Taking the Stage in Brookline
It’s impossible to describe how exciting it was to speak to an audience of 350 sixth-grade students at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Massachusetts last week! First of all, I love this neighborhood. Second of all, I taught sixth-grade in this town. Third of all, it was in this very theater nine years ago that I sat in the audience with my students and heard YA author David Almond speak about his book, Skellig.
When I was walking back to school after hearing David Almond, I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna give this writing thing a whirl.” That afternoon I began serious work on A Thousand Never Evers.
This gorgeous old theater has been renovated since then. Last week students sat in plushy red seats and watched a clip from Eyes on the Prize on a giant state-of-the-art screen.
As the segment came to an end, I tried to figure out how I’d get onto the stage. I couldn’t see any steps up, so I decided I’d probably have to go backstage and then step out through the curtain and in front of the movie screen after I was introduced.
Easier said than done!
First of all, those velvet red curtains weigh a ton. Try pushing one of those babies aside as you squeeze yourself sideways through cable wires. I’m only glad that the spotlight wasn’t on me yet, because as I walked onto the stage in the dark, I almost fell flat on my face.
Small technicalities aside, I had the best time ever talking to students about the pivotal role young people played in the civil rights movement and how they helped to chart a new course for our nation. I used PowerPoint to show some of the old newspapers from 1963 that I examined while researching A Thousand Never Evers. And I also mentioned the grant that I received from the Brookline Education Foundation, which enabled me to hire some of my former students to edit the first draft of my book way back when. As soon as I said that, one girl excitedly raised her hand. “My brother was one of your editors!” she said.
The sixth-grade students came to Coolidge Corner Theater from eight different schools. They were all so well prepared and had a million and one questions. I was thrilled to receive many emails from them in the following days.
After the event at the Theater, I spoke to several classes of fifth grade students at the Edward Devotion School about how to grow a story and the power of a question. Then I enjoyed a tea with former colleagues in the library.
A thousand thanks to Mary Matthews, Skye Kramer, Geoff Tegnell, and all the Brookline teachers and students for their hard work and excellent planning!