Mini-meals and hidden homes

Here’s some photos of two more activities we did at the CWC Secret Worlds Camp, led by my teaching partner Kallie George.

In order to get the kids thinking about food from a miniature person’s perspective, we had them build a mini-meal out of clay and then create a menu of that feast.

As part of  a separate activity, the students imagined that their characters had to abandon their current shelter and take up residence in an abandoned bird house. They got to decorate their new home to their liking!

Of course, afterwards, they had to write about both aspects of their characters’ miniature existence.


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Hidden Homes

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Across the Great Rug Desert, past the Toilet Waterfalls, and on to Mount Clothes

One of the things we’ve been working on at the CWC Secret Worlds Camp is perspective and perception. After all, if you are a miniature person, the world is going to look very different.

We took a fun approach to this subject by having the students choosing a single room of a house and imagining it as an epic setting that a character must trek across in search of food. So a heap of laundry becomes a mountain, a spilled glass of water becomes a lake, and so forth. Here are some snapshots of some of the maps the students came up with . . .

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Tiny characters for tiny stories

One of the focuses of the Secret Worlds camp that I’m teaching right now is to encourage the students to think about adding variety to their characters. So often, I find that the stories feature three best friends who are all too similar in personality.

We began by examining some of the different types of characters that we commonly find in adventure stories about secret or hidden worlds. Some of the stories included The Rescuers, The Borrowers, Basil of Baker Street, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and my own Kendra Kandlestar series. After looking at all these models, the students began working on worksheets in which they had to invent five unique and distinct characters.

Since this is Secret Worlds camp, many of the character casts include mice, insects, or other tiny creatures. Here’s a few photos of work in progress . . .

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More shrink rays

We had such great fun working on these devices at the CWC Secret Worlds camp, so I thought I would post some more photos of the kids’ work.

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Of course, messing around with shrink rays can sometimes result in tragedy. Like so many siblings, these two sisters came to odds and ended up having a futuristic shoot out.


The results were predictable.


Painting a scene . . .


Today I worked with the older members of the CWC writing camp in Korea on an activity I call “Paint the Scene.” The task is to write a short descriptive paragraph in which every scene evokes a particular colour. The hitch is that you can only use the name of that colour ONCE in the entire paragraph.

Here are the results of the four participants (plus mine, at the end). I usually make students pick a colour out of a hat, but for this one I just let everyone use his or her favourite colour.

* * *

Paint the Scene Blue
By Matt

His eyes reflected the sky, making his eyes more azure than ever. As he gazed at the sky, the sun started to set, turning the turquoise sky into the color of sunset. He squinted at the sight of the sun setting, feeling it blinding because of the cerulean sea reflecting the light into his eyes. As the sun set, the cobalt darkness of night overcame the glow of the setting sun, slowly enveloping the world in its dark cloak. He watched the sky with his sapphire eyes until the first of the stars came into sight.

* * *

Paint the Scene Black
By Isabella Yoon

Her dark hair, under the clouds heavy with rain, shone gloomily. The sofa, which was dyed in the simple opposite of white, didn’t really seem to be comfortable, either. She sat in front of the aisle and picked up one of the charcoals. Pale light from the open window landed on her raven hair. Her eyes were the color of steel, gazing at the artwork she has made. She rubbed her other hand against her artwork and watched as the charcoal got spread by her hand. Suddenly, she started to color the aisle with the charcoal. Its dust landed on the wooden floor like dying embers. When she finished coloring, the paper was black.

* * *

Paint the Scene Green
By Simon Yang

The smell of the thick vegetation aroused my sense. My eyes were full of the verdant colors. The grass caressing my feet bristled as the breeze blew. An iguana was relaxing in a tree, blinking his eye to a very slow tempo. The bushes made the forest feel more like a home.

Vines were climbing up the trees, craving for the taste of sun. Clover greeted me with hellos, as I bent down to take a look at them. The melody of the frog croaks and the hum of the grasshopper enlightened my ears. I yelped as I stepped on the slimy moss. Minute dew drops were trying to grip tightly onto the edge of leaves. They made the leaves look more like deep jade. Green had made nature a masterpiece.

* * *

Paint the Scene Yellow
By Sara Moon

Lily tip-toed towards a little buttercup where a butterfly had just gently landed for a quick rest. She was being very careful—she even tightly tied her blond hair back so that it didn’t bother her from concentrating–since she didn’t wanted it to fly away and disappear somewhere in the dazzling spring sky. She put a bottle of lemonade, which her mom made for her that morning, down on the damp grass and with her hand now empty, she held a little yellow bell that hung on her blouse as a decoration so that it didn’t surprise the acute little creature. She was getting closer and closer and it seemed that the butterfly was too busy enjoying a tan under the golden sunlight to notice a little girl approaching it. Almost there! thought Lily as she outstretched her arm to touch the butterfly—but just before her hand landed on its amber wings, it flew away.

