Sometimes finding inspiration can be a trainwreck: pondering the creative process

Sometimes finding inspiration can be a trainwreck: pondering the creative process

Inspiration is everywhere. Sounds cliché, right? Or perhaps trite or obvious—but I think the thing that a lot of people miss is that inspiration floating around everyone is pretty much useless unless you train yourself to pay attention to it and (most importantly in my opinion) record it.

It’s something that I didn’t always realize. Back when I had a 9 to 5 job working as a graphic designer, I’d race home after work and write and draw. Evening and weekends; these were my blocks when I could truly be creative and do what I want.

But now that I’ve been a self-employed writer and specialized arts educator for the last fifteen years, I’ve learned that I need to be in-tune 24-7.

To put it simply, working in a creative profession means I am alwaysworking. That doesn’t mean I’m forever hunkered down over a computer or notebook. It simply means my antennae are always circling, waiting to pick up the signals that are floating around out there.

I guess what I’m saying is that this was something I didn’t always conscioiusly realize. Or it didn’t come naturally to me. I had to train myself to, first, pay attention and, second, make sure I documented what caught my attention.

I realize this same problem in many of my students. Whether they are in elementary school, high school, or university, so many of them are extremely well-trained to think in “blocks: This is math block, this is writing block, this is history block. Yes, some of those blocks aren’t your passion and you just want to survive the hour or so that you are locked inside of them. But there are other blocks that should needle your passions! Those passions should ooze out of their confinement and seep into every aspect of your life. Being a writer (or an artist, or an actor, or a . . .) means thinking like one all the time.

To some people, this comes naturally! But, as I mentioned above, I was one of those people who came from an exceedingly practical background. Maybe it’s the case with many of my students.

That’s why I now carry my notebook (or, as I call it, my brainstorming book) with me everywhere. I have specific books for specific projects, but often things that are unconnected to that project (or at least SEEM like they might be unconnected) go in there.

I only have one criteria for recording something: it interests me. Most of the time, I don’t know what it is about something that grabs me—just that it does. In those cases, I photography, draw, and scribble notes. That means those ideas are waiting for me in the future. It might be a week down the road. Maybe a month. Perhaps years. Or, quite possibly, NEVER. But I’ve learned to honor the process, not the result.

Vacation/smacation

All of this is to say, when my family was on “vacation” a couple of weeks ago in Whistler, BC, and we learned about the famous Whistler train wreck, my Spidey-senses perked up. I knew I needed to grab my sketchbook and my camera and head there.

(Also, I tend to now just call all vacations “inspircations” because it is impossible for me to go anywhere and NOT be inspired.)

About the trainwreck

Just south of the resort town of Whistler, not so deep in the forest, is the site of a train wreck that occurred on August 11, 1956. The train had started in Lilloeet, 130 km north of Whistler and was bound for Vancouver with a load of lumber. The train was behind schedule, so was going twice its speed to make up time. When it arrived at a narrow passage carved in the rock with a sharp curve at one end, one of the engines jumped off the track. Twelve boxcars in total were derailed.

The clean up took a long time, and some of the carriages were left behind—and this is the site you can now visits. Here, in the not-so-deep woods, the boxcars are both solemn and garish, painted with graffiti after all these years.

Getting to the train wreck

The site is a short drive south from Whistler, and once Google or your satnav takes you to the appropriate turnoff, you’ll find signs marking the way into the woods.

The path is even and not at all onerous. In fact, we took Hiro in his stroller and only parked it once we arrived at the hill that led up to the final site (a one-minute walk).

The way there also features a suspension bridge and a view of the gorgeous, swirling river.

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Exploring the train wreck

Once you arrive at the site, you can explore all the different carriages. You can climb some of them (at your peril!), and one leans toward the river gorge, tempting fate.

This place certainly stirred my imagination and gave me inspiration for a scene in a story that has been percolating inside of me lately. I made sure to take as many pictures as possible and to jot down some notes, too.

The rest of the family enjoyed it as well (though I was the only one brave—or foolish—enough to climb atop one of them). Hiro loved the colors.

I think my favorite part were the couplings, painted to look like creatures. In my mind, they are train gargoyles! You can check out a few of our photos below (including those mischievous looking gargoyles). . .

