Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Visiting OHS: Full Circle

On March 26th, I visited my high school: Orrville High School. Home of the awesome Red Riders.

I was looking so forward to this because this is the place where I started writing--poems in Mr. McDaniel's creative writing class. But more than that, this is where I spent so many good days when I was a teen. I went through the front doors and it was like my mind opened to mini movies. There was talking and laughter in the halls but I was hearing the sounds of my friends, remembering how I couldn't wait to see them each day.

I began the visit in the office. Mrs. Andrea Dodds--who I've known since first grade at St. Agnes-- greeted me with a big hug. It was very much a homecoming.

This was an extra special day because the boys basketball team had won their semi-final game at state the day before and were leaving early to return to play for the championship. There were posters everywhere. My favorite was: "Our fans are better than yours." People were dressed in red, white and black, including me and my "Book Tour Alex" doll. Three guys showed up wearing retro basketball uniforms from the '70's. I think they're my friend Beth Scott Landers' nephews. I had forgotton just how short the shorts were back then!

Ms. Denise Rehm hosted me in the lovely LRC space--she and I grew up in the same neighborhood. Ms. Pat Warner introduced me to each class that arrived and she told me when any players were in the class. I spoke about my young adult book, Shattered during periods 1 through 5. In the middle of 5th period, we all went out in the hall to cheer on the basketball team. The pep band was leading a parade, playing "The Horse"--a song I used to love to twirl baton to--and the team and cheerleaders followed behind. Then the team got on the bus and headed to Columbus.

I went to lunch with my friend and classmate, Mrs. Barb Bupp. We ate in the chemistry lab with other teachers. It made me laugh because I barely passed chemistry back in the day.

After that, I returned to the LRC and held a writing workshop. We explored a writing prompt and then I walked them through how writers use a critique group to improve their work. Throughout the day, students asked good questions. The best part was when a student stopped in to tell me my book had made her cry. I told her I was sorry she cried, but honestly, that's the best compliment an author can get, because I know she and I connected through this book.

I met neices, nephews and children of my classmates. Students were very polite to me. I was struck with how attentive everyone was--which must've been hard since they were all looking forward to the game the next day. The teachers were really into the students and proud of the writing that students are doing. It made me think that it's still a magical place.

It was such a long time ago that I was a student there--more than 35 years ago--but I felt so at home. This is a place that is small enough to feel like you matter and big enough to do your dreams.

The next day, I watched the basketball game on TV. It didn't turn out as any of us had hoped. But I am so proud of this team. I saw grit, heart and smarts out on that court. I saw a bunch of guys never give up. In story terms, they are all heroes.