This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Talking to Students About Fly Fishing

            This week I sat down with Ron Kinninger, a retired school administrator, to talk about meeting with the Reading Buddies next month. Ron and I are both members and past presidents of the Rotary Club of Watsonville, which sends club members into E.A. Hall Middle School once a week to read with the kids who go there.
            It’s a great way to get them interested in reading and to expand their reading skills. Reading a book aloud with an adult who can ask questions and point things out can dramatically improve a student’s reading skills in a short period of time. It’s not uncommon to see kids who have read with a Rotary reading buddy for a year show a dramatic increase in standardized test scores.
            Ron had invited me to speak to the students and Rotary reading buddies on Dec. 5 about my mystery novel The McHenry Inheritance. He felt it would be a good idea to show the kids that real people write the books they’re reading and to have the kids hear something about how it’s done. And since I’ll stand up in front of an audience any time, I was an easy “get.”

Relating to 12-Year-Olds

            The students in the Reading Buddies program are sixth and seventh graders, so we’re talking about an average age of 12. That’s younger than my usual crowd, but I’m not going to be making any special preparations for the age group. Even when I speak to a roomful of college-educated people, I try to use simple, direct language. That ought to be good enough for the kids, as well, and in my experience, kids appreciate being talked to as if they’re adults and hate it when someone talks down to them.
            To begin the presentation, I thought we could show the video trailer for my book, which is two minutes long and starts with an explanation of where the idea for the story first began. Then I could talk a few minutes about writing the book and open it up to questions from the audience.
            Ron suggested something else that I hadn’t thought of. Since my book has a fly-fishing backdrop (the protagonist is on a fishing vacation in the High Sierra when he becomes embroiled in all the crime and drama), why not bring some fly-fishing paraphernalia to the presentation and talk about that as well?

Now We’re Talking Fishing

            Great idea, but all of a sudden I’ve become transformed from an English teacher talking about writing a book to a science instructor explaining how fish feed, the various stages of the insect development cycle, and the mechanics of casting a fly rod.  What the heck. In the new global economy, we’re all required to be multi-taskers.
            Still, it was an inspired idea of Ron’s to add this to the presentation. I could begin by asking how many of the kids have ever been fishing with their parents or an older sibling, then ask about fly fishing in particular. My guess is that most will have been fishing but none have been fly fishing, so it should all be new, yet related to something they’ve done and enjoyed. It’s a good way to get the audience involved.
            It even occurred to me that if the weather permits and the school authorities were agreeable, we could go outside for a fly-casting demonstration. Then I had second thoughts. It’s hard enough to make a good cast when you’re alone, no one is watching, and there’s no pressure. Doing it in front of an audience all but guarantees the yips. Besides, they can see me casting in the video.