Getting into FOCUS

Everyone has a different high school experience, but mine was often filmed. It was the 80's and our area became a favorite of some big names in movies, an expose on the perils of the relentless pursuit of success* and one of the very first reality TV shows (then known as documentaries) put out by FOX. Yes, my alma mater has a very long, very rich history in the arts, but my favorite thing about going there was FOCUS on the Arts.

Imagine if you will that for one week, every-other year, the public high school voluntarily suspends your regularly-scheduled schedule of academic classes and instead offers everyone to sign up for arts electives instead.** This year, "Imagine the Possibilities" has a 96-page booklet outlining all the offerings from musicians, writers, actors, dancers, producers, sculptors, painters, kinetic artists, comedians, talent scouts, editors, improv artists, choreographers, photographers, singers...the list goes on and on. Three nights highlight Music, Dance, and Visual Arts for both student displays and professional performances, open to the public. It is simply, mind-blowingly brilliant.

And this year, I get to be a part of it!

I'll be on the Creative Writing track, one of the speakers who get to talk to high school teens about writing YA literature. Part of me wants to tell them all the things I wish I had known about the publishing business when I was sitting in one of those desks, but I think I'd rather let them write, listen to one another, and talk about prompts, unique voice, and powerful hooks. Because they're probably as eager to share with me as I am to share with them. I hope we can meet in the middle and watch sparks happen!

So it's back to Chicagoland revisiting memories of brick walls, painted lockers, film crews, and the cafeteria. But this time I'm looking forward to meeting my student host, Alex, the incredible staff of volunteers, enjoy my seat during Dance Night's performance, have a great time with HPHS students, and (if I'm lucky) get my copy of THE THREE INCESTUOUS SISTERS signed by one of my literary heroines, Audrey Niffenegger!

Wish me luck! This is a huge personal "success" dream come true.

* Ironically enough, written by Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, my academic mentor at Harvard.
** This is, quite possibly, my #1 reason that I never accept the excuse "We're just a public school" as viable. Incredible things can happen if you are dedicated to making it so. Be blown away by clicking here:


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