Exploring the Hero’s Gallery

Last year, I spent a day a week from November to December working with a class at Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary to help the kids contemplate, design, and illustrate heroes, setting them up for a project to write a story starring those characters.

I returned to the school last week to see the “Hero Gallery” that was put on display throughout the school. Each display consisted of a poster board that showed the process of creation and some of the different elements that went into creating the characters. I loved the fact that the project celebrated the process—not just the polished, finished work, but the messy sketches and brainstorming. In addition, it was great to see the swatch of a hero’s cape or the key that a brazen character might use to unlock the door to adventure.

It was so much fun to see the kids, who all leapt from their seats and came flooding over to see me. I felt very much missed (and loved).

I took countless photos of the exhibit, but here’s just a smattering . . .




Welcome to Danger Island


I like assigning my students story prompts with built in problems. Otherwise, it can be a whole lot of pages of characters stretching as the sun comes up, brushing their teeth, going to breakfast, running to school, hearing the school bell ring go BRIIIIIING! and onwards and onwards. (If you’ve ever taught creative writing for any length of time, then you know this story all too well).

The Danger Island story idea revolves around the idea of a constrained location that has experienced an overpopulation of . . . something. So, imagine an island that has been infested with the creature you fear the most—snake, spider, lizard, etc. Then imagine that you’ve just been shipwrecked on it!

For this activity, I actually don’t assign the students the critter they are the most afraid of (though that would certainly be one way of doing it). What I normally do is bring in a bag of rubber creatures and have the students blindly pick. This is not only rather a fun moment, but also makes the danger seem that much more real to the students.

With their creature beside them for inspiration, the students then craft their maps, which gives them their basic settings and inspiration for the story. How will their characters survive?

Below are some of the photos of the activity in progress and then some final maps.




Exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace

Even though I visit Korea often, it’s been several years since I’ve visited the vast Gyeongbokgung Palace complex in Seoul. This trip, I decided to go there with my wife to show her one of the important centrepieces of the Joseon dynasty.

Even though most of the original structure was destroyed during the imperial rule of Japan in the first half of the 20th Century, most of it has been beautifully reconstructed.

Here’s a few of the pictures from our visit . . .

A pair of stone tigers flank the magnificent front gate.


You can also see a ceremony involving the guards who are wearing traditional garb.


I simply adore the architecture of the palace. The elegant curves of the rooflines offer many romantic vistas as you explore the complex.


Many figures from the Oriental zodiac surround the royal throne room, including this monkey.


Here is a better overall view of the throneroom.


This is the magnificent ceiling of the throne room.


Here is the banquet hall, situated amidst a pool of semi-frozen water. If only it had been gently snowing!gyeongbok-banquethall

There are many Korean totem poles (called jangseung) in the folk village area of the complex. Traditionally, they are placed on the perimeter of a village to ward of evil spirits.


Of course, I am fascinated by doors, doorways, and all things to do with doors—locks, keys, hinges . . . you name it. I captured many of them during my visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace!

Here’s a few of my favourite pics . . .



Great middle-grade novels: for free or $.99


Kendra Kandlestar is participating in a promotion for middle-grade readers; where you can download a series of digital books either for 99 cents—or for free!

Just visit the blog of my colleague, Andrea Pearson for all the details:

The Multi-Author Middle-Grade Book Promotion starts January 4, 2016 and ends January 7, 2016.

As both an author and creative writing teacher for children, I’m pretty passionate about literacy. There have been many studies to prove the educational advantages of having a large home library (whether real or virtual).

So . . . here’s your chance to load up your child’s e-reader!


New Year’s Eve in Seoul

After wrapping up a creative writing camp in Yangpyeong, my wife and I have taken a few days to explore Korea. Even though I have been here several times, this is only my wife’s second time.

We spent a marvellous New Year’s Eve in Seoul, exploring the Jongno district, which is full of neon lights and spectacles on the best of times, let alone December 31st.



Afterwards, we decided to escape the hubbub and descended down to Cheonggyecheon, which is a beautiful public walkway that weaves along the stream. It’s sunken down below the sidewalks, so helps you feel like you’ve escaped the city. I’ve been along it many times before, but never on New Year’s Eve—I was absolutely amazed by the sights.

To begin with, the display of lights was truly magical. For a while, we just walked along in a trance.



Then, of course, Marcie began . . . well, being Marcie. Which means having a lot of fun playing and posing with all the displays.




Well, I guess I did, too! Next, we came across a section where families and couples were building paper lanterns, writing messages on them, and setting them down the river. These were so pretty to watch as they floated gently down the stream. There was no two ways about it—we wanted to make one.

And so we did . . .


In a future post, I’ll write about our trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace.