My tour is over, so there is basically no Day 6, just a return to life. However, I’ve been writing this online journal all week so I thought I would take the time to reflect on the week, think about went well, what didn’t, and to offer so heartfelt thanks!
Let’s start with the thank-yous . . .
An awesome network of teachers, librarians, and literary people
Getting a spot on the TD Tour isn’t the easiest. There are so many talented creators in Canada, so I’m really grateful that I earned a spot, especially since I don’t write books with obvious social-justice content, or overtly Canadian content, or anything that grabs the attention necessarily of the media. I do like to think my books have lots of great messages and social commentary about culture, diversity, and gender roles, but they are nuanced.
Which is all to say, I’m very thankful to the CCBC (Canadian Children’s Book Centre) for picking me. Also, I can’t even imagine the work that goes into organizing this tour. So, I give a particular shut out to Shannon Howe Barnes at CCBC for providing me with so many detailed instructions and being at five-alarm alert this entire week, jumping on any and all panicked messages from touring authors (I certainly sent my share of them!).
I also want to thank Emma Hunter and Kirsti Granholm for stopping my event at the Children’s Book Bank in Toronto. I always appreciate it when people who organize tours can see me in action.
Finally, I want to thank all the teachers and librarians I connected with this week. I have a lot of particular “asks” when I come to a school—supplies for set up, rooms arranged a certain way, and so forth. Without fail, every single school, library, and institution jumped into action to accommodate my requests. I really appreciate it!
Even though I was often rushing off to my next presentation, I really appreciate those quieter moments when I had a chance to talk to some of you about writing and teaching writing. I am an educator at heart, and I really love those conversations.
Finally, thank you for saying all those kind things about my books! Writing is hard and sometimes the simplest of reviews or praise can sustain me.
What went well
I guess I already covered this to some extent, but the trip was so well-organized and I was provided with such detailed instructions that it was easy to go from one place or the other. I was never once late, which is amazing!
I felt my personal plan for the trip was strong. I had presentations prepared for the bigger groups and, for the smaller groups, I could use my wizard’s suitcase as a tool for telling stories and engaging the kids. I think I did a brainstorming activity with every single group, except one—if you follow me on social media, then you know I have been inundating you with many pictures of kids brainstorming: suitcases, trees, doors, and maps.
By the way, having a variety of activities and talks is also important for me. It helps keep my brain on track, so that I’m not necessarily just doing the same thing over and over again. Some of this is inevitable—I mean, my story is my story and I can’t really change that or tell it in too many different ways. But delivering different presentations that talk about different sources of inspiration keeps everything varied for me.
What didn’t go so well
When you are zooming from workshop to workshop in different facilities, there is inevitably going to be hiccups and problems.
I always prefer presenting in libraries or gathering spaces—not necessarily because they are more intimate or friendly (they are), but because of acoustics. Some gyms just are terrible for presentations. That’s no one’s fault—gyms are obviously the biggest places in schools for accommodating large portions of the student body. But, in some gyms, not even a microphone really helps—it just causes your voice to bounce off the walls in a different way.
I also had a technology fail on my last day. My remote to my computer simply stopped working halfway through two presentations. Thankfully, I don’t show my fluster, so I was able to compensate, but I really wish this hadn’t of happened! Everything had worked perfectly all week long. Hey, I lasted the week—how come my technology couldn’t?
Speaking of which, managing energy is something I’ve had to learn how to do over the years. It’s not only the daily public speaking and workshopping, but when I put myself into this intense creative headspace, that means a lot of ideas are swirling around in my brain. Because it’s not that I’m simply presenting—I’m doing these brainstorming sessions with the kids, which is all about idea generation.
So, each evening when I made it back to my hotel, I found it hard to unwind. (This is the case whenever I’m doing a writing camp, an artist-in-residency, or a tour. Intense periods of creativity are hard to turn off like a tap.) There were many times when I would take my brainstorming journal with me to dinner, so I could unwind with doodling. Ultimately, I suppose writing this daily journal/blog has been one other way to do this.
Questions, questions, questions
Each day, I posted my favorite question of the day, but I wanted to tackle one more that I didn’t mention from the week: “Do you ever take ideas from the brainstorming you do with the students in your workshops?” This question came from a teacher and it is a good one.
The short answer is “No.” I always do my brainstorming on a sheet of chart paper in my interactive brainstorming sessions and while I often take a photograph of what we create, I always leave the paper itself behind (in case the class wants to use it in their follow up activities).
Often cases, what we come up with on that chart paper is a fusion. It’s a combination of multiple ideas pitched my way my participants, ideas that then go through the filter of my imagination, and get my own twist. For example, students often give me multiple competing ideas for a doorway, a tree, or a magical object, and I end up combining them for the item we put on the page. This is the power of group brainstorming—the idea that makes it onto the page has been enriched by the multiple suggestions and is more interesting than just any singular idea coming from myself or any one student.
The truth is that I want the students to write something from the brainstorming—not me! I feel like I generate enough ideas in my own brainstorming journals. Though, I will admit to stealing names from students, though it’s usually not their character names—it’s usually their own names! If a student has a name that I really like, then I ask them if I can add it to my one of my name “banks” for future use. (I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for good character names!)
The hardest part of the tour
Well, this one is easy. The hardest part of the tour has been being away from Marcie and Hiro! In the past, I’ve only had to worry about being separated from Marcie, but now that we have Hiro, it’s even harder. He’s too young to really understand what’s going on, and I have just missed cuddling him every night and interacting with him and being there for great moments like this one:
That’s a photo Marcie sent me yesterday. So cute! Of course, technology helps being away because I can facetime Marcie and Hiro everyday, but Hiro often just gets a little confused that he can see and hear me, but can’t touch me.
But I will be back soon, Hiro!
About Book Week
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.