CWC Class Rates Books

One of the courses I taught this term was a 15-week creative writing class where the students wrote a chapter a week to finish with a 15 (or more) chapter novel. They also designed covers, back cover summaries, and they read and discussed a different novel each week.

Of the 15 novels they read, these were the highest rated and most loved. The group consisted of students ages 10-13.

Tied at fourth place: Found, by Margaret Haddix  and Books of Umber – Happenstance Found, by P.W. Catanese.

Third place: Metro Dogs of Moscow, by Rachelle Delaney

Second Place: Guinea Dog, by Patrick Jennings

First Place: Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper

Student Comic

One of my students created a comic based on the longer novel he’s writing, and though he didn’t want it in his finished book I couldn’t let this wonderful piece just disappear into the recycling bin. This is from Dean in the CWC class – and he’s twelve years old.

page_01_Dean page_02_Dean

Safari Writing Camp!


Student plots out a choose your own adventure story.

From June 29 to July 4 I taught at the CWC Safari-themed creative writing camp. This was quite the adventure, with fellow instructors Lee Edward Fodi and Kallie George. We began the camp with an introductory video, shot by Luke Spence Byrd, and set the tone for a week of imagination.

My part in this was to teach choose your own adventure, traps and dangers, hidden cities and strange, musical instruments. To set the students up for a writing project, we often did a craft,. Here are some of the traps my students crafted:


A giant slingshot found deep in the jungle!


Student crafts a catapult.


Students hard at work writing their stories.


A student writing his choose your own adventure story.

Day One Safari Camp

It seems funny to be “away from home” when you are less than 50 km from home. But as I look around myself it does feel like another universe. I am surrounded by kids and teens, from grades four all the way up to grade eleven. I must admit that I cherish these moments, as this is when I get to observe my subjects in their environment. As an author of teen lit, I watch and learn.

Most of these students I know from previous classes. There’s a familiarity with us, as they know my quirks and I know theirs. The ones whom I’m meeting for the first time get comfortable quickly, and the energy begins high. This is always the way with these camps – a high energy the first day as they promise to prolong their time here by never sleeping. This won’t last the week.

I’m here with other mentors – Lee Edward Fodi and Kallie George. Our theme this year is Safari – a strange theme considering it’s pouring rain and quite cold outside. Perhaps, this theme and get our minds off the fact that Vancouver is due to be denied yet another summer – and isn’t that the true purpose of writing? To take one’s minds off the tragic?

My first class isn’t until 2pm, when I will introduce my students to the theme of lost cities. It’s a favourite of mine, and hopefully they’ll be inspired to imagine their own hidden cities. For now, I’ll leave you with the movie we created, with the help of Luke Spense Byrd, that started off our festivities last night.

Wrap Up

To say I’m high on sugar would be an understatement. In anticipation of hordes of costumed children threatening tricks if I didn’t treat, I purchased enough candy to warrant its own cupboard. What happened? Only two children, the very two who interrupted me at 4:30 in the afternoon as I wrote my previous post. The result? I have enough candy to last me until next Halloween (but I guarantee won’t make it to the end of the month).

Tomorrow, I have some special plans. The past few days I’ve been getting caught up with my student’s writings, and making sure that my classes are all on track. Also getting ready for a possible new course in comic book creation, using Comic Life as our tool. I’ll know by Wednesday if this course goes through…

So, tomorrow, I’m dedicating to myself. I plan to wake up, walk the dog, eat breakfast, and then lose myself in my writing. There will be no email, no Facebook, and no telephone (I never answer my telephone anyway – not sure why I even have one). My only responsibility will be putting words on a page in a way that tells a story. This is not a promise to work – don’t get me wrong. This is my promise to myself that I’m allowed to play. I’m allowed to have fun, and do something that requires solitude and the selfishness of tuning out the rest of the world.

This is a promise that I plan to make to myself more often than I have been lately – and not caring what the rest of the world thinks of me for doing so.

CWC Canada Summer Camp 2008

On Monday I left with Lee Edward Fodi and Dan Bar-El to meet up with Kari Winters, Lori Sherrit and Kallie George at the CWC Canadian Camp 2008. This year it was held at Trinity Western University, which is a beautiful campus in Langley, BC very near Fort Langley (and the awesome Wendel’s Bookstore!).

On arrival, Lee and Kallie raced around their student’s rooms planting secret objects while Dan and I just tried to get our bearings. The theme for this camp was ADVENTURE, and I was partnered with Lori Sherrit of the TICKLE TRUNK PLAYERS. What I noticed most on arrival was the energy the students had – and there was a range from grade 4 up to grade 8 – as they met their roommates and saw the campus.

Lori and I had decided on the theme of “dungeon,” with me leading the writing and Lori the drama. In my class, students learned the terminology of dungeons such as the LORE and TRAPS and CODES or GUARDIANS. I showed them movie clips that reinforced my lecture, and then they began to write.

First they wrote the legend, or lore, of how their dungeon came to be. Then they drew maps, and wrote in secret passageways, guardians of the treasure, and traps to keep would-be adventurers out (or in!). Then they had Lori, who taught them to write a play – everything from story to character. Finally, Lori and I took what they did in both our classes and had them create a comic book.

What I’ll take away from this camp most of all won’t be the classes or the lessons, but the time spent with these awesome students. During free periods, Lee and I spent our time outside working on our own projects. While Lee drew, I wrote. And while we did this, there was always a group of students that came out to join us and watch.

One boy commented to Lee that he had thought Lee’s drawings just came from the computer, and this was the first time he really understood the work put behind each illustration. Another one of the boys told me that he enjoyed writing fantasy, because he could just make things up without any research. When I showed him the amount of research I put into writing my werewolf lore, he was very interested. It was moments such as those, when students got a chance to see working authors and illustrators in action, that they learned the most.

Of course, the camp was not all work. There was a treasure hunt with riddles and codes that had to be broken in order to figure out the course. Everyone had a great time running from point to point, working in groups to be the first to break the codes. It was awesome to see this group of students, many of whom were strangers when they met, working so well together.

The hardest part of the camp is the same as any camp – having to say goodbye and return back to Regular Life. There’s something very special about sharing meals with fellow writers – adult and student – that makes life just feel awesome. Suddenly being at home, typing away on a laptop without anyone knocking on your door to ask a question or slipping a coded message under your door as a prank, that feels a little too quiet. Of course, there’s always CWC camp next year…

Day 3 at the Korea Camp

Breakfast today was egg-coated fish + kimchi + Imodium.

During the afternoon, Lee, Bo and I took our students on a campus treasure hunt. This was a very interesting lesson for them on listening, as we seem to be having a problem with getting them to pay attention when we are speaking. These students like to assume they already know what to do, and then rush into the activity with assumptions and not instructions.

This time they paid for it. We had a treasure hunt with riddled clues that they had to solve. There were six teams, and each team had a different course to take. The only way to figure out where all their clues were, was to concentrate on their own course and find the clues sequentially.

Of course, even though Lee and I drilled that into them, there were some who thought they could jump ahead a clue grabbing a clue they happened upon by accident. There were others who thought they could win by following another team. There was, in fact, only one team who made it to the end with all the clues.

Lee and I had made a short (4 minute) podcast of our planning meeting on the first day. Because some of my students are following this blog, I haven’t been able to post it until now.