And the Question Is…

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

“Any man who knows all the answers most likely misunderstood the questions.”

That’s a quote that has a lot of truth. Nobody has all the answers, but writers can get asked some interesting stuff. I promised I’d report on the questions the students at Western Hills High asked me last Friday. I spoke to three different classes – a couple of advanced placement classes and one Senior/Junior English class. The first class had maybe eight kids. They didn’t have many questions. I think I probably should have been asking them questions.

The second class was the one the teacher had warned me would be “energetic.” And then the teacher was absent with a substitute. Talk about nervous. Me, not the kids. But the kids were great. Energetic for sure, but I was in there for their block period which was an hour and a half almost and between me and the kids we managed to fill up the time. I did my “yeah, I’m a writer and this is how that came about” speech. And then I read some out of my writing journal to show how long it takes from initial idea to published book. Not sure how that went over, but they listened. Then we did my “create a character” exercise. Groups always have fun with that, but this bunch got a little noisy. Thank goodness we were way down the hall from the principal’s office. They all had their own ideas of who the character should be and they tried to shout down the other ideas. It was fun.

The third class was a bigger advanced placement class and we were back to the quieter environment and polite listeners. Of course their regular teacher was there listening too and the class time was shorter so we had to rush up the writing exercise of creating a character.

But I promised I would let you know about their questions. Nobody asked a real stumper. Thank goodness. So I knew most of the answers – or maybe I just misunderstood the questions, you think? So here we go with a few of their questions.

“Do you get to pick your covers?” Everybody is always interested in how the covers are designed. That’s one of those misunderstood questions if I have the answer. I told them the publishers usually come up with the covers and sometimes ask the writer’s input. Even when they don’t expect you to give any input. My favorite cover? Definitely The Outsider because the model for Gabrielle is the perfect Gabrielle. Then I liked my young adult novel, For Sheila, from several years ago because of the big old dog.

“Do you know any really famous writers?” I’m always a disappointment on this one. They want me to have chatted with J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. I haven’t. I know some writers, but none whose names I could drop to get the kids excited.

“What is your favorite book that you’ve written?” A hard question to answer. Like saying which is your favorite child when you have a dozen or maybe nineteen kids. They’re all my favorites. The Scent of Lilacs because it got me back into the published ranks after several years out. Discovery at Coyote Point because the setting is based on one of my favorite places on the farm. The Gifting because writing it got me through a hard time while my dad was in the last stages of cancer. The one I’m working on because it’s new. I can think of reasons to decide each book might be a favorite.

“Which book that you’ve written made you the proudest?” I didn’t have an answer for that one. Maybe I should have told the kids I’m proud every time I finish a book. But then pride goeth before a fall, so maybe I’ll just say I’m excited every time I finish a book.

“Can you make a living writing?” Another impossible question to give a general answer. Some writers make a great living writing. Most writers shouldn’t give up their day jobs. I’ve had years I did okay and other years I worked for peanuts. More peanut years than making a living years, but there was never any question of not writing. I am compelled to write.

So no real zany questions. I expected a few zingers, but the kids were kind. How about you? What questions would you have asked if you’d been there? Or if you were listening to any writer talk about writing?