Back to the Future by Naomi Kinsman (February Theme)

Though I've had my share of mistakes, hiccups, mishaps and embarrassing moments in all parts of my life, including the literary part, I'm not sure I'd want to go back and redo any of them. In hindsight, those difficult experiences also equate to the moments I have grown the most, creatively and personally.

But when I dug deep and thought about what I'd really like the chance to live over, I realize that I'd like to go back in time, all the way back to second grade.

In my elementary school, and in schools all across Oregon, kids participated in the Oregon State Writing Festival. Young writers, grades 1st-6th, could submit their writing for the festival. Writing with excellent promise was chosen, and the winning young writers took a trip down to the University of Oregon to meet with and learn from authors. In second grade, my story was chosen. I was blown away for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one was that I was so young, competing with kids twice my age. I remember thinking: Maybe age doesn't matter. Maybe it just matters if you put your whole self into something. It was a grown up thought for a second grader, but one that fundamentally changed the way I think about the world.

Without meaning to, we treat kids differently than we treat adults. We expect them to walk in lines, transition from math to reading to writing at predetermined times, and as though they, unlike us, always have something to learn. Our expectations are, in part, to streamline the education process and to meet the very real needs that kids have to grow and develop and learn. But, the fact of the matter is that everyone has something to learn, every day of their lives. It's only when we find ways to help kids understand that their voices matter, that putting their whole hearts into something matters, not just because they might get into Stanford someday, but because their unique perspective, right now, can teach US something, that we truly value kids for who they are. And by valuing them, we do for young dreamers what the writing festival did for me. We help to unlock that part of a person that believes that giving their all, their absolute all, is worth the hard work. If they don't believe this with their hearts, they will give up when the going gets rough.

So, I'd go back to the past, like Michael J. Fox does in Back to the Future. I wouldn't go to change anything, but to witness the crucial moment when I changed, fundamentally. To see it now, from my adult perspective, and then to bring my deeper understanding back to my current life, now. I'd let the essence of that moment burn bright, let it motivate and inform me in my current work with young writers.

It's funny, writing about it is a little like going "back to the future." The power of writing to help me relive an important moment, is just another reason that writing is such an important part of my life. Maybe I'll write out the whole scene, moment-by-moment and see what else I can bring back into focus. Happy writing to you all!


  1. I love this idea--that writing for kids is a chance to go back in time!

  2. The idea of identifying crucial moments of fundamental change is intriguing. (I remember a writing class in which we were instructed to write about a 'coming of age' moment. Most people wrote about first kisses, dates, etc. My moment? When I realized my mother was actually right. That and the fact that I preferred watching CNN over MTV!)


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