BY RUTH JOYNTON
For better or worse, the holidays are here. For better: Sycamore Review has officially fired up Beard Competition 09, an in house celebration of all things scruffy. For worse: A, I’m beardless by nature so will not be winning the prize stack of (already free) bookmarks, and B, December means the end of Sycamore Storytime
Sycamore Review gives back to our community of West Lafayette, Indiana, in several ways. Just a few weeks ago, we raised 419 pounds of food and for Food Finders of Lafayette as well as the cash equivalent of 1500 meals. Well known also is Looseleaf, a community outreach project coordinated by Managing Editor Katie Connor, which provides writing workshops to Cary Home for Children as well as the local libraries. Editors as well as other MFAs lead the workshops in poetry and fiction–and the results can be amazing. One student wrote a poem that started: I am an empty boy who likes to flip. We’ve discussed it—some of us poets would kill for that first line.
In August another community outreach project got its start: Sycamore Storytime. Every other Wednesday this semester, I’d show up to read and guide crafts for New Community School’s youngest students, those in kindergarten and first grade. Held just after school let out, the classroom was often on the brink of pandemonium: students zigzagging here and there, hollering each other’s names into deserted hallways, one or two crowding the drinking fountain…and *always* the kid with something pink and sticky on his hands who spends most of Storytime trying to stuff his fist into his mouth.
But then, there’s a moment. With the help of their parents, I get them sitting down, even in a circle. Most of the first few pages are spent trying to convince them they’d enjoy the book, fielding and ignoring questions and requests that have nothing to do what’s happening in it. I notice that I keep raising my voice, hoping that if I talk over them, they’ll listen. But in the end it isn’t anything I do that creates the moment. Somewhere around page six, the room gets calm. Scary calm.
That’s it—they’re committed. Fifteen six year olds, waiting for the page to turn. Like that, like magic.
I hope it stays with them, the power of a story. Safe to say it has with us here at Sycamore Review. As readers, there comes the scene, image, character which forces us to commit to the work as whole. We can’t put it down, we won’t, we’ll go with a little less sleep, and arrive a little later than expected. Unlike many aspects of the holidays, it’s not a magic that dims, eventually to go out as we age.
And to that, hallelujah.