance of historical fiction at the Civil War Sesquicentennial in Appomattox. Many in my audience only read nonfiction and felt historical fiction was a waste of their time. I believe in the merits of historical fiction, and it’s my favorite genre to read and write. But why? I worked hard on that question. What value do my books have for my readers, or are they just entertainment? While refining my arguments and defining my position, I researched commentary by experts, and all the while I continued to learn.
When I spoke recently at a Writers Day Conference on The Merry-go-round of Kid Lit, I presented a different set of ideas and realities of the profession while “teaching” wannabee kid lit authors. Preparing for Q & A helped me define what’s important to me and what I value in kid lit.
Last weekend I attended a high school class reunion and saw friends from years ago in my hometown, whose learning experiences were the same as mine and we were taught by the same teachers. We were fortunate to have had some outstanding English and composition teachers at our small high school.
I was surprised when several friends, with whom I’ve not had contact for years, approached me saying, “You’re an author!” How did they learn that, I wondered? After I confessed it was true, they asked many questions, that I’m beginning to understand are questions that all readers want to ask: kindle or paper, self-publish or “the old way,” how do royalties work? “You know how to write, why do you go to conferences?” Doesn’t your publisher sell your books?
I hadn’t expected my job to be the topic of conversation over hors d’oeuvres.
Eavesdropping, I realized jobs were pretty much the general conversation at all the tables! Who do you – did you – work for, what did you do, are you retired? Most of my classmates are retired, while I’m just getting started in this writing career.
Though at first I felt embarrassed, I appreciate their questions. The more questions I must answer, the deeper I need to dig into my writer’s soul to answer. The deeper I go for answers, the more I learn why I do what I do and how I can do it better. We really do learn by teaching.