* * *

Paint the Scene Orange
By Lee Edward Födi

Wrapping a finger around a curl of her ginger hair, Dahlia cast a gaze at the spectacular evening sky. It seemed as if it was on fire, streaked with brilliant cadmium and thin ochre clouds. She trudged down the steps of the porch, its tangerine paint long since blistered away by the relentless sun. Her eyes lingered upon the long-expired copper-coloured fields as they glowed in the last of the day’s fiery light. She ambled past the row of drooping peach trees. The setting sun made their dry branches gleam like burning brands. At last she came to the river; once it had been as strong and mighty as a tiger, but now it had dwindled to a trickle, and what was left of it shone like a streak of lava in the last gasps of the day. Maybe this is what death is, Dahlia thought as she sat on the banks, where the long, dead grass billowed in the wind like flames. At the very end, just before the land erupts into a fiery inferno, it is a beautiful vista, so deceivingly bursting and blooming with the colour of life. Orange.

Shrink ray gun designs . . . muhahahahaha

Day 2 at the CWC Secret Worlds creative writing camp in Korea saw us designing and building our own shrink ray machines. We already have the miniature people, so we thought we might as well make the machines that were responsible!

In truth, the main purpose of this activity was to provide the students with a great inciting incident for an adventure story. Plus, once the students have built their models, they can more easily describe them in their stories.

My teaching partner, Kallie George, and I packed most of these supplies all the way from Canada, but it was worth it. All these little buttons and recycled goods make for fantastic buttons, triggers, and dials.

Just check out some of the designs and models . . .

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In other camp-related news, the miniature version of me, affectionately known as Mini Wiz, has not been getting along with one of our camp mascots, Bugsy.


Now, time to prepare for another full day tomorrow!

Thinking small

Day 1 at the Secret Worlds Camp in Korea is now finished. We’re really thinking small this camp! We’ve started designing and building shrink ray guns. But, first, we started with making miniature versions of ourselves and then writing a short poem about what it would be like to be so small.

I found actually building the models really helped bring this activity to life. Here are some photos of the work in progress.
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And here’s some of the characters and the poems in progress . . . for some reason, when some of the students were miniaturized, they became knights, dark angels, sorceresses, and Jedi Knights. Well, who can say exactly how any of these shrink rays will work!

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Here’s a photo of our entire class miniaturized. The ladybug is our class mascot!


Inspirations from the WETA exhibit in Korea

During my last day in Seoul before heading to teach my creative writing camp, I visited the brand new  History & Culture Park in the Dongdaemun area of the city.

It’s a really futuristic building, with sleek and silver curving lines.

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Once inside, I was thrilled to discover a special exhibit: The WETA Fantasy Exhibition. This incredible installation featured sculptures and models from fantasy movies such as Lord of the Rings and King Kong, as well as some interesting character and setting designs for an upcoming children’s book series called The Gloaming Trilogy by John Fraser-Allen. I instantly fell in love with is world!

Here are some photos snapped during my visit to the exhibition. I had fun interacting with some of the statues and, of course, my mind began racing with new ideas!

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Volcanic adventures

My explorations of Jeju Island continued yesterday and had a decidedly volcanic theme. In the company of two of my students, I visited Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as Sunrise Peak.

Here are some more dol harbang (stone grandfathers) greeting us at the entrance. I could never resist taking photos of them whenever I came upon them.



Here’s a view of the crater from afar.


This is a glimpse of the stairs we had to take up the tall crater. Needless to say, it was blazing hot.


Along the way, we saw some neat rock formations and many beautiful flowers, butterflies, and dragon flies.

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And then, finally, we reached the top. My pictures hardly do it any justice.

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After we climbed down, we went around to the other side of the peak and took a boat ride to go see the black cliffs from the side.

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Even the sand is black!


After we were done visiting the crater, we took a short drive to a lava tube. We walked the full kilometer through the cave, which doesn’t seem long, but it was absolutely freezing down there and dripping with water. It was so strange to be in blazing heat at one moment and then in such a cold environment straight afterwards!


Well, that’s it for Jeju Island! I’m back to the Korean mainland to teach my Secret Worlds camp!

Inspirations from Jeju Island

In between some of the writing camps I’m teaching in Korea, I’ve had some time to tour around Jeju Island, which is just off the main Korean peninsula.

Jeju is a volcanic island, so I’ve found the landscape and rock features very inspirational. I feel like I’ve gotten all sorts of fuel for world-building in my own books. There’s one world in particular that I’ve been developing, and I feel like this place has really helped me solidify it in my mind.

Here’s just a sampling of some of my inspirations . . .

This is a dol hareubang (stone grandfather). You can see them everywhere here. And I love them. In fact, I wish I could cart one home to put in the front garden.


Of course, I found an old door to add to my door collection!


And now, lots of neat tropical scenery and cool rock formations . . .

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And, just because I’m terrified of spiders, here’s an ENORMOUS one I saw on one of the trails I walked. Thankfully, it was dead. But no less disgusting, because it was being tugged along at ferocious speed by some sort of beetle that had a very ravenous attitude in its step. I barely snapped off this photo before it managed to whisk away its dinner. Blech!