Monday, April 15, 2013

Confessions of a Sissypants

"Adventure is just bad planning." Roald Amundsen

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself."  Amelia Earhart

So, okay, I've written about many an adventurer. 

Seafaring pioneers, living in close, seriously smelly damp quarters, offering up prayers and rationing their limited quantities of foul food and beverage down below the decks of the pitching, tossing Mayflower.  

John Adams setting off on horseback [me, I sat astride a horse exactly once, when I was about 9 years old, feeling as if I'd been plunked atop a the broad, warm ridgepole of a living house] to Philadelphia, not quite 400 miles from his Braintree, Massachusetts farm. Picture this earnest, talkative lawyer and his 11-year-old son daring their voyage to France in the winter of 1778. Crossing the Atlantic, whose waves were thick with the ships of His Britannic Majesty, who had less than little use for John Adams or any of the rest of his treasonous buddies at their upstart Congress. 

Teenaged Ben Franklin on his own, a runaway apprentice, hiking across NJ to PA.  Or stranded in London.

Sister Sojourner, long in years (47 or so), poor in pocket, rich in conviction, setting out on foot to speak the Truth.

Teenaged express riders, each alone but for his pony and mochila full of mail, pounding away through the wilderness. 
Dan'l Boone, Adventurer
Daniel Boone. Need I say more? No, I think not. 
Teddy Roosevelt.  Ditto.

True, setting out to write about someone, some long-gone event is a voyage of discovery. There are suppositions to be challenged. Facts to be discovered and verified.  True, one must travel to walk about where others have walked before. Photographing. Sketching. Envisioning the vanished past. Thanks be to all that is holy for historic sites and practitioners of living history at such places as Plimoth Plantation and Williamsburg

 Grateful as all get out am I that I got to do it but it occurs to me that I've not been entirely worthy of writing and illustrating stories about these valiant souls.   I'm afraid that my feelings regarding adventures are more aligned with those of Bilbo Baggins:  "We don't want any adventures here, thank you!..."nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"   That being said, I'm awash with pre-travel oogly-booglies because way too early tomorrow morning I'm off on one those beastly things. By the time any of you read this post, what I hope won't be part of any posthumous noting of my final efforts, I will have well and truly had an adventure to the Brent International School in Manila.  About which I'll write and have pictures for next month's post, God willing. 

I'll have had moral support from fellow INK-sters Deborah Heiligman and Susan Kuklin, bless 'em, regarding changing planes in Tokyo.  They could have advised me to put on my big girl panties and deal with it, for crying out loud, but they knew to be kind to a rattled soul standing, bags packed, upon a ledge and/or brink.  More to the point of this blog, for these 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders on the far side of the world, I shall be conducting writing workshops. Certainly I have done these before and have been charmed, sometimes chagrined, and knocked out more than once by the work of young writers. But because my presentations have generally consisted of 1. my being entertaining and instructive – about history, about writing about history, about finding the facts because making the past come alive but not in some horrid zombie way– before the convened, silent but for their laughter. And 2. a boatload of jolly Q & A.  Working with young writers is a comparatively foreign country. An adventure.

 In preparation, I'm finding a wealth of information gathered by those who manage classrooms every single day – wait. I must go put on a hat so I may take it off to those who daily convey the nuts and bolts of commas, indenting one's paragraphs, and constructing clear narrative to newbies in acceptable forms of written communication. It occurs to me once more that writing is one skill set, acquired by years of writing and reading; teaching writing, quantifying traits, all six, is entirely another.  And nothing is more instructive than preparing to instruct. I'm so eager to meet these young writers, who've been reading my take on the Pilgrims, the Pony Express, Daniel Boone, etc.  Oh to BE there, listening, sharing, guiding, and applauding their efforts. If only I didn't need to GO there.

to be continued.... 


Deborah Heiligman said...

But you're home, right? You are home and it was great! This is what I hear from... you! I am a sissy pants pre-traveler. Usually ok once on the way, but before--a wreck. Can't wait to hear about your adventures whilst there!

Cheryl Harness said...

home again, home again, thanks be to all that's holy.