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Our magical creature camp in Korea

Our magical creature camp in Korea

I’m just catching up on organizing photos after our whirlwind trip to Korea and Japan this past summer—which means I’m finally getting around to blogging about the Magical Creatures creative writing camp that I taught along with my actor/playwright wife Marcie Nestman and fellow children’s author Kallie George.

Marcie and I are used to spending time in Asia—personally, I’ve been there over thirty times, most of it to teach creative writing camps or workshops. What WAS new this time was that we took our one-year-old son, Hiro, with us. So, seasoned travelers that we are, we had a very different type of adventure!

A magical theme

Since Kallie and I both recently released books featuring magical creatures—Kallie’s Wings of Olympus and my The Secret of Zoone—we thought that would make the best theme for our camp.

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Of course, there are plenty of books and films featuring magical creatures, so this was a great way to connect with and inspire our students.

 

The magical menagerie art exhibit

In The Secret of Zoone, one of the characters references the “Multiversal Menagerie,” an art exhibit featuring paintings of different creatures from across the multiverse. I thought I would take a cue from that and have my students do a creative writing project in which they produced artwork of a creature then wrote the information card that goes with it.

You see, I have this belief that not every writing assignment has to be a proper story. I worry that my students get so focused on plot, that they forget other elements of writing—such as description, setting, character development and BEING CREATIVE. I call this “plot paralysis” because students get so caught up in that ONE part of writing that they start ignoring everything else.

Projects like the multiverses menagerie are meant to help the students wriggle free of the shackles of plot and just have fun.

Our project started with brainstorming creatures  . . .

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Afterwards, the students turned their attention to final artwork. Some students chose to draw, some students chose to sculpt, and others chose to do both.

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The Eye of the Dragon

Another project I rolled out at camp involved writing a scene in which a character finds or steals a magical gem that gives that character the power of connecting with a creature. The students got to choose the aspect of that connection—it could be transforming into the creature, controlling it, or even seeing through its eyes.

Step one, however, was painting the gem of power!

I really love this project because it is relatively simple, but produces stunning results. In fact, many of my students end up wearing their jewelry afterwards (it’s easy enough to glue the gems to a metal ring or amulet).

The gems themselves are glass cabochons, which you can get in different shapes (such as oval or round) and the paint is simple nail polish. This project is very forgiving—even those students who don’t consider themselves artistic can create abstract designs. Also, if you make a mistake, a little nail polish remover helps you start over!

Here are some of the gorgeous designs produced by my students:

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The magical market

We delivered many other projects at the camp, but there is one other event I wanted to blog about—and that is our magical market night. Our camps our long—often six or seven days, and we find we need some sort of event in the middle to help break it up and provide a “boost.”

We usually host a tournament or some other team-building exercises; this time, Marcie had the brilliant idea of putting on a magical market. This was brilliant for a few reasons—not the least of which was that we could do it outdoors and avoid the intense summer heat and humidity. Also, we corralled our older students into coming up with the ideas for the stalls, and then running them during the event itself.

So, we ended up having all sorts of fun stations consisting of games, face painting, fortune telling, and—my favorite—food! We invented a new fizzy drink by combining soda water and pop rocks and also had glow-in-the-dark cotton candy. We gave the students fake jewels to use as currency, so they got to stroll our market and decide how to spend their loot.

Marcie had led a project in which the students designed their own lanterns for a made-up magical creature holiday, so we already had some decorations ready to go.

It was a HUGE success!

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Book covers from the workshop of dreams

Book covers from the workshop of dreams

I’m just wrapping up production of the books written and illustrated by the students who took the Spring Term of my Dream Workshop program that is run through Creative Writing for Children.

In many cases, the students provided their own artwork. In others, the students chose royalty-free stock photos, but in those cases, they still had to design their cover, which meant providing instructions on how to crop the photo and which fonts to use.

I’m so proud of my students! The books will go for printing soon and will be in their hot little hands in the next few months.

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laurenliang_thetimekeeper

sunnykim_pandoraii

gemmayin_partysurprise

sionahn_landofskies

jadenchung_candyrealm

tysonmattu_lost

iankim_secrets

emilylee_hoops

ellyyoo_anadventure

arisolkim_kingdomofenchantia

alexjang_possessionofadangerousmind

sarahpark_oneudonbowl

rickyyin_sixteenamazingstories

aidenlee_secretofportalstreasure

yoyozhang_thesecretflower

tristanmo_cursedcity

sussizhu_thewarbetweenupperandupper

felimwang_thebookofdeath

ericxu_ace

charliechen_thefencingboy

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charleswang_thehiddenworlds

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TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 6

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 6

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.

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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?

Managing energy

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.

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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:

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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.

 

 

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 5

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 5

Well, it’s over. The final day of TD Book Week came to an end on Friday, and I managed to survive with my voice mostly intact. One more day probably would have killed it!

Mapping a story

I did two sessions of mapping a story, one at two schools that shared the same librarian (the schools are only five minutes apart).

In the planning stages of the tour, I had provided the schools and libraries with a list of my brainstorming sessions and most picked “enchanted trees” or “secret doorways.” These two schools, however, chose “mapping an adventure”—it was nice to get a little variety today. Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE designing doors, but when you are doing multiple sessions several days in a row, a change of pace is good for my creative energy.

Essentially, this type of mapping is writing with pictures—the students not only plot an adventure but create settings along the way—and, of course, characters, too! Here are some of the story-maps they came up with:

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As you can see, many elements of the story are in place. In fact, I feel like some of these look like the adventure route on a Candy Land-style board game.

Final round of door brainstorming

The very last session of the tour was done at the Woodside branch of the Toronto Public Library. They invited in a classroom of tweens for a presentation and door brainstorming. I figured it was a Friday afternoon and they might be low energy, but they really produced some great designs: Just check these out:

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Also, some of the kids started spilling into other areas, designing characters, such as this one sheet from a very talented kid:

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I was also enamored with this drawing that one student did of my artifacts:

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Speaking of my artifacts, this was the last time I unpacked and packed them back again before taking my flight home this weekend. They all survived! I didn’t break or lose a single one. Of course, kids continually asked to sell me the props, but I always say the same thing: “make your own!” Because, really, I don’t feel any of my props (other than the suitcase) is that complicated to make. Prop building is like writing—it takes mostly patience. And none of the supplies I use are that complicated.

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Doing a workshop at the Toronto Public Library was a really great way to end the tour. Sophia, the library assistant, was a great host and she had just finished reading The Secret of Zoone and gave me a glowing review. Hey, I’ll take a glowing review from anyone, but, of course, it’s always special to get a good review from a librarian, because they are the ones who really read a lot and know their stuff. So, thank you, Sophia! I really appreciate your comments about my book.

Favourite question of the day

I actually got this question a few times this week, but I decided to feature it today. It was: “What is your favourite place that you traveled to?” (REAL place—not imaginary; I had to clarify!)

It’s always hard to answer this question. There are places I go to on a regular basis for work or family reasons: Korea, Japan, and England. But I think my favourite places I visit are the ones that are new to me, the ones that can offer me a surprising or unusual experience. I love nothing more than stepping out of my hotel door and being walloped by smells, sounds, and sights!

Book signing

After my last official TD Book Week visit, I had one more stop: the local Indigo book store at Scarborough Town Centre. My publisher had asked me to stop by and sign some stock. There were six books in the store, so I signed all of them (and one sold while I was there!).

In particular, though, it was fun to walk into the store and see my book positioned face out—this is obviously a good thing, because it means the book gets more attention.

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Well, it’s time for me to go and get some grub, and some rest! I think I’ve earned it!

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.

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 4

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 4

It was another fun and busy schedule on Day 4 of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour!

Knocking your socks right off

The first thing I want to say is that I have been having a great time and I think the students have, too. In fact, I can now say with all authority that my presentations will knock your socks off—literally.

Doubt me?

Well, I have the proof. After my very last presentation of the day, I found this lone sock hanging out on the gymnasium floor!

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But back to the beginning of my day, which started with me waking up in Markham to dismal weather. It was cloudy, rainy, and cold—in other words, what it feels like on a typical winter’s day in Vancouver. (Or, admittedly, often in June.) That was a good excuse for an extra cup of coffee, which I got at the Starbucks conveniently located in my hotel lobby.

