I’ve been enjoying the last couple of days in the more rural communities in Southern Ontario, where I’ve been presenting for the TD Children’s Book Week tour. I may be an unabashed urbanite now, but a thousand years ago I grew up on a farm in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The kids I’ve met this week in the communities of Glencoe, Langton, and Tillsonburg, know what it’s like to feed livestock, drive tractors, and clean chicken coops!
Of course, it was not my destiny to end up staying on the farm—even though I’m the oldest boy in the family and, by rights, it should have been. The truth is, I’m a storyteller and my natural-born talents are far better suited to creating problems for fictional characters.
During my school presentations, I often tell the story of how I explored my passion as a kid and ended up escaping the farm (flying the coop, if you will). This story has resonated with a few of the students so far on this tour. Today, a girl said to me during the Q&A portion of my presentation, “I want to be a writer, but my parents want me to take over the family business. How can I get out of it?”
Without missing a beat, I said, “Run over something.”
Perhaps not the best advice I’ve ever given to a young person! But it leapt from my lips because it refers to the famous story about my dad trying to teach me how to drive the tractor. Even though I was only ten at the time, I already knew that I had no interest in being a farmer. So instead of concentrating on driving, I drifted off into a daydream—and promptly ploughed into the old outhouse that sat in the middle of our orchard.
True story! Tractor plus outhouse plus “Mr. Wiz” equals disaster!
Well, that’s all it took for my dad to decide I would make a terrible farmer.
By the way, below are some of the maps and characters we designed today during my presentations at Southridge and Langton schools . . .
This first one in particular made me chuckle. One of the things I always try to convey to students is that things don’t have to be done perfectly the first time. Writing, drawing—and, basically, creating anything—takes time. It’s okay if your first draft is messy because you should be prepared to redo it anyway. One of today’s participants took this to heart, and wrote “Messy Map 101” at the top of his project!