Tonight I attended the Sturgis East and West’s Coffee House at the West building and let me say that I was FLOORED by the level of talent and raw courage I saw over the three hours of performances. Music, art, photography, poetry, speeches – just off-the-wall pure talent.
And I’m not sugar coating stuff here, people. I’m not doing the whole, “Oh that was lovely, we are all winners here” crap. Nope, I’m giving it to ya straight: these kids would mop the floor with America’s Got Talent.
I saw so many, many brilliant displays of talent, from a young poet who was destined to be a cross between Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Bronte, to a fierce musician who lived within the lyrics as he played, to the next song-crushing Julie Andrews. I even ended up singing to my radio on the way home, and though it wasn’t pretty, I did it because I was INSPIRED by the storytelling of the students I saw tonight.
I’m writing now because those teens lit my imagination on fire.
As I sat watching them, I wondered if they realized how truly gifted they are? Do they know that what they did tonight is not innate to us all, but a gift graced by fate and God? Will they use their gifts throughout their lives, or will they only look back on high school and recall how they, at one time, could shred a guitar or slam a poem?
My advice to those I saw perform tonight is this: Life is short. If you have a gift, hold it tight and burn it brightly and share it, always, with others. Don’t just leave it behind to gain dust and shadows in your past. Remember this night as the night a packed crowd screamed for you and that you connected YOUR story with them. That is your legacy and donation to the world: to forever maintain your gifts.
I will be there, at the next Coffee House, and I can’t wait to see more!
My keynote address for the evening is below, at the request of several audience members. I promised to repost it, so here it is:
I was raised in a house of storytellers, from a mother who was both a playwright and actress, to a father, whose tall tales and childhood rehashings were legendary. I could lie on my bed and watch the dust drift through a sunbeam and within my mind, I was transported to a world where stardust became its own seductive drug. A place where mirrors were doorways and adults had disappeared from the world.
My imagination was my getaway, because most of my childhood was spent staring at the walls of a hospital room. My body became a battleground for modern medicine. A thousand wars, never fully won nor entirely lost.
Like so many of the other kids on that same 8th floor, I was a prisoner, but no one could confine my ability to dream. We – all of us – were in some way or another, silent storytellers.
We were loners, but allies. Friends, but strangers.
I became that kid who lost herself to the view out the window and who appeared to never fully pay attention, but that’s where they were wrong. I was always listening, always watching. I was forever writing a story in my head, an endless loop of escape that kept me sane.
That is our gift – our undeniable right as people. Our imagination is uncagable and a powerful rebellion that answers only to our own heart.
Tonight, we celebrate the right to be storytellers in all forms, without restrictions or denials. We celebrate that which is ours by birthright and lives only within us, until we choose to share it with the world.
For some of us, it is like streaking down Main Street, howling in the adrenaline rush and the ability to shake our fellow man from the daily grind. For others, it is a quiet but forceful statement of purpose and belief that roots the audience to the ground. And for some of us, storytelling, whether through writing, poetry, music, dance, art, photography or the stage, is a chance to reach out to another soul and make a connection.
Tonight we let our stories free, and because there are those in the world who are unable to voice their own stories, we will speak for them. All the proceeds from tonight’s Coffee House will go towards programs that fight back against human trafficking in all its malicious, hateful forms. Such fundraising efforts will continue throughout the year, so remember to give whatever you can, for there are some souls who have yet to find the freedom to tell their story.
As we kick off the first Sturgis Coffee House of 2015 and enjoy a night of storytelling in all its beautiful forms, I’d like us all to remember the wise words of Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus:
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
On Saturday, February 7th (2015) I will be speaking to a room full of English literature professionals about Young Adult books for reluctant teen readers.
Umm . . . nope, and here’s why: most reluctant teen readers are bored out of their minds by what adult readers deem “worthy.” Quite honestly, I get a bit bored as well since my life revolves around creating worlds and characters that transform semi-readers into total addicts.
So what do I read???
I read what the teens are raving about on their personal blogs, what the crazy YA writers are fangirling over, and what the bloggers are You Tubing over. I stalk Instagram book nerds (I’m one of ’em), and I chit-chat with my own fans to find out what THEY like. I see what Undertow is compared to, what TV shows are running up the ranks, and what movies create hords of screaming fans.
I seek out that un-put-downable ride encased in the 26 letters of the alphabet and I act like a teen when I read it: I must like the cover, the blurb, and the first 1-2 chapters, or I’m out. Because, with teens, that’s all you get – a brief snapshot of a story that better be brilliant.
Sometimes adults forget that teenhood is often a fist full of throttle and to hook those reluctant teen readers, we need a book that matches their wild, racing imaginations. It doesn’t need to be award winning or lauded by a fancy book reviewer in New York or LA. It only needs to climb into the heart of the elusive, variable teenager and take flight.
Teens need books that beat out TV shows, movies, and fancy electronics.
Teens need books that live off the page and stalk their dreams.
Teens need books that are addictive.
If you’d like to register for the Books and Brunch event, please head to the Cape Cod Council of the International Reading Association and register by clicking HERE. It will be held at the Dan’l Webster Inn in Sandwich.
It’s time to read, and dream, like a teenager.
Want to read more about great YA for teens? Read on HERE . . .