Regardless of your age, gender, color, background, or which side of town you live on, you deserve to be happy, and always know that you are precious and uniquely special. Please don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.
One of my most enjoyable and greatest perks as a youth advocate and a writer is getting invited to various schools for classroom book talks. I absolutely love being around young, engaging students who genuinely care about their future and what’s currently going on, not only in America, but what’s happening all over the world as well.
Of course, these book talk sessions are primarily about one or two of my books, in which the students had read for a class assignment. But often, these book talks will slightly go off-topic, as a student may ask me a personal question, or perhaps, a student may get inspired to share some personal experience from their own life which relates to the story we’re discussing.
Just before summer break recently, in Kansas, a student had asked me what had inspired me to write my first novel ‘Wet Matches’? I love answering this particular question because it gives me a chance to talk about turning your negative experiences into something positive.
On the surface, we all know that ‘Wet Matches’ is about five homeless teens getting a second chance at a better life when a California couple takes them in. But the deeper origin and backstory of why I wrote ‘Wet Matches’ stems from my memory of being called the N-word at age 5 by a bigoted White man at a grocery store in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
I’ll never forget how low and dirty I felt when he’d called me that awful name. It made me feel worthless, like ‘wet matches’. So, as I got older and started to write more and more, I eventually turned this awful childhood experience into something positive. As I began to work on the first draft of ‘Wet Matches’, I would make quite a few changes to the plot and storyline but I always stayed true to the underlying tone and central theme, which is that absolutely no one, including the 5 homeless teens, should ever be treated in such a way that makes them feel worthless, no good, like ‘wet matches’.
As I’m telling the students about the deeper origin of ‘Wet Matches’, I always love it when one of the students suddenly feels moved to share a bad experience from their own life and then the whole class gets to weigh in on possible different ideas and ways to turn the student’s negative experience into something more positive.
‘Wet Matches’ won the Quarter-Finals Prize at the Writers Network Fiction Competition in Los Angeles. In 2012, The White House honored me with the President Volunteer Service Award due to the awareness ‘Wet Matches’ raised about teen homelessness and its correlation with rising HIV issues in America. (This 2012 Presidential Award is signed by President Barack Obama, and is encased and displayed in my hometown at the John J. Wright Educational Cultural Center Museum, located at 7565 Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.)
As many of you journey through life, I hope that you also will try your best to turn any negative experiences into something more positive. – Randolph Randy Camp
Learn more at https://www.amazon.com/author/randolphcamp