So, I’ve been slacking on the writing part of my life.  And every time I do, I just want to kick myself.  I am currently working on several Writing Units for my TPT store.  They just take so long because I am meticulous, yet scatterbrained.  A deathly combination.  I am too darn passionate about too many things.  I care about EVERYTHING.  I have tried to calmy  explain this to Ryan.  Alas, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.  Anyhoo- as I am working tonight on one of my 478 projects, I came across something I wrote 4 years ago at the Poynter Institute Writers Camp.  This was a camp run for 4th-8th grade students and teachers at the Poynter Institute for Journalism and Media Studies in St. Petersburg by Roy Peter Clark.  AMAZING.  That is a whole other blog post!

One of the benefits of this 3 week camp was the visitors or presenters.  One day, the author and journalist Tom French spoke to us- the teachers and students.  At the time, I was enthralled and obsessed with Harry Potter.  I would like to say I got over that, but it’s not true.  Well, he told us how his newborn had some issues when she was born and he read Harry Potter to her at the hospital.  Before I say more, I am including below what I wrote after this presentation.  If it makes you tear up, please know this is how I felt as his story touched my heart and reminded me why I read, more importantly, why I write.

The Power of a Writer

By Jessica Bullock

Mildred Helms Elementary, 5th Grade Teacher

“The power of a writer.  Stories matter.”  When Tom French tells a story, people listen.  He creates a sound that grabs you and captivates your attention.  The stories are detailed and heartwarming.  They leave you hanging on to every word, wondering what will happen next, and hungry (actually starving) for more.  Writers have an eye for a good story.  They can elicit a story wherever they go. In their home, in a school, or even in a zoo finding a way to develop characters.

Tom wanted to be a writer since he was 10.  Slapping his notebook in his hands, he was inspired daily by Mrs. Bell as she read to him each and every day.   One day that teacher, who he would forever remember, announced they would be writing a story.  In Tom’s words, this was when a lightning storm came over his head because he was ready.  He was ready to write his own story after years of listening to other writers tell their story.  That storm is never-ending because he continues to constantly tell stories today.  Stories that matter.

In his book, Zoo Story, he tells stories of Lowry Park Zoo, bringing the animals to life and helping us to understand their individual personalities.  On that hot, summer day in July at Writers Camp, every child (and adult) hung onto his words as he told us these stories. Enshalla, a ferocious tiger. 11 elephants on 1 airplane.  Herman, the chimp, who thought he was human.  And the one story that stuck out to us all was Junebug- his daughter.

At 3 months old, Juniper August weighs 3 pounds, which is tripling her birth weight.  She fights to make it through one more day.  One more night.  This is where her father comes in to help wage her war.  Each day, Junebug listens as her father tells the story of Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.  She listens as his story unfolds.  She listens to his losses, his tragedies, and his battle for the good vs. evil.

She listens as he continues to lose people that matter most to him, yet he never gives up.   Junebug may not be able to understand every word J.K. Rowling has written, but her father’s voice, calm, tells her a story. Makes her happy.  Soothes her.  Tom French knows this makes her happy because her monitors go up to show that more oxygen is saturating her blood as he reads the story.

He knows which characters are her favorite. Dobby, who doesn’t love Dobby? He know which characters scare her (so many…).    He knows that he had to change Hagrid’s rough voice. Not because he is a villain, but because she needs to hear the sweet soothing sound of her father’s voice that reassures her everything will be okay.

Scientific proof is in front of him, revealing that his storytelling is making a difference and that the writer of those books, J.K.Rowling has power.  She has power as a writer.  Tom knows this because he is a writer.  His beliefs are confirmed by his daughter.  Junebug receives her strength from the sweet calm of her father’s voice telling a story.  And she continues the fight.  Fighting hard because she wants to know what her father is going to say next in his stories.

With three books published and the luxury of hearing him tell a story- we know the power of Tom French, the Writer.  But now…after hearing the beginning of Junebug’s story, The Girl Who Lived, we know also that one more thing is for certain.

Stories matter.