A Safari of Stories

CWC SafariThis week I’ve found myself up to my neck in quicksand, trudging knee-deep through murky mires, and stumbling headlong into pits swarming with spiders, snakes, and piranhas.

It’s all been part of the Safari Story Camp I’ve been leading this week in Yong-in, South Korea, as sponsored by the Creative Writing for Children Society (CWC).

My teaching partner, Kallie George (or, as we like to call her during this camp, Dr. Kallie Bones), and I have had an interesting time of it. One of the activities I had dreamed up back in Vancouver involved eggs. See, I had this idea that the students could write a story in which their safari crew stumbled upon a valley with great clusters of strange eggs, the like of which nobody had ever before seen. Then suddenly the eggs hatch and out pops . . . well, that part would be up to the students. But before they wrote their stories, I wanted them to decorate and dye actual eggs to help get those inspirational juices flowing. It would be a little bit like Easter in July.

But who knew that the logistics of such a simple idea would be so difficult?

In my neighbourhood back home I can walk across the street and buy eggs and good old-fashioned food colouring in about thirty-five seconds. But it turns out they only have brown eggs in Korea and food dye is more or less a rumour. Now brown eggs are harder to colour, but they still work. So that was no big deal. But we had to mobilize a small army of parents to hit every store in a twenty-five kilometer radius just to find food colouring. End result? We ended up with green, yellow, and a red that really didn’t quite work for some reason.

However, after much mixing, stirring, and experimenting, we pulled the whole thing off. (Note to self: next time, just bring the $1.99 food colouring from Canada.)

Curious Eggs

The other activity that we did today with great success was the design of strange new instruments. I thought it would be fun if the students wrote a story about their safari crew discovering a village of some musical tribe who coaxed sounds from strange instruments. Once again, I wanted them to first gain inspiration by actually designing and constructing the instruments.

For this activity, we were ultra-prepared. We had brought an entire bag of  . . . well, let’s just say “junk” from Vancouver, along with our trusty glue guns. We arranged the students into teams and then off to work they went.

I have to say, the instruments they designed were AMAZING. Best of all, most of them actually functioned, producing a wide range of sounds!

Instrument Design

Instrument Design

Instrument Design

Well, one of our philosophies at these camps is to work alongside the kids so that they can see the type of attention we put into our own projects. So through all of the zany activities this week, I’ve managed to squeeze in a bit of writing and drawing myself.

Not all of my work these past few days has been related to Kendra Kandlestar. You can see in this snapshot of my work station, I’ve been inspired by the safari theme. I think I will take these sketches back home with me and work on a colour version. It all just depends if I survive the safari . . .

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Street Meat – Beijing Style

For those of you who follow the Authors Like Us podcast, you will know that my podcasting partner James McCann is on a mission to sample street meat in each new city he visits.

Well, James is one lucky fellow, because I found myself in the markets of Beijing without him. If he had been with me, I would have harangued him into sampling Scorpion on a Stick. Or, perhaps, a Millipede Munchie. Maybe even a Larvae Lollipop. If he was feeling really strong of heart, I might have convinced him to try a Lizard Delight.

Okay, I confess—I made up those names. In Beijing, I think they just call them “dessert.” But, I have to tell you, the thing that really made my skin crawl was the fact that the scorpions were still alive and wriggling.

Needless to say, I did NOT have dessert that night. But James—you would have.

Beijing Street Meat

Inspiration at the Great Wall

The Magic CurtainMany of you young adventurers out there are familiar with the grandest of all walls that surrounds the Land of Een—the magic curtain that protects that tiny place from the outside world.

Well, it has been a dream of mine to go visit a great wall that exists in our world; as a matter of fact, the Great Wall. I’m talking about the one in China, that stretches some 6,000-plus kilometers. This week, my dream came true—and it did not disappoint.

For me, great inspiration comes from visiting the wonders of the ancient world. There is no doubt that climbing the worn and weathered stone steps of the Great Wall of China fuelled both my spirit and my imagination. As I gazed out upon the landscape and watched the wall twisting and winding, seemingly forever, I could not help to think about what will happen in Kendra Kandlestar’s fifth book. Yes, I said fifth. But I guess I better finish the fourth one first . . .

The Great Wall.

Authors Like Us: Donald Maass and other “Publishing People”

Authors Like UsThe latest episode of Authors Like Us is now posted. We recorded this episode back in May when we were in New York, and had dinner with a group of great people in the publishing industry: Britta Vorbach (editor), Annett Stuetze (editor), kc dyer (author), Don Maass (literary agent), and Lisa Rector (editor).

If you want a great glimpse into the world of publishing, be sure to check out this interview—just click HERE! You can also subscribe to us on iTunes.

Giant Interview

This week, as part of my work at the Youth Write Camp in Penticton, BC, my cohorts (kc dyer, James McCann, and Kallie George) appeared on a local radio station, Giant 100.7 FM. We spoke about our books and our writing programs. Check out the interview by clicking on the links below on James McCann’s website:

Giant Interview – part 1

Giant Interview – part 2

Also, here’s  a picture of us in front of the studio (that James, Kallie, and me—kc took the picture, so obviously couldn’t be in it).

James, Kallie, and Lee

Youth Write (about heroes and villains)

I’ve been working with a lot of students lately—first at “Pirate” camp in Langley, BC (more about that in later posts) and now I’m in the sunny Okanagan Valley teaching at the Youth Write camp. Over 90 students are here to be taught by myself, James McCann, kc dyer, Lyle Weis, Meg Tilly, and Kallie George.

I’m teaching two classes: “So you think you’re a Villain” and “How to be a Hero.” Here’s some shots of the kids at work, including a photo of one of my favourite villains from the week (“Skeemer”).

Student writing at Youth Write Camp.

Student drawing

Student drawing a villain

Student writing and drawing

Wildlife Rescue on Authors Like Us

Authors Like UsThe latest episode of the Authors Like Us Podcast has been released. In this episode James McCann and I speak to Diane Haynes, author of Jane Ray’s Wildlife Rescue Series.

Diane’s first book, Flight or Fight, was inspired by her experience working at a wildlife rescue centre after an oil spill that happened in Vancouver in 2000. So, you can imagine, she has a lot to say about the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

You can listen to the episode by clicking here.