When Meghan from Starfire calls on behalf of her client and asks if I can meet, I don’t hesitate.
I know about Starfire through my friend Lucy’s daughter who attends and she loves it. That’s enough of an endorsement for me. Launched in 2008, Starfire works to strengthen ties between people with disabilities and the local community. They arm their program participants with the skills to make their own way in the world by focusing on their unique gifts.
“Our seniors work on yearlong projects,” Meghan explains. “I was hoping you’d be willing to meet with one of our seniors who is a writer?” Her question ends in a hopeful open-ended curl.
We agree to meet at a local Starbucks. It seems fitting for two writers to discuss their craft over lattes. Meghan arrives with Kevin, a tall husky boy who looks to be in his early 20s, and two women both named Ashley. I find a table while the four of then belly up and order a drink.
Here’s the thing about writers. We love to talk about craft and process. You throw ten writers in one room and you’ll hear ten different ways to get to the same end. One constant remains. Writers write. Everyday.
Writing isn’t for those afraid of commitment. It isn’t for those afraid of failure or unwilling to delete the last five pages of a manuscript because it doesn’t work. Writing’s brutal, unforgiving and wonderful. That’s how I start.
From Kevin’s expression, I can see his interest wane. I switch gears.
“Tell me what you like to write,” I prompt. “Maybe even sketch out a rough outline.”
His face animates and his hands gesture and he begins to describe his love of Power Rangers and science fiction. He shows me two drafts of works in progress. He describes in detail several Power Ranger episodes (of which I’m familiar having three boys) and tells me how he’s going to write a story just like that.
“That’s a great start,” I say. “Be sure to put your voice in your story. Tell the story how you want to tell it. No one else can do that but you.”
I explain fast writes, a technique to write before your internal critic clogs your words. When I offer suggestions about short story ideas and placing a Power Ranger in an unexpected location like Kroger and exploring what happens, Kevin’s face crinkles in confusion.
“Where would you put them? Where’s the craziest place you can imagine? What would happen if they were there?” I don’t want to steer the car, I’m only a volunteer asked to help guide it down a road. He needs to pick the path.
“I think that’s silly,” he says before quickly adding, “no offense.”
Meghan calls the next day to thank me for taking the time to meet. She hems and haws a bit and tells me that Kevin won’t be working with me after all. I think she’s afraid she’s hurting my feelings.
“It’s completely OK,” I say.
“But I have someone else who I think would be perfect,” she says. “One of our seniors is putting together a yearlong project on kindness. Do you think you could help mentor her?”
That sounds right up my alley, I think.