What a night at the Leaky Pen!

The teens writers group met at the Coralville Public library again last night. Karen was out of town yesterday, so I had them all to myself. Fortunately, they’re not too scary.

These kids seem to be torn between wanting more feedback on their work, but not wanting to say anything negative to their fellow writers. So we talked a little about critiquing last night (how it takes time to build trust, the difference between constructive and destructive critiques, strategies for critiquing etc). I had also made up checklists on critiquing poetry and on critiquing fiction to give them an idea of what to look at when they read each other’s work. They had said they have to “workshop” their writing at school, but teachers never tell them exactly HOW to do that. I’m not sure if it was the checklist or the pep talk, but they did actually have more to say about the work that was shared last night.

As usual, the work I heard just blew me away! Luke shared two versions of a Good Friday poem that he had written to read at a church service. I try to keep my mouth shut with this group…because it’s THEIR group. I’m just a facilitator. But I can comment here on how impressed I was by his word choices, line breaks, flow of ideas and imagery. And Erik shared a poem he’d written about the Leaky Pen that made everyone laugh out loud. This was a really playful poem, but what was most impressive about it was its use of language and rhythm.

Erik also shared a slide show he’s working on to go along with a short story he’d written. (He’s planning to read the story aloud on the site and then have the slides appear at the appropriate place.) It’s a wonderful story to begin with (well written and very funny!), but the slides really add something. What a great idea for an online publication. Why NOT make use of multimedia when you’re publishing online? Like I said, these are REALLY talented kids!

So, things were going along just fine. Then Erik got a call on his cell phone. Apparently we were under a tornado warning. So the librarians locked up and sent everyone downstairs to the basement. We could REALLY hear the hail coming down! A couple of the kids went outside and brought samples of the hail in to show everyone. It was about half an inch to an inch in diameter.

We didn’t have any TV down there, just a crackly old radio. But a lot of us had cell phones that connected us to the outside world. We kept hearing about the damage around town…somebody’s husband called to say he heard “whirring” above their house. Menards and Walmart had been hit. The Dairy Queen Bob and I stop at when we’re biking was completely gone. Beth’s brother was evacuated because of a gas leak. There were trees and power lines down all over. Downtown was “a mess.”

The library is right next door to the fire station, so we heard the fire trucks go out. Apparently, a couple of houses had been hit by lightning and were now on fire.

Normally a tornado warning is over in 20 minutes or so, but this one just kept on getting extended. We were stuck in the library basement a good hour and a half (though I have to say, if you have to be stuck somewhere, the Coralville Public Library is NOT a bad place to be stuck). The kids played poker with monopoly money. Several of them were concerned about getting their homework done (and were convinced that a tornado was NOT going to be an acceptable excuse for not getting it done).

Finally, at about 9:45 Ben and I headed home. I was amazed there was no hail damage to my van. Driving home was sort of a surreal experience. After all that damage we’d heard about, I expected to at least see some branches and leaves littering the yards. But there was absolutely no damage between the Coralville library and home. In fact, this morning when I looked outside, there wasn’t anything at all out of place.

I can’t even imagine what downtown Iowa City looks like. I’d love to drive down there and see, but I know that’s exactly what they DON’T want people doing right now. Most of those streets are closed anyway. Apparently there were five tornados that went through the area last night.

We keep hearing about damage that hasn’t even been reported in the news yet. Like the Rec. Center pool being filled with glass from the ceiling. This is just amazing. It’s like Ivy’s book, Night of the Twisters!

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