I realized I never reported on my day judging the recitation contest at St. Jude's Academy. This is a small private school in Mississauga, with just over 200 students from JK to Grade 8 (adding more grades next year). I was warmly welcomed and instantly impressed with the kids, who wore tidy uniforms and approached me without a trace of shyness. The youngest contestant was three years old, charming as a mouse, with her hair piled in a bun on the top of her head. She came up to me before the program started and patted my earrings and told me she liked them. (I was wearing my Hostess Cupcakes.) Flattery will get you everywhere. She climbed up on stage and recited a different version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with great aplomb and came carefully down the stairs again on her bottom.
It only got more charming from there. These kids were articulate, confident, well prepared, and engaging. One ten-year-old did so well, giving a very long essay as if speaking and not reciting, that I knew immediately he would win. His speech was on privilege and entitlement and how we can't act as if we deserve everything. We have to make thoughtful choices and not be swayed by advertising that tells us we are better than others. I asked him to email me his presentation afterward. The other two judges (charming women themselves) and I found ourselves predicting what these children would become in the future. Lawyer. Politician. CEO. And the one with the mischievous twinkle in her eye would probably become a film star. When I talked with this particular child afterward, she confessed she didn't like poetry very much. I said, "Oh, but you probably like acting out stories, don't you?" and she lit up and grinned and cried, "Yeah!" Nailed it. Film star for sure.
Afterward they opened up the floor for the students to ask questions of the judges, and I was kind of surprised by the questions they posed. No one asked where we got our ideas for our writing, or what our favourite books were when we were children. They wanted to know when we started writing, why we started writing, and which book we'd written was our best. I had to think about the answers. I started writing when I was six (I still have the one-paragraph story, banged out on the old Royal typewriter), but I really got into it by age thirteen, when my parents gifted me an electric typewriter. My best? Probably the one that has sold the least. And why I started writing? That's tougher.
I can't imagine not writing. I become ill if I don't write. It's as if a pressure builds up within me and has to escape (this blog acts as a sort of pressure valve so some of it can escape when I don't have time to dive into a full-length book). I am constantly telling myself stories and acting out speeches in my head, and I have done so since I can remember. The worlds in my mind are more real to me than the world outside.
Plus I'm running out of things to read...
Hats off to the excellent job the teachers are doing at St. Jude's and a great round of applause for these brave, confident, intelligent children and their parents. The future is in good hands.