I’m pretty excited about attending this conference again this year! Not only does it mean a roadtrip to Kamloops, but I also get to meet some fantastic authors both of the professional and aspiring kind.
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…
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.