Teachers Write is a wonderful (and free!) summer opportunity for teachers to work on their writing– generously hosted by Kate Messner, Jen Vincent, Jo Knowles, and Gae Polisner. Last summer, I lurked here and there. This summer, I have decided to participate.
Each Monday, middle-grade and YA novelist Jo Knowles publishes a Monday writing prompt. This week’s prompt?
“In one sentence, tell why this story is important to you.”
That was a much more challenging prompt than I thought it should be, but thinking about it helped me understand several things about my work-in-progress.
Because I think the overall plot of my WIP is (intentionally) silly, I’m not sure I’ve taken my writing as seriously as I should. What I’m writing doesn’t feel to me like an important story. I keep telling myself I “ought” to use my limited writing time to tell an important story.
That’s why Jo’s prompt stopped me in my tracks. My first thought was, this story isn’t important.
And that, I think, is the source of some of my inertia with this project. I value my writing more when I think I’m writing serious contemporary realistic YA than when I think I’m writing campy horror about a zombie apocalypse. I take myself more seriously as a writer, and I take my writing more seriously. And rather than telling that inner critic—the one who keeps telling me how stupid it is to write a story with zombies in it, especially when I don’t even particularly like zombie stories—to shut up, I listen and put the project away and start something I don’t actually enjoy writing as much. Only to abandon that too, for different reasons.
Even though I have started several different “serious” projects in the years that I’ve been intermittently working on the zombie novel, I keep coming back to it.
Writing about Jo’s prompt in my notebook helped me understand why. It’s a much more personal story than I was giving it credit for. It is deeply influenced by my love of all things Joss Whedon and Jane Austen and screwball, and it is also very much about falling in love with my husband. Even though there’s not a shred of romance in it. And that’s why it’s important to me.