Last week, I published a post over at Middle Grade Minded about Why I Write Middle Grade. I wrote about how books helped me through a tough time in my life, 6th grade. It’s all so true that my face reddened while remembering the shrinking, diminished, afraid feelings I had during that time. Oh and that hair. That hair. Lord…lord…
Books gave me solace and helped me find my footing at the end of a day. But it was only part of the story, and I want to share the other vitally important thing that happened in middle school to help me become myself – drama class.
Seems simple, but it was profound. I didn’t know the word for it at the time, but a lot of the early exercises we did in class were improvisation warm-ups. Just laughing and making ridiculous noises, or flopping all over the room like a bunch of unencumbered adolescent weirdos. It was awesome.
Why was it so important? I think because improv let me find my voice in an atmosphere of safe risk-taking, acceptance, and creative expansion. The way books gave my inside life power, improv gave my outside life power. Power to get through the day and participate in the world. To raise my hand in class. To look people in the eye. To respond to questions out loud, without doubting myself. Stories and improv go hand-in-hand in my experience. Creation is creation, stories are stories, expression is expression. For me, they were life-savers.
With my book coming out this fall, I feel like I have a unique opportunity to do something cool. I’m creating curriculum for workshops that blend the worlds of creative writing and improvisation. I’m so excited for the possibilities and can’t wait to learn more about the ways we can help kids feel more power, less alone, and better able to let their unique voices be heard – on paper, or in some honking, hooting, nonsensical, gorgeous growing-and-shrinking machine.
I’ll be looking for both geographical and non-geographical locations in the near future (e.g., if you want to beta test with your class, organization, or camp group – get in touch!)