A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being one of three guest authors at Creative Cafe, a new project by some active parents at our local middle school. Creative Cafe was designed to promote the creativity of fifth through eighth graders through poetry, skits, and stories, either original or published by other authors.
Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the school. As you walk into the building, usually the first thing you see is the commons area. That night the opening to the commons was covered with fabric draped over rope and tied back on each side to leave a gap through which to enter. Instead of long tables, the area now held about a dozen and half round tables, covered in table cloths, each holding a lit candle. Christmas lights were draped over trees and a corner stage held chairs, subdued lights and a microphone. A young man played soft music on a piano in the corner. With the normal glaring fluorescent lights turned off, one was transported to a quiet, charming Parisian café. To add to the ambiance, we did not applaud after each performance, but snapped our fingers. I loved it.
The night was divided into three parts with the guest authors reading parts of their books at the beginning of each session. During the evening, students, dressed in long white aprons, carrying order pads, routinely came to each table and said, “Good evening. My name is _______. I will be your server tonight. Is there anything I can get for you?” Each one said it such serious demeanor, I couldn’t help but smile and visualize them saying their words over and over so they wouldn’t make a mistake. As the night went on most of these waiters were on stage performing for the audience.
Not only did the students get on stage, but so did teachers and staff, including the principal. I felt it was good for the students to see their teachers get nervous, mess up their performance, but carry on. (If I could ever find the program for the night, I could actually tell you what some of the readings were.) From Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss to poetry written by a student’s father, the show was enjoyable from beginning to end.I took many, many pictures, but because of the lighting very few turned out. And unfortunately, I can’t publish the ones of the students.
One of the guest authors was Amelia Kimball, the youngest of the guest authors, who started writing Inside Out while in the sixth grade. Her book is geared toward high school students.
The other author, Charles Schoenfeld, read from his book, A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Dementia Ward, Memoir of a Male CNA. His readings, based on his experiences in a dementia ward, were humorous and heart wrenching. His book is on my “To Read” list.
I was to read from my newest book, Riding for Love, but felt reading a romance was not appropriate for middle school students, so I read excerpts from A Jump Into the Past, which is a history book I wrote about our small town. I hoped the students and the audience would learn something about the beginnings of our fair burg.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening. I sincerely hope the parents have the Creative Café again next year. Maybe more of the community will come and see our talented students putting themselves on stage and performing for a crowd. I know I plan on attending next year.