In the weeks leading up to my return to Great Books at Amherst, there was one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about: a brownie sundae.
Of course, when I reflect on my summer as a PA, it wasn’t just hot fudge and creamy vanilla – although I certainly can’t imagine my time at Amherst without the umpteen trips I took to Bart’s for sundaes. One of my favorite memories is of analyzing an Emily Dickinson poem with my young charges and being wowed by their insight – and pretty wowed that we were just around the corner from the house where Emily had lived. It’s not often that counselors expect to learn from their campers, but at Great Books, I did. Every day, their curiosity inspired me.
Never in a million years did I imagine that I would return to the Amherst campus of Great Books as a guest speaker – as a published author – less than a decade after my time as a PA. I thought I might return for a brownie sundae, sure, but as an author? I’d always loved reading, but being an author seemed an impossible thing to me – like growing up to be an astronaut or the president. It was nice to think about, but it just wasn’t possible.
The thing that struck me most on my return to Amherst – and impressed me the most – wasn’t the incredibly insightful, interesting questions the campers asked (although that was pretty dang impressive, too.) It was the spirit of possibility and fearlessness that was palpable in the room of nearly 100 young writers. It was fun talking about my writing, of course, and to find out how much I had in common with the campers. My second book is about Civil War Reenactments, and this was the first time I’d done an event where there were two actual reenactors in the audience – both of whom were campers! Nothing warms a former history major’s heart more than meeting teens so passionate about history they want to live it, or fielding requests for good 19th century primary source material. Even finding an audience enthralled by the minutiae of the publishing process was a welcome delight.
The most enjoyable part of the evening by far, however, was hearing about what the campers were working on. It was their writing that blew me away. Their ideas were so creative, I could practically hear my editor salivating. As camper after camper told me about the books they planned to write, I was inspired by their passion for writing, and their confidence that their dreams would become a reality. For the campers I spoke with, being an author was more than a possibility – it was an inevitably. Once again, I was inspired by the passion for learning and drive for creation that is the heart and soul of Great Books and its campers. Above all, my return to Great Books reminded me of the power of possibility.
The future of literature was in that room. And I, for one, can’t wait to read what they have in store for us.