Magic & Monsters with gifted learners

Today, I finished my first morning as writer-in-residence with the Vancouver School Board’s program for gifted learners. We’re going to be crafting scenes with the theme of “Magic and Monsters,” sending characters off on quests. Along the way, we’ll be designing secret doorways, building potion kits, writing in invisible ink, and mapping our way across imagined landscapes.

I’ve taught this program with VSB twice before, but this is the first time in person, which means I’m getting more hands-on editing, brainstorming, and other writing-related activities. A big thank you to my teaching partner, Ahmed Rahim, for making this amazing program happen. Also, thank you to Artstarts for their “artists in schools” program—we wouldn’t be able to roll out programs like this without their support.

The first part of today’s workshop focused on a general introduction to our philosophy and plan. I brought in my collection of handmade artifacts, hoping to inspire the students and get them to embrace the idea that writing is more than the act of sitting at a screen, but that it can involve doodling, mapping, and building. 

I also brought in a stack of fantasy books. Yes, there was my own Spell Sweeper, but I also brought in a selection of other books from authors of diverse backgrounds and experiences to help them consider a broader approach in their own writing. The books included:

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Eva Evergreen: Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

Lia Park and the Missing Jewel by Jenna Yoon

Rise of the Dragon Moon by Gabrielle K. Byrne

The Twelve by Cindy Lin

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta

Girl Giant and the Monkey King by Van Hoang

Frances and the Monster by Refe Tuma

The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson

The Dragon Egg Princess by Ellen Oh

The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity

Wing and Claw: Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama

The Third Eye by Mahtab Narsimhan

The Fabulous Zed Watson by Kevin Sylvester and Basil Sylvester

Of course, I could have brought in many more books from my personal library, but you have to start somewhere!

The second part of the day was about rolling up our sleeves and writing our first scene, which was about a character discovering a secret of special doorway. The first order of business was to design the doorways and generate some story building elements. I love how these students embraced this process, as you can see by some of their work below!

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