Guest post by Author Renee Riva
As much as I appreciate the ease of writing stories on a computer, I have to admit, the way I most enjoy connecting with my readers is in person. And not necessarily in the form of teaching, as I have done for many years with school author visits. I love to just sit and talk with kids. I found this out through a program that hooked authors up with small rural schools that have very few students and a very limited budget. I agreed to these school visits at a reduced rate, which was matched by a local literary program. I went to the most amazing places—places I never would have found on my own—unless I got very lost—which I am prone to do. But these schools and kids in out-of-the-way small towns were amazing.
I went to a one room schoolhouse in Eastern Washington with 14 kids, the only one room schoolhouse left in the State of Washington. I drove for hours to reach schools, seeing nothing but snow-covered fields, with schools that were nearly buried in snow—which I loved. But my favorite school of all is in Benge, Washington. The first year I was invited, it had a total of 6 kids—and 4 of the 6 were siblings. It was such a beautiful drive through farmlands and wheat fields to find this town, but the true beauty was in the teachers and students I met when I arrived. I have volunteered to return each year in exchange of a tank of gas, just to stay connected with these wonderful kids and watch them grow up.
The funny thing is, I no longer stand in front of the room and teach them writing, but rather they teach me. On one visit, I had them write what it is like to grow up in a town of 50 people, where everyone knows each other, including the name of your pets. I tell them these are the stories worth writing about. Saving Sailor was my childhood story about spending my summers on a tiny island with my family of seven. Those are the memories I cherish most in this often frantic, high tech world. I have just published a prequel to Saving Sailor, especially for my grade school readers, because they asked me to. AJ’s Ireland was written out of my love for my younger readers in wonderful remote places. My stories take place in the 1960’s, where no one has computers or cell phones, and people drop in on their neighbors just to say hi. These are the things that matter most to me now. And these small rural schools and kids allow me to continue to live the kind of life I love; simply, personably, and connected to real people in real life.
About Renee Riva
Renee Riva has been writing ever since she won her first writing contest in the second grade. She combines her memories of a happy childhood, growing up in a big Italian family, and adds a big dose of gentle humor to delight the hearts of young readers. Renee has published two children’s picture books with Waterbook/Random House: Izzy the Lizzy and Guido’s Gondola. Two elementary level chapter books: AJ’s Ireland and Farley’s Five and Dime, a family trilogy published by David C. Cook: Saving Sailor, Taking Tuscany, and Heading Home, and a fun comedy on Mount Rainier: Happy Camper.
Before becoming an author, Renee wrote for Madison Park Greeting Cards as an in-house contributing editor. Her articles have appeared in Our Family Magazine and Guideposts. Renee is a touring author for small rural schools in Eastern Washington and visits local book clubs who read her stories. Her website is www.reneeriva.com and she can be contacted through Provato Events.