Author and activist Carrie Firestone meets with sixth grade
Sixth grade met with novelist and activist Carrie Firestone today.
(context for the student outfits: it was also 1980s dress-up day in sixth grade)
She was ready to talk to them as fellow writers, speaking frankly and specifically about the challenges and delights of the writing process.
Her talk walked them through the multiple drafts—five, in her telling this morning—required to produce professional work.
These students had heard about the importance of multiple drafts before, from their teachers.
From Ms. Firestone, it sounded a little different.
Ms. Firestone could talk directly and vividly about the process of producing seventy-thousand word books.
Ms. Firestone had her idea notebook with her, and she trusted students to look through it and treat it with respect.
Ms. Firestone had an editorial letter to show them, and she was OK admitting that editorial letters made authors cry.
And Ms. Firestone had three completed and published book to her name, books students had read, had loved, and had shared with their families.
As she presented, she had students do small exercises in character...
...and in plot.
By the end of the class, students had the germs of stories of their own, and they had shared those beginnings with a professional author, one with whom they had established mutual respect.
By focusing on the editing and rewriting process, Ms. Firestone drew in some broader lessons, too:
The importance of being honest with yourself, and with one another
The importance of treating your imagination with respect, and giving it the fuel it needs
The importance of asking brave questions
The importance of listening carefully to smart criticism
The importance of letting go, even if it means killing a character you’ve come to love.
This is why Gordon brings artists to campus: when they connect with students, that connection helps affirm students own emerging voices.
It gives them a glimpse into the world of those who choose a career in the arts.
And, when it’s really working, that connection reinforces habits and values that go far beyond the actual craft of the artist’s work.
After meeting with sixth grade humanities classes, Ms. Firestone talked with the entire Middle School about youth climate activism, the subject of her latest novel, “The First Rule of Climate Club.”
The timing of her visit was perfect: the school is gearing up for the Beyond COP21 Symposium next week, when the sixth grade is hosting students from local independent and public schools for a day of learning, collaborating and planning focused on climate change and environmental justice.
Presenters include Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline, Bill McKibben and dozens of artists, activists and scientists from local government agencies and nonprofits.
More on this event at www.gordonschool.org/beyondcop21