All ages, 60 minutes
Audience Size: Max 50 students*
How did I become an author? More importantly, how can you become an author? These are the questions I answer in my Who Are You? author talk. I focus on inspiring students to read and write by connecting books and comics to video games and movies. Using Powerpoint, I demonstrate how mythology and history, both past and present, inspired my series, The Rancour Chronicles and my best-selling mixed-martial arts book, Flying Feet.
Drawing on my experience as a bookseller and avid reader I introduce classes to authors they may have never heard of before, from fantasy to sci-fi, from humour to graphic novels. A book list is offered to your school in advance so that you may make sure your library has stock of the books of which I will speak.
Dystopia Role Playing Game Workshop
Grades 6+, 60 minutes
Audience Size: Max 30 students*
Even after the anticlimactic end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, many students are finding an interest in dystopian literature such as the Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Blood Red Road.
This workshop consists of a role-playing game, in which students become “colonists” and have to pit their wits against each other as well as overcome natural, and unnatural, disasters until one colony survives. Learning outcomes include ideas for students’ own stories and a better understanding of what makes an interesting character in literature, what drives a plot, and what dystopia has to teach us.
The student’s stories can be continued long after the workshop is over.
Map Making Workshop
Grades 5+, teachers, and post-secondary students, 60 minutes
Audience Size: Max 30 students*
In my map-making workshop, students work as teams to draw world maps – both fantasy and realistic.
Each team starts with nothing but a setting, and then adds one element at a time to their map, discussing as they go what could be happening in that world.Once the students have drawn their collaborative maps, each student creates one character and chooses where that character lives.
Then, as a team, students brainstorm plot ideas for how their characters, in that same world, come into conflict with one another.
Learning outcomes are story ideas that can be continued as a creative writing unit.
Superhero Role Playing Game Workshop
Grades 2+, 60 minutes
Audience Size: Max 30 students*
This is a fun team-based role-playing game in which superheroes have to save the day. Students make choices about what character they will play, what powers the character has, and what items the character uses.
When those decisions are pitted against conflict ideas, only one team can survive.
Learning outcomes are not only story ideas, but also a better understanding of what makes an interesting character in literature and what drives a plot. The students’ stories can be continued long after the workshop is over.
“James was a Teen Mentor at the Vancouver Public Library’s Writing & Book Camp … a day camp for children and teens ages 11 to 16. The program introduces Campers to the literary world through writing workshops, keynote addresses by local and prominent authors and illustrators, and connections with other avid readers and keen writers.
“James was a wonderful Teen Mentor and we were delighted to have him back at Book Camp for a third year. James saw five groups of teens ages 13-16 throughout the week of camp and gave each group a two hour workshop titled, ‘Finding Inspiration in an Inspiring World’.
“James’ workshops were educational, entertaining and earned rave reviews from many of the Campers. He has a special way of providing workshops that kids find fun while also giving great writing advice and inspiration. James worked with the older teens at Camp this year and he managed to cater both to the serious writers and those who were there more for enjoyment.
“James is great to work with and we hope he comes back to Book Camp as he is a Camp favourite!”
–Hailey Froese, Vancouver Public Library Writing & Book Camp Coordinator
“Several times I had the pleasure of inviting James McCann to be a guest speaker in my week long class on writing for children and young adults. His workshops were very popular with the students, who were mostly adult learners.
“His enthusiasm for his craft was obvious and his style was clear and engaging. He was good at engaging the learners and they found his insights on getting boys to read particularly helpful.
“I have also seen James’ lesson plans and a course outline for a teen writing program and I had the opportunity to work with one of his classes. It was evident that the group enjoyed working with him and I stole many of his ideas: the highest form of praise! He would be an asset to any program.”
–Susan Juby, author of Alice I Think and many other novels
“I know and have worked with author, James McCann, for two years. He has helped me with the Raise a Reader program I coordinate in the South Okanagan, by presenting workshops in area schools to middle and high school students. He is well received and the students interact with him during his presentation and reading from his works.
“James has also been instrumental in assisting me with the British Columbia Youth Write Camp, for 10 – 18 year old writers, held in July at the Okanagan College Campus in Penticton, British Columbia. The camp is a one week experience for over 100 young writers from across the province. The ‘campers’ attend daily workshops aimed at helping them hone their creative writing abilities in a classroom setting.
“Presenters like James give one-on-one information on the process of creating fiction to our youths. In July,2010James will make his second annual appearance at the Youth Write Camp, by request of the young writers, returning for their second year to camp.”
— Yasmin John-Thorpe
President & Co-founder Penticton Writers and Publishers (www.penwriters.com )
“I took a writing workshop with James with several other English teachers. The activities that we participated in were a lot of fun, and presented a very unique way of creating characters and story. I had so much fun that I took the ideas back to my English 10 and 11 classes and tried out the activities on them.
“They had a great time building characters, and the worlds the characters lived in. The Fantasy genre is popular with young readers today, so it got the attention of many students who wouldn’t normally participate in writing activities. Students would definitely enjoy participating in a workshop with James.”
— Christine Knight, high school English teacher
“We were fortunate enough to have James McCann come to Kitsilano Secondary to do a horror writing workshop. With two classes (50 students) of grade eights crammed into a small section of the library, James led the group through a sixty-minute lesson on creating a hero and a villain for a short story.
“James’ enthusiasm for writing is infectious, and the students were engaged from start to finish. Through a power point presentation, James also presented information about his own writing practices, thereby casting light on the writing process. Included in the pre-writing presentation, was a list of books/writers that James recommended, along with a reminder that good writers are also readers. As a teacher-librarian, I found this very useful, and many of the students asked me later for titles from James’ list.”
–Gena Kolson, librarian at Kitsilano Secondary