It's not the class they want, it's the person they can be in that class.
by Kate St. Vincent Vogl
Even though 10-year-old girls fill after-school hours with dance and piano and karate and Girl Scouts, they still find the time to devour books. This I know because at the Loft Literary Center I get to see them explore what's so compelling about Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen--and others like Fireheart who haven't graced any marquees (yet). These girls insist books are so much better than movies.
May they remember the importance of this deeper understanding when they're all grown up.
When I can, I limit classes to just girls. I enjoy teaching boys, too, but what matters most to me is helping girls who hesitate to dare share the ideas welling up within them. It's worth it, too, for the girls who don't hesitate to lead (or tell scary stories) no matter who's sitting in the next chair.
Through storytelling, girls can learn that a character must go out and do something--it's not enough to have something done to them. They learn conflict isn't something to avoid, but rather something to head straight into. Problems help develop characters.
The girls put ideas into practice by brainstorming characters and seeing what happens. In my last class, they put together a mouse that sees details no one else can see and a mustached alien who's out to conquer new worlds but is afraid of his wife. In this way, their ideas become real, something to act upon. This is the power of story.
Though they write mostly fiction, I've seen the occasional memoir. One shared with me 11 handwritten pages about being an anorexic. I was struck by how well she captured it all: the mother's loss of hope, the father's frustration, her yearning to be well, her conflicting desire to be in control. Heartbreakingly real--and yet there, on the page, the gleaming power of all this girl could accomplish. Of what she could see, of what she could handle.
I want girls to know that all they have to share is valuable. With shining eyes they talk about their next story, the next class. It's not the class they want, it's the person they can be in that class. May they always have a place they can be so. May that be everywhere.
Kate St. Vincent Vogl is the author of "Lost & Found: A Memoir of Mothers." She teaches at the Loft Literary Center and lives in Plymouth. www.katevogl.com, www.loft.com