Sequels and sixth-graders

So I walked into the auditorium for my talk to a bunch of sixth-graders, and one of them is helping to set up the AV.  I tell him my name, and he says, “You wrote The Portal?”

“Yep.”

“I loved that book!  Have you written a sequel?”

“Well, it just so happens…”  And I pull a copy of Terra out of my briefcase.

“Cool!”

By the end of my talk, though, I was beginning to worry a bit about getting these kids to read the sequel.  The protagonist of The Portal is in the seventh grade, and he’s already interested in girls.  In Terra, he’s heading in to the eighth grade, and things are heating up a bit.  He meets a girl.  They are thrown together in a bunch of adventures.  He kisses her.  He sleeps with her snuggled up against him.  He sees her naked.  He has… reactions.  Who am I to say if this is appropriate fare for a sixth-grader?

And, I have to say, those particular sixth-graders looked awfully young.  The teacher told me that each class has a personality, and this year’s group was on the immature side.  He didn’t seem worried about pushing them a bit towards maturity.  But I sure don’t want to have to explain myself to their parents if they find any of this stuff objectionable.

It’s tough being a writer.

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Sixth-graders are the best people in the world!

I posted this photo on Facebook already, but here it is again for my blog.  I was invited to give a talk about The Portal to the sixth-graders of the Gateway Regional Middle School in western Massachusetts — maybe about 60 kids in total.  A bunch of them had already read the book, and were really enthusiastic.  Yikes, I have some fans in western Massachusetts!  Here are a few of them after the talk, along with some of my show-and-tell items:

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They were all great — funny, curious, and friendly.  I was going back to a classroom after the talk, and those two girls on the right offered to carry my books for me!  I was honored.  I’m always a little skeptical about people asking for my autograph–who, me?–but these kids honestly seemed happy to have me sign a scrap of paper for them.  Glad to oblige!

Here, by the way, are their current learning objectives:

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How would you do on those?  Maybe I could write a persuasive five-paragraph essay, but I’d probably be pretty cranky about it.  I’ve got nothing on brook trout.  I can’t do those conversions, but I know how to get Siri to do them for me.  And that last one–create a replica of a famous monument–would make me hang my head in despair.

Still, I’d happily be part of that class.