I jumped into the car and headed to my first school Saint Francis Xavier—or, as they like to call it, SFX. Sounds like a cool Sci-Fi channel, but more importantly, it makes it a lot easier to autograph books to their school!

This friendly display welcomed me as I entered:

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Perhaps more importantly, so did a tray of delicious snacks. Little touches like that can really help an author keep going in the middle of a buzzing tour.

Enchanted Trees

Every presentation I did today was in a gymnasium, which means I had a lot of big groups. I did two sessions at SFX, the first one involving 220 kids, grade K-3.

I rolled out my brainstorming session on enchanted trees for these guys; it always seems to be a good fit for younger kids.

Our “group” tree ended up looking like this, with keys for fruit and a flying pig as a critter:

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Here are some of the trees the kids came up with:

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Magical Doorways

For the second session at SFX, plus my presentation to grades K-8 at William Armstrong Public School, we designed magical doorways.

There have been a lot of doorways designed this week, but I was intrigued by what one boy did today. It was something very simple, something you would think would be quite intuitive, but something I haven’t seen any other kid do. He folded his paper in half so that he could physically open his doorway, then draw, on the opposite side, where his door led to!

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Here are some of the other doors that kids designed in these two sessions:

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Favourite question of the day

There were a lot of great questions from my three sessions today, so I’m going to pick a main favourite, plus two honorary ones. So, my ultimate favourite is: “Why is writing special to you?”

I liked this question because I’ve never been asked it before. I’ve been asked similar questions, such as “Why do you like writing?” . . . but not one worded quite this way. And I tend to pay attention to specific wording in questions (I guess that comes with the territory of being an author and a teacher).

I will say that I had trouble answering the question. I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought of writing as something “special.” It’s a part of me, yes. But it’s always felt so integral, like a limb. Maybe it’s something I’ve taken for granted? I’m not sure . . .

Now to the honorary questions. Honorary favorite question #1 is: “Which character did you like writing the most?” This one is also hard to answer.

In terms of my Kendra Kandlestar books, I think it was Agent Lurk and Uncle Griffinskitch, because they both changed a lot across the series, and it was fun to see their growth, motivations, and history.

Uncle Griffinskitch

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For The Secret of Zoone, I’m tempted to say Tug the skyger because he is just so much darn fun!

Tug on the sofa

But, ultimately, I’m going to say Ozzie’s Aunt Temperance and I think it’s for the same reason as Aent Lurk and Uncle Griffinskitch. Her back story, her compulsions, and her motivations were very intriguing to me. Even though Ozzie is the clear main character in the book, I somehow feel the Zoone story is hers.

Aunt Temperance sketch

Honorary favorite question #2 is: “Can I have your key?” I like this question, because I get to answer “YES.” As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my Zoone key is 3D printed, and I have provided the file on my website (you can download it here).

Aunt Temperance's Zoone Key - orange background

I didn’t get to lost

Now to the big news of the day: I didn’t get lost. Not once! (First day this happened on the tour!)

Well, one day left . . . hard to believe it’s almost over! (Insert sad emoji face here.)

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.

 

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 3 (robots are liars)

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 3 (robots are liars)

Day 3 of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week marked the mid-point of my tour and it was very different from my previous days, mostly because I got to spend the whole day at one school. This was a nice switch! When you are a prop guy like me, there’s a lot of set up and pack up, and I only had to do it once today—as opposed to Monday and Tuesday, when I had to do it multiple times, and as quickly as possible to make the next event. (Hey, it’s my own fault!)

An oldie but a goodie

I spent the day in a gorgeous hundred-year old school called Summitview Public School located in the town of Stouffeville, Ontario. I was so busy hunting for the school that I didn’t even see the big sign out from with my name on it. The librarian pointed it out to me, so I rushed out at the break to take this photo, and one of the exterior of the building:

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Trees, doors, and a magical item or two!

Because I was there the entire day, I got to speak to the entire student body, from K-8, but in different groups, which I really appreciated. It not only made each group more intimate but allowed me to tailor my content to each age level.

For the younger group, that meant a lot of raw creativity and energy. We brainstormed magical trees and, for the group tree, ended up with a potion tree that was happy to dole out his magic to any passersby (the greedy little dragon who lived in his branches, however, had other ideas!)

