Last Stop – Youths Get Musical at Antigua Girls High School

UPDATED TO ADD: I don’t have any more stops scheduled at this writing but never say never – as approached this time around it was manageable and even fun. And if there was patronage to cover in-school writing workshops and/or support book giveaways to the students, even better. Hit me up if you’re either a potential school or potential patron, and I’ll keep you in the loop re future plans as and if they develop.

Pulled in to my last tour stop on my February schools tour, Antigua Girls High School, today. And after a very fun session, I’m having thoughts and feelings…hope you’ll indulge me…I’ll even give you some pictures to look at as you do so…

...to say the auditorium at the Antigua Girls High School [AGHS] was packed during my visit would be an understatement.

…to say the auditorium at the Antigua Girls High School [AGHS] was packed during my visit would be an understatement.

in the 'wings'

in the ‘wings’

…and yes, I still get nerves, no shame in that… the challenge is to rise to the occasion…and usually once I get in to the reading, I do that. Usually. To that end, the impromptu dance competition as three of the girls and their always game teacher Ms. Airall attempted one of the dance moves from the book Musical Youth, from which I read.

"shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop"

“shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop”

"shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop"

“shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop”

"shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop"  ... think you can do it? Ms. Airall can!

“shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop”
… think you can do it? Ms. Airall can!

I normally sign books for young readers with something like “dream”, “keep striving”, “Aspire!” while adult readers tend to get an “Enjoy” and a “Thanks for the support”. Talking to someone today about the power of high expectations in the lives of young people (in our own lives where our parents expected us to push beyond mediocrity to our personal best), I got a sense of where this impulse is coming from. We need to let our youths know that we believe in them, encourage them to believe in themselves, challenge them to resist settling…knowing that we’ll have their backs either way but we love to see them replace can’t with try …(*awkward segue ahead*) as the ones who stood before the entire auditorium to give Zahara and Shaka’s dance in Musical Youth did; try, that is…yes, they tried it…and for daring, they got copies of Burt Award winning titles All Over Again by A-dZiko Gegele, Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis, and (not a Burt title) my own Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, contributed, respectively by Burt Award sponsors CODE and my schools tour partner the Best of Books bookstore.

11006050_10152550656586148_276555076_n (2)

I was thinking afterwards as well about my answer to the question about planning/outlining (my stories, pre-emptive to writing them) which I admitted I don’t do a lot of – not in a methodical way – when it comes to writing; explaining that I like to discover the story as I write it; that’s what keeps pulling me back to the page. I should have explained though about the multiple rounds of redrafts and edits that that first draft goes through…it’s not all write blind, then publish; there is craft and purpose involved in this crafting. Hopefully, they read between the lines.

I tell the truth because, in addition to the moral issues, like Zahara in Musical Youth , I don’t have the energy to remember lies and I’m not good at it anyway, but these kids challenged my best intentions with some of their questions… do you make money as a writer? Not nearly as much as I’d like to but God usually opens up a way for me to make what I need (*fingers crossed for a best seller or Oprah book club selection some day*)… have you ever thought about giving up writing? I would except I don’t have writing, it has me… I just can’t quit it #BrokebackMountainreference … what inspires you? … what doesn’t? … Who inspired the character of Vere in The Boy from Willow Bend?… Vere was his own unique, patch-worked creation who stepped in to what was to me a familiar world, as my world of first memory, a dead end willow tree lined alley… Was the character of the grandfather based on anyone? … sigh, now why’d they have to go and ask that…

I want to shout out the girls of Antigua Girls High School who, under the guidance of drama coach and their teacher, Zahra Airall, won the local secondary schools drama festival; happy to give them copies of Musical Youth as congratulations and encouragement…

Winners ...and #MusicalYouths in their own right ... members of the AGHS winning cast from the secondary schools drama festival collecting copies of Musical Youth.

Winners …and #MusicalYouths in their own right … members of the AGHS winning cast from the secondary schools drama festival collecting copies of Musical Youth.

look forward to them bringing home the prize from the Caribbean leg of the competition… and even if they don’t proud of them for doing what the kids in Musical Youth do: do something they love, meet the challenges that come with that, dare, and surprise themselves.

Thanks, Ms. Airall and AGHS for hosting us (me and the Best of Books) – it was a blast!

****

Previous stops on my February Schools Tour with the Best of Books: Clare Hall Secondary School & St. Mary’s Secondary. Also this month, an interview on Good Morning Antigua Barbuda Teen Edition on ABS:

with interviewer, Cuthbert.

with interviewer, Cuthbert.

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