I spent a couple of FANTASTIC days this past week at Austin Academy for Excellence, a magnet middle school in Garland, Texas. All praise–serious, high, enormous praise–for the librarian there, Janice Borland. She is every librarian I ever wish I had growing up! I’m secretly going back in time and being her pupil.
I met a lot of the teachers there, too, and huge praise for them, as well–smart, enthusiastic, innovative, grand.
But the kids: wonderful.
From Freya who made me a dog-shaped neck pillow for my plane trips; to Crystal my fellow Harry Potter-devotee; to Jacobe the non-stop reader; and Kristin my fellow dog-lover; and Linh and all the other smart, speedy writers in my workshop; to all the fun kids who came to the assemblies–I wish I could have hung out among all of them for a lot longer than one day. They were a big shot in the arm for me. They upped my own enthusiasm about twenty degrees.
One of my favorite moments from the talks I gave to each of the grades, 6th through 8th, was when I confessed that even though some other adults I know might think it’s weird, I’ve decided to go back to coloring. I realized a few weeks ago I’ve really been missing it in my life, and so I ordered myself the kind of coloring books I’ve been craving most: ones with horses, dogs, other animals, and lots of forest scenes so I have to color in every tree and leaf and flower.
And silly me, I thought this would be a big revelation to the kids. I thought by telling them that story, I might encourage them to go back to coloring if they’re like me, and don’t have a lot of drawing talent, but still want to feel artistic.
Instead, as I told that story, I saw all these smiles and nodding heads. And it made me think to ask: “Who here colors?”
Almost every hand shot up. In 6th grade, 7th, and 8th. And I realized that I was among my people.
I don’t know if every kid that age is still coloring. I’m pretty sure I’d given it up by junior high–just didn’t seem cool anymore. Doodling, sure–we all feel fine doodling at the sides of paper while we’re on the phone, or while we’re not really paying attention to a lecture–whatever.
But actual get-out-the-box-of-crayons-and-color-in-a-coloring-book? I think I gave that up once I left elementary school. And maybe I’ve been missing it ever since.
So just in case some of you out there aren’t among the current crowd of colorers, maybe this post will give you a little nudge. Because I’ll tell you what: ever since all my supplies arrived last week, and I can sit there and color any time I’m on a phone call with my best friend, or when I want a break from research, or when I’m stuck in whatever I’m writing–those are some relaxed, happy minutes. Shading in a butterfly wing in whatever color I want. Playing around with all the different greens for the grass and leaves and bushes. Defying all convention and science and making my sky lavender if that’s how I feel. Oh, the freedom!
So if someone wants to look over at what I’m doing and sneer, “You’re coloring?” I’m going to be all, “That’s right, and I love it. You should try it. It’s the best.”
And one last tip: Don’t settle for the coloring books they have at Target or Walgreens or the grocery store–I tried those places, and they just weren’t right. Go on-line to one of the bookstores and search out the coloring books that speak to you. There are books with costumes, nature scenes, animals, country cottages–all for about $4.00 a pop. Aren’t you worth that?
And buy yourself the full box of colors. Did you know they come in boxes of 96 now? This is no time to hold back. You might need each and every color.
As for me, I’m off to go color in a Dalmatian. Think I might make him blue.