Category Archives: creative writing

CWC Summer Camp

Monday to Wednesday I spent with the CWC writer’s camp out in Abbotsford. The scenery was beautiful, with green trees and rolling hills. (Of course, to truly appreciate the serenity of the location I had to ignore the gun shots that went off every 5 minutes – apparently to scare away birds from farmer’s crops…)

Monday we arrived and checked in. My roommate for the 3-day camp was fellow author Lee Edward Fodi. The first thing we did (like all good authors do) was to set up our computers and check for wireless. He had a Mac, and I had my PC. Just like on one of those commercials, he had his up and running on the ‘net in a matter of seconds while I spent a good 10 minutes just trying to get a signal. Grrr!

After check-in we had a sort-of pep rally to get the students and parents in the mood for a great time at camp. Kari Winters, Lori Sherritt and Shelley Macdonald offered their expertise in drama, and myself, Lee Fodi and kc dyer took on the writing portion. Our theme was Circus and Magic!

I had all day Monday free from teaching. I spent the day sitting at a bench under a shady tree (still got burned) and wrote to my heart’s content. It was wonderful! To just sit and listen to the birds sing, the dragonflies buzz around me and overlook the wondrous green valley and feel the words spill from my imagination to the page was heavenly. (Of course, do keep in mind that I was writing the darker side of life filled with night scenes, vampires and werewolves.)

What I discovered from doing this was that inspiration comes not just from telling your students about writing, but from them seeing you act on what you preach. At one point that evening Lee Fodi worked at finishing up a drawing for his next book while I scribbled away my chapters. A young lady named Melanie watched in earnest, and finally said, “Wow. I get to see real authors at work creating books that aren’t published yet.” When I was her age I would have loved to have had that opportunity!

Tuesday I had two 3-hour classes with the grade 6-8’s. Our first class we discussed the book, “Tiger Rising” by Kate Di Camillo. We spoke about the tiger being a metaphor, first for the boy’s caged emotions and also of the girl’s savage anger. I also tied it into circus, and of how many people feel it’s wrong to cage animals for entertainment. We created characters, backgrounds, and even maps where their imaginary worlds might exist.

That evening Shelley MacDonald worked with them to develop skits. I came in during the second half and helped out a little; after all, I do have a short-term theatre background. Wednesday morning the students had a chance to finish any stories they were working on, and also to practice their skits. For during the afternoon, they had a performance for the parents to show what they’d been learning while at the CWC camp.

My favourite parts of the camp were the conversations I got to have with the students between classes. These were enthusiastic kids with big imaginations and it was fantastic being a part of their energy. (And believe me, they had LOTS of energy!)

The best part – from Monday to Friday I get to participate in a similar camp at the Vancouver Public Library. For 5 days I’ll have another opportunity to inspire another set of young writers, and to be inspired by them!

Last CWC Class

I had my last CWC class last Saturday. Now, for those of you who have just tuned in, CWC is the creative writing school that I’ve been teaching at for the past 15 Saturdays. I taught two Saturday classes, and they’ve both just had their wrap-up parties.

It was hard to say goodbye to these two groups of students. My afternoon group was comprised of grades 4-6, all boys except one girl – and I watched them grow as writers. One boy who started out telling me that he was only there because his parents were forcing him, ended the course with one of the longest novels in the class. Another boy who had begun absolutely unable to understand most of the class, wound up writing nearly 40 pages of a book – and he’s only in grade 4! The lone girl began the class quiet, shy and afraid to turn in homework. In the end she wrote several short stories and openly participated in group activities. While I enjoyed all the students in the class, it was especially cool to watch these three improve as much as they did.

We ended the 15-weeks with pizza and a celebration. My students gave me a card, and as I read it one shouted, “Hey! He’s not crying!” Believe me when I say it was hard not to be choked with emotion as I said goodbye to all of them. Saturdays will feel strange not making the trip out to North Vancouver for class.

My second class were grades 6-8, and it was comprised of almost equal boys and girls. The first class no one spoke to each other, no one looked at each other, and no one wanted to share anything they quickly scribbled on paper. As the weeks went by, they all started forming friendships and bonds; even the ones that only had writing in common and nothing else. It was awesome to see them begin to share their work with each other, and even more awesome to have them share their work with me! There were times while reading their stories that I had to remind myself that they were only 12 or 13, as their writing was so good.

We ended that morning with a farewell party as well. We shared donuts and chicken wings (it didn’t help that I was suffering from food poisoning that day!), and enjoyed each other’s company for one last time. I feel blessed to have had a chance to have been a part of their lives.

The best part for me was the chance to share with them the (FINALLY!) release of Pyre. I had the opportunity to show them what dedication and perseverance to the craft can produce. Each one of them learned the value of writing each day, and of reading each day. And each one of them got a chance to see the result of what that dedication has done for me – it’s made me a published author.

Spring Book Hatching 2007!

The Spring Book Hatching was a resounding success! With anywhere from 300-500 people (depending on who you ask), we kept a packed house of revolving (meaning not the same all day) people who came out to meet their local authors.

A big thanks goes out to the Spring Book Hatching planning committee, namely kc dyer, Diane Haynes, Melonie Jackson, Jaquie Pearce and Lee Edward Fodi. I also feel the need to thank Pam Withers for suggesting this idea to me during her 2005/2006 Presidential term over CWILL.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are some photos.

A Great Review

What one student had to say…

In school, we are told to suppress our creativity. We have to write generic essays, follow one formula for math and learn certain words in French class. Last spring, I got the wonderful opportunity to go to a writers conference. Each student at the conference got to go to two workshops, one of them being James McCann’s. The workshop was filled with excitement, because all of that suppressed creativity was being released. His workshop helped thirty potential writers find another way to write.

After the workshop I sent him my story that I had been working on for quite some time, Alone in the Dark. The next day, he sent me a list of suggestions that I could use to make my story better, as well as a list of places to get my story published. Long story short, my story got published in Wet Ink and Potluck Magazine. Without James’ help my story would have not been published, let alone I would not have known where to go to get it published.

-Sarah, a student from

the Surrey Young Author’s

Conference 2006