Talking Books with Teenagers

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It was my great pleasure and privilege to be the visiting speaker at the book week assembly for our local Christian secondary school today. I enjoyed being part of an assembly that focused on books and reading. I was happy to see students getting prizes for being the year’s best borrowers from the library. I especially enjoyed the costume display. People had gone the extra mile for sure. It was great to see a Huckleberry Finn, an Olaf, a Where’s Wally (that’s Waldo if you’re an American), an Anne Boleyn … and that was just the teachers. Donations for the day went to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

I thought that, instead of my normal blog, you might like to have a read of what I had to say:

It’s great to be back here. I spent my primary school years here at Calvin. I remember playing kick square, and my great love of Oliebollen started here with the Oliebollen festival.

I wrote my first book in grade 3.

I have written and published two more books now. This one is a murder mystery, and this one is a memoir and self-help book.

I guess you could say that I am now a story teller.

We are all story tellers.

When you meet up with everyone at recess and say, ‘You’ll never guess what happened in science class!’ you are a story teller.

And we love to listen to stories. Whether you end up working as

an engineer,

a plumber,

a scientist,

a hairdresser,

a teacher,

a stay at home parent,

whatever you end up doing, I guarantee you’ll end up telling stories.

We tell stories around the dinner table, the board room, the class room, and some of us write them up into books

and those people are called authors.

I love to read stories. I love reading books. But even more than that I love to hear the stories of real people. Your stories.

You are far more interesting than the most interesting fictional character. Your life is more complex, your reasons for doing things more fascinating, your actions more noteworthy.

One of the reasons I write is to tell the stories of the people I know.

The book I’ve written is fiction. It’s a murder mystery, and that part is totally made up. But in that book I put bits and pieces about people I have seen and known.

I was still working at the university when I was writing this book. I would go to conferences and instead of taking notes on the talks, I’d be taking notes of the people. I’d think

“Oh look at that guy, sitting there taking up three seats. I’ll write him into my book.”

Or

“I can’t believe my eyes, that girl is in the conference but she’s watching a movie with her earphones on, I’ll put her in my book.’

I also put in my book some aspects of the life story of one of my dear friends. In fact, the whole mystery is built on her story, her time studying at the university. She didn’t have a happy time and I was able to weave that into the book, to tell her story in a way. I mean, it’s very well disguised. But she saw it.

One of the biggest triumphs for me with this book is that when my friend read the story —- her story —- she cried. My story helped her to get over her own story and to receive healing. And that was pretty special.

Reading books can do that for us. Reading, whether it’s fiction or not, can help us see the story in our own lives.

Because we are in a story.

You are the main character of your own story.

And your story is part of a bigger story.

I’m a bit strange, when I’m reading a story I often love the bit at the beginning where everything is ok before the thing happens that makes it all go wrong. And I love the bit at the end where everything is sorted out and they all live happily ever after.

But of course, it’s the middle of the story that makes it worth reading.

  • It’s the bit where the hobbits have been captured by the orcs that leaves us on the edge of our seats, furiously turning pages, unable to go to sleep.
  • It’s the part where Aslan has been killed and all hope is lost that has us crying and wondering what the Pevensie children will do now and whether they’ll ever get home again.
  • It’s the bit where our masked hero is mostly dead and the princess bride has gone through the wedding ceremony and we can’t see any way that things could turn out well.

Those are the bits that make the stories worth reading.

Though sometimes I like to just turn to the end to make sure it really will work out alright before I go back and plough my way through the middle of the book.

Until the day we die, each of us will be living in the middle of a story. We’re never going to be living in the happily ever after part.

We’ll be living in the part of the story where the hero doesn’t know if he will survive, where he is battling the monster and just needs to keep going.

We’ve been given a sneak preview of the end of the book and it’s great to know that it will all turn out well in the end,

but in the meantime,

we’re stuck here fighting a battle against evil forces, trying to find where we fit in the plot, trying to figure out who we are.

And the great thing about our story is that it’s one of those complex ones. One of those amazing stories where there are many, many plot lines that all connect in different places and all weave together to make a beautiful end product.

What you do in your part of the story affects others in their parts. It’s a “choose your own adventure” where your adventure links in with everyone else’s.

Nothing we do in our lives is wasted, it all fits into the plot. And you have the choice of which side of the story you are on.

Joining with God’s side of the story means that you are part of something bigger than yourself. It means that you can trust God with the outcome of the story, that whether it looks good to you right now, or bad, He will work it out for good in the end.

One of the best things about writing my mystery was that I got to tell my friend’s story, just a bit of it. I think that every single one of us has a pretty amazing story to tell,

and whether you tell it in a book,

or just live it,

your story is important.

Your story is weaving into the bigger story that God is writing.

Make your life story worth telling, make it amazing.

Fight your battles knowing that you are a part of a bigger army.

And relax in knowing that the end will be worth the fight.

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