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Levels of conflict

Before Thanksgiving I did author visits in elementary schools in Middlebury and Southbury, Connecticut. Lucky for me, I dodged Hurricane Sandy and the snowstorm that hit the following week. The weather was fine while I was there; the kids were even finer. 

But one kid in particular sticks out in my mind — a third grader. When I asked for questions at the end of my presentation, she raised her hand and wanted to know whether I put more weight on interior or exterior conflict in my stories. 

This is the kind of thing I discuss with my MFA graduate students in creative writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, so I was surprised to hear such a sophisticated query from an eight-year-old. I told her that I strive to address both in my stories, and touched on the layers such complexity can bring to a novel. 

Afterwards, I found out that her teacher is a writer, and had taught her entire class the concept of interior and exterior conflict. Yes, her entire class! Once again I was reminded of how important it is not to underestimate kids. They are capable of so much more than we tend to give them credit for. They are amazing, and that is why I write for them.