Category Archives: creative writing

And I Used to Also Work 43 Hours a Week?

So much has been going on since I last blogged!

First, I got to meet Darren Shan. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Shan has been an inspiration of mine since I first discovered his Saga of Darren Shan series (misnamed in some countries as “Cirque du Freak – that’s actually just the title of the first book). I was introduced to his work while I was at Kidsbooks, and I’d taken a call from a teacher who was concerned about the contents of the series. Her grades 6+ wanted to read it, and she wanted to know if it was too dark.

Since that’s not a question I can answer without reading the book first, I thought it only fair to judge the book after I gave it a shot. Wow! I was hooked! Here was a series with simple English, but extremely complex plots and twists.

I’ve been a big promoter of Darren Shan’s ever since, so when news came of him possibly (and then definitely!) coming to Vancouver I was stoked. I immediately phoned Phyllis Simon at Kidsbooks and asked if I could meet Shan backstage, and she was able to do that for me. Let me just say that Darren Shan is a super nice guy. He’s the type of author that makes you glad for his success!


Then on Friday I had a workshop at BCTELA. I’ve been feeling as though my map making seminar has perhaps ran its course, and that maybe it was time to try something new. I had tried a fun hero vs. villain workshop with my CWC students the week before that went over well, so I thought I’d give that a shot with the teachers.
This is what happens when one tries something new:
First, the computer the school had was using had an older version of Power Point than what I was using. I tried downloading the Power Point viewer, but the newest one is only compatible with Windows VISTA. Can you guess which finger I’m showing Microsoft?
This meant I had no visuals. What I did have was an hour and a half to fill. I thought fast! I borrowed the laptop from the Kidsbooks display, because I knew they were using Windows Vista. My student techie helped me to hook it up to the projector … and thankfully that worked! Except for the fonts, which weren’t compatible between my memory stick and the KB Computer. But at least I had photos. The rest I could talk my way through!
The workshop was a huge hit! The teachers had a blast, and were impressed with how easily they could start a story by using my technique. What a great time!

After that, I scooted on down to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (hereby known as SiWC) for the weekend. I managed to make it for the dinner on Friday, and two workshops on Saturday, plus a great party with the Compuserve Kidlit crowd on Saturday night. At the party, Diana Gabaldon read from her newest work and Jack Whyte read from a Broadway play he’s been working on.

Tomorrow I’m off to Seattle to see Walter Dean Myers speak. That should be interesting!

And, yes, I am writing up a storm. I have a writer friend who I have to check in with every day and confess either how much or how little I’ve written. I never want to say zero pages!

Chocolate & Chat

These are some photos from kc dyer’s and my “Chocolate and Chat”, the second of a series of events we have planned throughout the Lower Mainland. It was a beautiful sunny day, and instead of setting up shop inside the bookstore we greeted people on the streets outside of the Edgemont Village Kidsbooks location.

 

It was a fun day, and to those of you who stopped by (either to this event or the one on the Thursday before at Vancouver Kidsbooks) I’d like to say thanks. If you missed these two events, stay tuned for four more coming up at various Chapters locations!

It was a fun day, and to those of you who stopped by (either to this event or the one on the Thursday before at Vancouver Kidsbooks) I’d like to say thanks. If you missed these two events, stay tuned for four more coming up at various Chapters locations!

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.