Wednesday, November 20, 2013

G3 - Growing

What I've Learned from My Grandson About Writing

GROWING: A crone keeps growing emotionally and intellectually. Right now I am spending a lot of time thinking and reading about relationships, both those with people around us and those on the other side of the curtain. I want to understand what makes relationships work. I am also interested in learning about meditation.

Paul and his younger cousin Will at the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

      My grandson, Paul Coleman Sain, is only ten years old, but I’ve learned a lot about writing from him. Paul decided over a year ago to become a writer. However, my first writing lesson from him came when he was only in the first grade. I had just brought him some new Captain Underpants books. He took the first book and eagerly began to read aloud. When I no longer heard his voice, I looked up to see him turning pages. I asked why he had stopped reading his book. He frowned at being distracted. “I’m reading in my head, Nana,” he said. “It’s a whole lot faster!”

       Now, you might not understand how that statement relates to writing, but it does. I’ve always kept my writing projects in my thoughts as much as possible even when not working. However, Paul’s words about his “head” began to have new meaning for me when I started this blog at the same time I also started a new novel. How could I find time to compose a blog? I do it, of course, in my head. A blog post is short, short enough to create “in my head” while I walk. All I have to do is head for the computer as soon as I get back. “It’s a whole lot faster!” 

      The next lesson involves not sharing too soon. Soon after Paul began his book, a graphic novel (a manuscript with pictures) called Diarrhea, he began carrying about a big pile of papers, not stacked evenly. “Don’t look at this, Nana,” he said when he left his masterpiece near me. “It’s not ready for anyone to see it yet.”  I told him I had seen all the diarrhea I cared to see, but I also realized the validity of his reluctance. A writer should not share his or her story until it is truly polished. I must confess, though, that I did peek at Paul’s project, just the last sheet. I was pleased to see the label “Eplog” at the top of the page.

Writing is not Paul's only interest.

      Paul has also taught me about the financial side of the business. After he announced his intention to become a writer, he informed his mother that he was not going to be the same kind of writer Nana is. Thinking he might mention the graphic part of his work,  Ginny asked what kind he planned to be. “The rich kind,” he said. I like the way the boy thinks, and I’ve observed that he is on the right track.

       For instance, not long after beginning his magnum opus, he employed his cousin Will to help write. Will was only in kindergarten at the time and formed his words rather slowly, asking each time how to spell what he was trying to say. Paul was overheard admonishing his employee, “Will, if you can’t work faster we are never going to make any money.”

      When we moved into our present home, four-year-old Paul immediately dubbed my writing room “the pencil shop.” Because it is connected to the living room by glass doors, the pencil shop has been a favorite play spot for all seven of my grandchildren. About a year ago, Paul put a sign on my office door that read, “Paul’s Book Company.” This time it was his smaller cousin, Elizabeth, whom he took into the business. They spent most of one day making picture books. Elizabeth not old enough to write, did only pictures. She also acted as salesperson, selling the books done by both of them to me for pennies, nickels, and occasionally dimes. Paul took all the money for his work and half of what Elizabeth earned. At first, I thought I should protest on her behalf, but I didn’t. After all, it was his establishment. My publisher certainly never gave me half of the profit. Maybe the boy really is going to be the rich kind.

     I wish I had known the last lesson I learned from Paul a long, long time ago. I decided at six to become a writer, but I did nothing about it for years and years. I believe Paul might well achieve his first publication long before I did because he has already learned what I didn’t know until I was in my forties. When some creators of children’s books came to Oklahoma to help raise funds for tornado victims, two of Paul’s heroes, Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants, and Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, were among them. It’s been a few years since Paul read the Captain underpants books. Many of those stories he had  read aloud on the school bus to other students, but Paul still has the books. He got them all out and sort of caressed them before going to hear the men speak.

      After the presentation, Paul had books autographed and got to talk to the writers. Dav Pilkey told him that he believed Diarrhea could be a best seller. He went home that Friday night and worked on his project until 2:30 a.m. He learned at ten that the interaction with other writers is vital for getting those creative juices flowing. Things might have been a lot different for me had I known earlier.     

Grace does not plan to be a writer. However, she wrote her first book at six. She stopped halfway through the story to say, "Nana, I got most of this from a movie." I assured her we could call the piece a "retelling." I can assure you that had Grace's story fallen into the hands of a certain Oklahoma publisher along with nearly 5,000. dollars, we would have been told the book was the first step in a very successful career. 

Elizabeth who often claims to be a kitty, but that is a different post.


  1. Your grandson's "Eplog" makes me happy. Love this glimpse at young authorship!


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