Summitville-tree00

Of course, each student also created a tree of his or her own, and I managed to snap a couple of shots:

Summitville-tree02

Summitville-tree01

For the intermediate groups, I was able to combine the brainstorming with a little bit more of a discussion on the writing process. They had such great questions! And, of course, they had some very intriguing designs for their doors. Here’s just a handful of the ones that were produced:

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0D4EE817-2EE1-4F3F-9D72-99A208C1EDA1

4B73728B-72C1-4A7D-8064-5C5B069914C2

16E5F49A-76DC-48BE-9352-79F88EA737CE

224FF666-F271-43DD-85EC-7C853C184250

3588E19D-1DEC-4773-9F09-1B304DD734CA

346896B7-DF71-4E11-A5DC-B644570CA357

73486227-3862-4545-AE6B-FAC1FE592AC3

CA05CA71-94BA-40BD-8996-9D7BFA7720A9

DB6B930A-54C6-4DFF-8A83-EA93E53B96FF

My final group was with the Grades 6-8. I had a lot of time with this group so I really covered some of the professional aspects of publishing, such as how a book cover is designed. Of course, I did allot some time for brainstorming, and we did the idea of magical markets.

This group was a little reserved to begin with, but at one point the cork suddenly popped and they burst forth with ideas. They pitched so many of them at me that we actually ran out of time (the teacher had to do the equivalent of yanking me off the stage with a long cane)!

Some of the items they came up? Well:

  • a jar of human souls
  • a vial of toenails from a king
  • a skirt that allows you to fly
  • shadow spray
  • truth serum (in a bottle shaped like a question mark)
  • a bottle of dragon tears
  • a portable hole
  • an orange, which, whenever you peel it, offers you a different type of fruit (and it’s unlimited)

Summitville-magicalmarket-group

A piece of advice I gave them is to try and be as specific as possible in their ideas—and they took it to heart. That’s why I was given ideas such as “a bottle of king’s toenails” as opposed to simply “toenails.” When you’re specific, the ideas are more interesting and more evocative!

What an engaged and creative bunch—all of them! It was a really great day, which was capped off with more event . . .

Adding to the Buzz

Fiona, one of the older students, started a podcast at her school called “What’s the Buzz?” (The school’s sports teams are “the stingers”, so they got a bee theme here). So, at the end of the day, I sat down with Fiona and recorded a short interview. She was so poised and confident (and prepared)—I was impressed.

Summitville_fiona_interview

Kindred spirits

It’s not just the kids I enjoy meeting at schools—it’s also the educators. I certainly love to talk about the process of writing, but I also love to talk about the process ofteachingwriting. I’ve had so many great conversations with teachers and librarians these past few days, and it was no different at Summitview. Constance Calvert, the librarian, runs a really great show and I really enjoyed talking “shop” with her!

Favourite question of the day

I’m going to pick two favorite questions, and I feel like I’m entitled because one was from an actual session and one was from the podcast I did with Fiona.

So, from one of my workshop sessions: “Are your favorite characters always your main characters?” (The answer is “no!” I often prefer the side characters in my stories in terms of the ones I grow quite attached to.)

My other favorite question came from Fiona’s interview and was the last one she asked me, which was: “What’s the one questions that I didn’t ask that you would like me to?”

I chose: “What character in your book are you most alike!” (I won’t tell my answer here—I think I’ll wait until the podcast is posted!)

Did I get lost? Yes, because robots are liars

Um . . . does a bee buzz? In yesterday’s blog post, I mentioned that the potential for me getting lost today was low, because I had less travel. I should have never written with such bravado because the robots ganged up and sent me on a whirlwind circle around the greater Toronto area. Google Maps, my GPS, even the hotel website all provided an address that sent me down a freeway with NO hotel. So, basically, I’m in the middle of a stretch of freeway with nothing around me and the GPS is telling me I have arrived at my destination.

I pulled over more than once to try and figure it out. Eventually, I looked up the hotel on Google Maps, found a nearby Tim Horton’s, and plugged its address into the GPS and that got me to my destination. (Take that robots!) I’m staying here for three more nights, so at least I won’t have to hunt for the hotel tomorrow.

Oh, oh.

Did I just jinx myself?

Stay tuned . . .

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.