Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Writing for Change (Checks Accepted, Too!)

Making change is my life goal--not counting back pennies from behind a counter, but offering my two cents from my computer keyboard, and my common sense from the experiences I have both enjoyed and endured. Maybe that's why Barack Obama's campaign slogan, "Vote for Change," struck such a chord in my heart. Change yields evolution. Evolution brings us all closer to fulfilling our potential, and inspiring others to do the same. And we evoke change via communication, which I have chosen as a career by becoming both a writer and a teacher.

Obama's message inspires me now, in this blog, to review my career in terms of its change-making history and potential. With two books in print, I have managed to make change on a small level: children who read my first novel, Knock on Wood, change their perspective regarding the unseen benefits of moving forward in life, even if that movement involves painful sacrifice (I have fan letters to prove it!); teachers who use my second book, Writing Success Through Poetry, to prompt critical thinking and writing in their classrooms within an interactive workshop style of teaching, have changed their own and their students' attitudes about writing; students who have created works from the poetry prompts in my book have proudly published some of those pieces, and now view writing as a challenge to communicate, rather than a task to do for a grade. So my previous books, although hardly blockbuster bestsellers, have produced positive change.

That change also shows up in the teaching aspect of my career. My private writing students change my expectations by writing words that awe me, as well as their fellow workshop students, who then change their level of effort in a desire to emulate the awesome words they hear read aloud in my home. My students change my methods continuously, by presenting different learning styles and interests, to which I must cater so that I may elicit their very Best, and thus, by extension, continue to change the attitudes of their regular school teachers, who marvel at the changes they observe in our shared students. My young writers change their world by writing essays that get them into great colleges, by publishing poetry they created under my tutelage, by winning contests, and by simply winning enthusiastic applause during workshops in my home. I change my students by showing them the power of carefully chosen words, memorable words that really matter, words that resonate in others' minds and act as catalysts for change.

I catalyze change most, I believe, via communication with my own children, who have evolved into Change-makers themselves...and strong writers, of course! Their memorable words not only get them great grades (and a great college, USC, for my oldest), but most importantly, they comprise my favorite gifts, years of beautifully written cards and songs that fill my files with my greatest personal treasures. Their words are treasures that change gloomy days into joyous ones with the opening of a file or the playing of their CD recordings for me.

My husband's memorable words have changed my life for the last 29 years; he claims he's "no writer, like [me]," but he's wrong. His letters to me throughout years were among the precious cargo I whisked out of our home during the forced evacuations for Firestorm 2007. He has made me change for the better by simply noticing how I make change in life: he enjoys my stories about student breakthroughs, even remembers the pieces I recall to him after a successful class; he has written me supportive messages about my justifiable persistence in my writing career--and he lets me whine, too. I think he understands my motivation for writing--the desire to change the perspectives of my readers in some way. Thus, I can enrich the world in my small way. Making small change--no, I'm not complaining about lack of royalty checks!--small change is what my life is all about. Memorable words are my tools.