During each presentation the students and I discuss different kinds of writing. I’m looking for responses such as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comic books, and articles. But in response to my question, “What do you like to write?” one brave kindergartener said, “My high frequency words.”
Research is a big topic in my school presentations and I like to show children pictures of the two pilots I interviewed for Nugget on the Flight Deck. I challenge the children to guess where I found real live pilots to speak with me. One boy said, “Facebook?”
During one of my “close encounter” presentations with a fourth grade class, one of the students asked me why I write. I responded that I love words and I especially love the way the slang words sound in Jingle the Brass and Nugget on the Flight Deck. He instructed me that my phrases such as “putting on the nosebag” (eating), “the rods are flashing” (used to describe a fast-moving train) and “kick the tires and light the fires” (do the preflight check and take off quickly) are idioms.
Many students can satisfactorily explain G forces and the way a catapult operates. Or how two trains share the same track.
Their childlike enthusiasm keeps me writing. Every rejection is balanced against the faces that stare at my every move when I’m visiting a school. When I interview authors and illustrators for my column in California Kids! and my website, I always ask them to share their inspiration.
My inspiration is the readers that I am fortunate enough to meet in schools.