A writers’ retreat on Jeju Island

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I just wrapped up a five-day retreat with young writing students on Jeju Island in Korea, taught with author Kallie George for the Creative Writing for Children (CWC) program.

I’ve led many different writing camps or worked at an author-in-residence at several different schools, but this experience was unique for a number of reasons.

First of all, the retreat was limited to just a few students, so we could really work with them closely. Also, each of the students was a dedicated writer, with plenty of experience gained from past CWC workshops and programs. Finally, the location was a secluded hilltop residence, surrounded by lush forests and an abundance of nature. This gave us plenty of opportunity to explore the world around us.

For the theme of the camp, we decided to get each of the students to research traditional Korean folktales and then retell them in their own voices.

Personally, I really loved the abundance of nature we found at the camp. The forest trails were teeming with all sorts of creatures.

One afternoon, I was walking with two of the students through the misty and dewy landscape, when a golden deer bounded out in front of us! That felt like particularly good fortune because one of my students, Yujin, was writing a tale that involved a deer who delivers a message to a woodsman. We didn’t get a picture of that deer, but that moment certainly stuck with Yujin.

I did get many pictures of the rest of that walk:

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jeju_fence  jeju_mrwiz&yujintree jeju_snail jeju_spiderweb

On a subsequent walk, I found a giant hammerhead worm wriggling across my path. I had never seen one in real life before! Apparently, it’s a predatory worm, subsisting off of other worms. This particular specimen looked well-fed, if you ask me.

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Finally, here are a few photos from  yet another walk. On this path, we found many tiny bronze-colored frogs leaping out of our way!

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Here are some of the snapshots of the students’ work in progress . . . in addition to retelling the folktales, the students also produced accompanying illustrations.

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It was a very successful retreat! In a future post, I’ll post some of the photos from our day trip!

Shiver me timbers! This is how we prepare for pirate camp . . .

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In just a few days, I’m headed to Korea to teach two creative writing camps. The first one will be a writing intensive for young, but experienced creative writers. The second is for a more general range of students and will celebrate the theme of pirates!

Imagine my delight when I discovered that there’s an interactive pirate adventure right in my own back . . . er, sea, here in Vancouver. Marcie and I decided to give Pirate Adventures, based on Granville Island,  a spin last week—not only to help me prepare for pirate camp, but to coincide with our five-year-old niece’s visit. (You know, the proverbial two parrots with one stone.)

I was impressed by the adventure—they went the full nine leagues. The actors stayed in character, used their pirate lingo, and all the visitors were dressed and face painted to look like pirates. (Er . . . I showed up in my own pirate gear; no need to dress me!) The ship, the Black Spirit, was a wonderful, full-operational, set piece. I would have been happy to just float around on it for an hour! But there is a plot to the story, complete with hidden treasure, a message in a bottle, and an encounter with a scalawag of a villain.

Here are some of the photos from the day.

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At one point, as was tried and found guilty (I can’t remember for what) and almost made to walk the plank. I was saved by a last minute intervention!

pirateadventure_plank        pirateadventure_izzy

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For me, the best part was when the kids got to fire their water cannons at the villainous Pirate Pete. (But it’s okay; it looked like he could have used the bath.)

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What’s a pirate adventure without a treasure map?

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I have always loved pirates; they are featured in one of my books, Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve. Of course, those pirates are Gnomes and Dwarves, but other than that, they have all the characteristics of pirates. They hunt treasure, sing sea shanties, and fend off (or TRY to fend off) a deadly sea beast. I sure wish I had gone on this adventure before writing (and illustrating) that book . . .

dirtybeardstrokesbeard pugglemudspet goldenloot squaggle ruckus_rustybucket dirtybeard

Scoptacus.

Captain Four Face and the Attack of the Giant Robot . . . and other stories

I received a delightful package in the post yesterday—a thank you book from a school I visited in the spring. The cover shows some photos of the workshop I did with the Grade One class at Mulgrave School. My workshop started off with a presentation on how I develop my own inspiration, specifically the Land of Een in my Kendra Kandlestar series. I then led the students in an interactive world-building activity that could set up each of the students up for a story.

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And, on the inside were many wonderful stories written by the students, complete with title page. Just check out some of the interesting titles and artwork:

mulgrave2015_captain4face mulgrave2015_wasie&wolf mulgrave2015_soccergame mulgrave2015_bear&jewel mulgrave2015_mouse&queen mulgrave2015_theninja&badguys mulgrave2015_itch mulgrave2015_knightVSdragon mulgrave2015_dragonwars mulgrave2015_lion&theman mulgrave2015_magiccrystal

I don’t always get to see what the results of my inspirational activities are at a school, so it’s a real joy to receive this anthology of wonder!

Magic is in the air . . .

. . . but it doesn’t always smell very good! That’s certainly the case in my magic potions workshop, which I teach as part of my creative writing classes for kids at CWC. Because when you mix a spoonful of mummy dust, a squirt of troll snot, and a dash of envy’s curse . . . well the results can get explosive!

In truth, this class is really just my forum for teaching about the five senses and getting my young students to think about adding more detailed description into their writing. Nothing helps the imagination like experiencing! Here’s photos from my latest class.

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Latest potions from the Dream Workshop

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Here are some of the latest photos from the Dream Workshop I teach as part of the Creative Writing for Children (CWC) program.

My magic potions class is a great way to have the students add some conflict (or solutions!) into their stories and to help them experience the five senses. In this workshop, the students can visualize their potion, sniff it, hear it (because they always seem to fizz, crackle, and percolate), and even feel it as they stir it. The only thing I ask them to imagine is the taste (we don’t need anymore students turning into newts)!

Here are some photos of the potions during the brewing phase:

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After the brewing phase, we took a sample from each “cauldron” and distilled them into miniature bottles that the students then labeled. Here’s how they looked at the end:

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Picture book making with my creative writing students

This year my creative writing program for kids took on an ambitious task: to help our students write, illustrate, and design their own picture books. This has been a real monumental challenge, given that the kids in this particular class our aged 8-12. They’ve had to stick with one story for an entire 15-week program!

I’ve been handling the illustrative side of the class, while my teaching partner Kallie George has brought all of her expertise in writing and editing picture books to help the students develop their words.

I’ve been away from the class for the last few weeks visiting schools in Korea and Thailand, so I finally returned home to take a look at their projects. When I left, they had just finished developing picture book dummies and had started on character design. Now the students are in full illustration mode.

Here are some photos of their books in progress . . .

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Dream Workshop Doors

As part of the creative writing class (called Dream Workshop) I teach for CWC, I deliver a lot of hands-on activities. That’s because, for me, writing isn’t just about the act at sitting at a computer, pounding my fingers against a keyboard. It’s also about sketching, mapping, diagramming, and building stuff.

I find building stuff really helps keep my creativity alive. So much the better when what I’m building actually connects to a story I’m trying to write. While building a model or a prop, my imagination becomes inflamed and those dingy corners of my mind begin to percolate with ideas.

One of my favorite activities to work on with my classes is door-building. I’m obsessed with doors and take a lot of photos of them as I travel around. But it’s also fun to build them in connection to a story. For the students, it helps them visualize their stories, which means they are better prepared to add description and detail into their scenes.

Here are some photos of my most recent class. As always, the students’ creativity surprises me! I can’t wait to see these doorways come alive in their stories.

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