The New Jersey Young Authors Conference is a chance for elementary school students (aka the “young authors”) to talk with us, um, older authors. This year, I was thrilled that I was invited to participate.
Since my presentation was for young writers, I came up with ten rules for writing and had the first letter of each rule spell out the expression “work it out”. A friend reminded me that I had come up with an “acrostic” device. Cool. Right? I was all set to try it out.
The room was crowded -- packed with fourth graders and their parents. But I was ready. I had my props ( slinkies, a kickball, a July 20, 1969 newspaper) and of course, I had my trusty PowerPoint presentation.
Sometimes when I get nervous, I forget words (admittedly, not a good trait for either a writer or a speaker). The moment my school librarian host introduces me, the word “acrostic” slips away.
I wonder what will happen when I get to the “Work it Out” part of my presentation, and I try to recall as many multi-syllabic “a” words as I can.
Agnostic. Anagrammatic. Achromatic.
The intro is over. It's my turn. I begin talking about my book. But I’m thinking…
I’m talking about the importance of stories now.
Anastatic. Anachronistic. Acrobatic.
It’s time to move into the “Rules for Writing”. When “Work It Out” comes up on the PowerPoint, my librarian host writes it lengthwise on easel paper (for the student to fill in the rules).
I am out of “a” words. There’s nothing left in my brain. So I decide to ask the audience.
“Does anyone know the word for when the first letters in each line form a word or message?”
I look at the parents for help. Some shrug. A few look away. I look at the fourth graders. About a dozen hands shoot up. “Acrostic” they say in unison.
“That’s it!” I say, and I feel saved. I’m able to move on with the rest of my talk.
That day, I learned what I already knew. That fourth graders are smart, interested in writing and know some pretty fancy words.