Because nothings says romance like trudging through catacombs filled with thousands of skeletons

We have just left Paris, City of Love, and as much as I loved the Tour Eiffel, the Louvre, and the Musée d’Orsay, the highlight of my trip was going 65 feet below ground to take a tour of the catacombs. Here we were treated to dripping ceilings, dark corridors, and simply thousands of skeletons all stacked in rows.

I often like to write about crypts, tombs, mazes, and dungeons (Kendra Kandlestar has explored a few in her time), so this was the perfect bit of fuel for my imaginings. Here’s just a few photos from our tour . . .

This is the sign on the sidewalk pointing towards the tomb (this is where I began to get giddy).

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The sign reads: “STOP! This is the Empire of Death.”

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Bones. Lots of bones.

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We didn’t take this staircase, but just got to stare down its dismal gloomy descent into murkiness.

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This photo makes it look like it was nice and bright down there. It wasn’t.

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This skull was one of the few that had teeth.

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There are signs down below, marking each subterranean street.

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Faun’s End in flames

Here’s an illustration I recently completed for Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. This is one of the final illustrations in the novel, showing Kendra scrambling through the wreckage of one of the buildings in Faun’s End, the central city in the Land of Een.

I won’t tell you which building this is—but if you are all familiar with the sites and spots in Faun’s End . . . well, then I’m sure you can guess where Kendra is.

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St. George’s and the dragon

Famously, it was St. George that defeated the dragon, but this summer I’m teaching Book Publisher’s summer camp at St. George’s school in Vancouver—so crafting dragon eggs seems a perfect fit for our location.  Earlier this week, I led my junior group in an activity to brew magic potions, so designing and decorating dragon eggs became the hands-on activity for the senior group.

Both activities involve A LOT of prep, but preparing the eggs is the worst for me, as I famously hate eggs. So you can imagine what it’s like to have to blow the snot-colored yolk out of twenty eggs. DISGUSTING.

But worth it—I really enjoy seeing my students come up with all sorts of creative designs that help inspire their writing. This activity is especially useful when it comes to teaching imagery and description (especially connected to the five senses). Many of my students have incorporated their eggs into the books they are writing for the camp.

Here is a glimpse at a few of their magical eggs . . .

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An explosion or two in the magic potions lab

I started off my week at Book Publishers’ camp at St. George’s school with a bang—literally. That’s because we brewed our own magic potions. This is an excellent hands-off activity for working with the five senses and encouraging students to write with more detail and description. It also ties in nicely with crafting poems (or spells) to go with the potions.

This is an activity that takes a bit of work to set up (after all, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to procure the likes of mummy dust, troll snot, and blood of basilisk). However, I think it is well worth it!

Here’s some of the finished concoctions (the feathers—gathered from the stomping grounds of a herd of winged horses—are better for stirring than just a regular spoon).

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The potion below involved many dragon tears and a bit of gnome poop.

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Blood of basilisk and a goblin’s eye (staring up at us from the brew) were key ingredients in this potion:

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This one had too much burning acid and too much mummy dust. It exploded.

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The ones below involved some pretty exotic colours . . . I was almost (ALMOST) tempted to taste some of them!

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Slipping through the doorway to adventure

I’ve just started teaching the Book Publisher camp at St. Georges school in Vancouver. The goal is for each student to produce his or her own book over the course of the two-week camp. I thought I would start them off with my “Secret Doors” workshop, as it is a fun approach to finding inspiration.

I’ve led this activity several times, but I was quite impressed by how creative some of the students were in their design approaches. It just goes to show that you should never underestimate the ingenuity of a young mind!

Here are some snap shots . . . starting with some very colourful doors by the younger group:

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This doorway features a guardian . . . which the student was even actually able to build out of the miniature wood pieces I had supplied for door decoration.

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This doorway is hidden behind a sketch. Flip up the sketch and (as you will see in the photos below) and you find a painting that allows you to enter it.

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The story cafe, and other adventures in Korea

I’m just back from Korea, where I taught two creative writing camps. Of course, it wasn’t all work! Here are a few snapshots from my personal adventures . . .

Below are some fresh eels being barbecued for a celebratory lunch (we had just finished the first camp). This was not my first time having eel, but it was the first time to see them served so fresh that they were still moving on the grill. Perhaps twitching would be a better word. Of course, I could also see them swimming around in the tank just over my lunchmates’ shoulders . . .

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Anyone who knows me, know that I’m obsessed with doors. This is a traditional Korean door that you can find leading into a garden. I love the intricate detail.

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For part of my time in Korea, I stayed near the Amsa market in Seoul. I love visiting these types of markets; I find them very inspirational for my own writing. In this particular market, you could buy all manner of goods—fruit, vegetables, seafood (including eels, almost hopping out of their buckets) and clothes.

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I also returned to my favorite cafe in the world: the Story Cafe in Insadong. Here people, leave behind pictures and personal notes for the next visitors to discover. I left behind a sketch of Oki drinking from a giant cup of tea!

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This is the shot of the building that was burnt by the giant explosion I witnessed back in February. You can see a picture of that fire in my earlier post. In the background of this picture is the famous “Top Cloud” restaurant tower.

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The curtains close on the CWC Circus

The CWC Circus camp in Yongin, Korea, has wrapped up! This was a fun week—and a challenging one too. We had nearly thirty students to manage between myself and my teaching partner, Kallie George. Thankfully, we had the help of some fantastic counsellors who helped wrangle the kids for us.

Here are a few shots from some of the fun aspects of the camp . . .

This first shot is of two of our counsellors, Shina and Dona. They took their roles at circus camp seriously, as evidenced by their colourful hair!

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We gave each of the students a grab-bag of goodies upon their arrival at circus camp. We decided to use vintage-style popcorn bags and filled them with such things as miniature tops, miniature playing cards, plastic circus animals, glow sticks, circus animals, and a bit of candy.

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I used some of the miniature cards to tell my kids “fortunes”—just like my grandfather used to do to me when I was young. Of course, the cards also came in handy during the kids’ free time. Here they are, having a rousing gambling game (I think the poker chips were candy).

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What’s a circus without some body paint? The counsellors painted many wrists, arms, shoulders, and even a few cheeks throughout the week of the camp.

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One of the most fun moments of the camp was when we held the Circus Tournament. Here the students were put into teams and engaged in such activities as designing the creepiest clown face, ring toss, water balloon juggling, and—my favourite—”eat the circus treat.” This involved trying to eat as much of a scorpion lollipop in five minutes. A few brave souls managed to even do it . . .

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. . . though no many. Here’s the left-overs. As you can see, some of them were barely touched. (Not that I blame them!)

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