I'm just home from an incredibly fun and stimulating visit to Montreal's Ecole Nationale de Cirque where I did two writing workshops for young people who have come to Montreal to train to become circus performers. My workshops took place in the school's library -- a place that is close to my heart. That's because it was in this very same library that I started researching my YA novel Learning the Ropes. It was also there that I met librarian Anna-Karyna Barlati, who really introduced me to all things circus!
What made today's visit unusual and special for me is that the young people I worked with already know a lot about some of the things I love to discuss, such as the need for discipline and hard work if we want to get better at what we do. We also talked about courage. It takes courage for authors to tackle difficult subjects, but as a student named Lily explained, working on a circus act also requires courage. Lily explained that she needs courage when she does ropes or tissu: "When I'm about to do my big drop and I'm face down, I think, 'Am I going to hit my head on the mat?'"
These students also understood when I explained how much re-writing I do. That's because they go over their moves again and again... and then some... before they get them right. And when I said that I often feel frustrated when I write, a student named Lola said she felt the same way when she was learning to do a hands-free cartwheel: "I did it once, but then I couldn't do it a second time." But Lola didn't give up -- another trait we writers share with circus performers!-- and now she can do the hands-free cartwheel anytime she wants to!
If you know me, you'll know I'm obsessed with body language. Well, there was a lot of nodding when I was sharing my writing tips today. Sometimes, I get the sense that one of the young people I am working with is meant to be a writer. I had that feeling about many of the students I met today. A student named Andrea, who does the Cyr wheel, confirmed my hunch about her when she told me, "I'm the kind of person who doesn't understand things until I write them down." Exactly, Andrea! That's what writing is all about!
In addition to teachers Diana Matean and Vaji Dorostkar, my librarian pal Anna-Karyna was also at today's workshops. I learned that Anna-Karyna teaches a course on Research Methods and the Artistic Process. So I'm going to end tonight's blog entry with something Anna-Karyna told my second group: "Hold those stories of who you are." How I love that line! That's what we all need to do -- hold the stories of who we are. Whether we use words or physical movement or music or paint to tell our stories, the main thing is holding onto them -- and when we're ready, sharing them with the world.
Thanks Diana and Anna-Karyna for making today's visit possible. Thanks especially to the students. My book Learning the Ropes is pretty good -- but think how amazing your books about circus life are going o be!!! Now get to work!!!