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The Pen Is Mightier Than the Moment | 2013 | Beers' Night Out


I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.  

-Mother Teresa


Barney, Bieber, and Butts: Tivoli Writing

I glance at my watch. "I've killed fifteen minutes," I whisper to Amber, my lovely assistant at Tivoli Library. "That only leaves another hour forty-five to fill up. Then we can go home again."

The entire drive to the library consisted of my chanting "I don't want to do this." It was nothing against the children, mind you. My day job involves me wrangling felonious minors. If I can keep muggers and gang members entertained and motivated on a daily basis, five early adolescents who choose to spend their Friday night writing in a library are bound to be utter joys. It was more that it had been a while since I faced down children who wanted to create and it seemed odd that I get to do this. I remember (very fondly) those gifted children I worked with as Vassar College years ago, so hungry to have their horizons stretched and prove just how brainy they were, and I wonder if this is what I have agreed to again.

Amber assures me that I do not do these sorts of things for the money (which is true, but the money is nevertheless appreciated), but because this gets my name in the ears of impressionable teenagers who might then read one of my books and tell all their friends to do so. Also, she seems to believe that I am a good person and want to encourage teenagers to become better writers, but that doesn't seem likely. I don't need more competition.

The kids are charming, even when they are age-appropriate in finding talk of Barney, Justin Bieber, and toilets giggle-worthy (because butts). I initially feel awkward around them because my programming is still set for "chance I may have to interrupt a gang fight." I recalibrate in half an hour, as they persist in being sweet and innocent.

As an ice-breaker, I start them off with a game of Exquisite Corpse, having them each begin a story and then shift it to their left every three minutes or so by Amber's timing. Some of the resultant stories end up truly funny, which delights me, though phrasing one girl's twist ending rescue of a story that drifted means everyone tries for a twist epilogue for the rest of the two hours. Of course, this implicitly meant I was dealing with teens who wanted to please me and earn my praise, which is a novel concept for me of late.

There were the occasional mentions that I was "the author," but we mostly interacted as though I knew who they were. (Before the end of Exquisite Corpse and without formal introductions, I have eavesdropped all but one of their names and use these as though I've always known them.) I understand I should have a level of clout by dint of having written three novels, but I do not think so well of myself that I try to wield this as a tool of compliance. They are, as they should be, the focus and I want to help them write stories of which they can be proud purely because they deserve it.

The hours melt away into a puddle of inside jokes and attempts at satire and horror. Some of the stories are skillful and I am glad that I have had some small hand in encouraging their creation.

As Amber and I walk into town for dinner after the class, one of the girls rides by on her bike and merrily waves, thanking me and telling me she is going to read Artifical Gods. It has been a good evening.

Soon in Xenology: Guys' Night Out

last watched: Igby Goes Down
reading: Sex and Rockets
listening: Ingrid Michaelson

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Moment | 2013 | Beers' Night Out

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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