Just in time for Halloween . . .

I’ve helped kids produce dozens and dozens of little monsters in bottles this year in my creative writing workshops, but it’s such a fun activity, especially leading up to Halloween, that I decided to do it two last times for this year. Besides, it is such great inspiration for stories!

So, here are a few more photos of monsters, all ready to be hatched. In addition to the normal fangs, eyeballs, and fur, I was also able to find some glow-in-the-dark larvae . . . see if you can spot them in some of the bottles!

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“Cook”ing up characters

This past week, I did an all-day visit at Cook Elementary in Richmond, BC, and delivered a few rounds of my interactive drawing workshop, which serves as a springboard for kids to develop their own characters and—ultimately—stories.

There’s always a “group” character that gets designed by me, based on the suggestions from the crowd. These are usually quite terrible drawings—but the point is to brainstorm, not to produce a brilliant illustration. Take for example, these two characters:



While I design the group characters, the participants furiously design their own characters. Some participants follow the group character while others go off to develop their own. Here are some of the photos of student-generated characters.










The idea is that the students head back to class with a character in hand, so that they can write a story with their brainstorming. However, in some cases, the stories begin to develop right on the page, during the session:





The students at Cook Elementary were certainly full of vim and energy and what I really appreciated is that I had time in the schedule to take a closer look at some of their drawings (and, of course, take photos of them).

The magic of literacy; giving away books with the Raise-a-Reader program


I just returned from a whirlwind tour of schools as part of the Raise-a-Reader program in Penticton, Canada.

The program in this part of the country is spearheaded by Yasmin John-Thorpe, a tireless advocate of literacy in her community. In my opinion, Yasmin has created something truly unique, using her program funds to sponsor authors to come to schools to give books directly to kids. In fact, every kid who attends a presentation by the author receives one of those author’s books for free.

I journeyed to the Okanagan to present at four different schools over two days, along with author Kallie George. Boxes of our books arrived just after us, and we personally signed each and everyone—over 700 books! Kallie signed copies of her early reader Flare, while I signed copies of my Kendra Kandlestar series, including The Box of Whispers, The Door to Unger, The Shard from Greeve, and The Crack in Kazah.

You can see the stacks here; needless to say, we signed into the wee hours of the night.


But it was completely worth it. I visit a lot of schools, but it’s pretty darn cool when you get to give away books. It must be what Santa feels like!

One of the neat things about this series of visits was that I visited the school classroom by classroom. I brought poster boards of my cast of characters, which turned out to really provoke the imagination of the kids. I had plenty of questions about each and every character!

Here are some photos of my presentations in action, and some shots of some very happy children.

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It was interesting to hear about Yasmin’s personal stories regarding reading. She remembers authors coming to her school when she was a child and giving order forms to buy their books. But coming from a family of nine, buying a book just wasn’t an option. These days, Yasmin’s determined that kids get books in their hands, books that are their very own, books that they can take home.

I think her concept is pretty magical . . . and I’m pretty lucky to have been part of it!




How important is your creative space?



I have always lectured my students on the importance of having a personal creative space, a place where they can insulate themselves from the outside world and concentrate on their creative projects.

For me, that place is my in-home studio (unless I’m on the road; then it’s wherever I can find it). However, when I first moved into my studio, I was so busy that I just threw everything into it—desks, drawing table, shelves . . . all the functional things without worrying about the decor. And here I am, week after week, imploring my students to be more creative. Then one of my students, during a Skype consultation, pointed out just how bland my studio wall was. She was right!

So, this year, I finally rolled up my sleeves and began redesigning the wall of my studio. It’s still  work in progress, so when it’s completely done, I’ll post detailed photos of it. However, here is a glimpse of it, so far:


It’s only taken six months! What I thought would be  a simple coat of paint and picture hangers turned into an epic project to have some custom-made shelves built, plus to contract a local furniture store to build me a trunk using an old door from India.



Now, at last, the wall is in working shape. Not only has it been great for my personal creativity, but I’ve found it’s really improved my Skype calls with schools. Now, instead of seeing a white wall stuck with a scattering of sketches (which might sound interesting, but they are impossible to see on a webcam) they see many of the objects and pictures that fuel my imagination.

As I say, there are still some missing pieces . . . but I feel like I’ve crossed an ocean, and now all I need to do is bring the ship to shore.