I have a list of 100 Things To Do Before I Die. I wrote it in the year 2000 after I saw this Oprah episode where a guy made a similar list which included wild dreams—like playing one-on-one basketball with Michael Jordan—and actually completed them all. Take into account he was filthy rich and able to invest in a basketball team, thus leading to the Michael Jordan connection, but still. It was pretty cool. He geared his entire life to accomplishing these out-there goals.
So I made a list. I was 22 when I wrote it. But I still check it at least once a year and tick off any items I can. You’d be surprised by how many I’ve knocked off (like “be an extra in a movie” or “swim with dolphins”). But some are a bit more far reaching (like “visit every country in Europe”). And on the list are several career-centric ambitions, including “Be invited to speak at my alma mater.”
I always thought this would be awesome—to go back to the buildings you once sat in, face all those hopeful students and tell them how far you’ve come. How you had no idea what you wanted to do when you were their age. How you didn’t have any big-shot connections or free handouts to get to where you got. You’re just like them (and really not any cooler, so it’s kinda weird you’re speaking to them to begin with, but whatever).
Last week I got to accomplish this goal for the second time. I went back to the Ridley Library in Pennsylvania and taught a creative writing workshop to students from my former high school and middle school (I also spoke at the high school in September, hence when I’ve doubly accomplished the task). It was a blast.
First let me say that while I was a good student in high school, I rarely went to the library. Sad, I know. I now write books for a living. But it took me awhile to get to this point, okay? I wasn’t born a lover of the written word, it kinda snuck up on me. So I’m incredibly impressed by any student who would spend their Thursday night at the library listening to some random author talk. Seriously, I was not that mature when I was their age. Kudos to them!
I’m also incredibly impressed with how creative they were! The purpose of my workshop is for the students to work together to outline a new story based entirely on their ideas, using true events that happened to them in real life.
By the end of Thursday’s session we had a tragic, yet beautiful, YA love story between a teenage lifeguard who almost drowns and the substance-abuse boyfriend who saves her. We toyed with the idea of making the substance-abuse swimmer boyfriend Michael Phelps but decided against it. Didn’t want to have to worry about libel suits. So stay off the bong, Phelps!
POP CULTURE RANT: Katy Perry
I’m sorry to all the Katy Perry fans out there, but I find her the most annoying artist on the radio. When her songs click on, I actually jerk in horror and reach immediately for another preset. The latest cringe-fest is “Hot and Cold.” Trust me, you’ve heard it. It starts with the lines, “You change your mind, like a girl changes clothes.” First, the metaphor is cheesy, but even putting that aside, it repeats the chorus on an endless loop, “You’re hot then you’re cold, You’re yes then you’re no.” I think the whole song consists of about five lines repeated over and over and over. And no matter how much I hate it, I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a vicious, vicious little tune.