That's me in today's pic -- psoing with a bloody bride and a scarecrow! I'm just back from a happy visit to Mother Teresa Junior High School, where I spoke to Miss Farrell's Grade Eight English classes. I talked about how I got to be a children's writer, shared my favourite writing tips, answered questions and got the students to do a little writing exercise.
I thought I'd share some of the highlights of my morning in today's blog entry.
Well, first there were the costumes. Imagine teaching a student who is dressed up to look like a bottle of Heinz ketchup! There was also a Fidel Castro lookalike ("my beard broke," he told me), as well as many zombies and soccer players.
One of the things we talked about is how writers don't always get their ideas when they are at their desks or in front of their computers. A student named Alyssa raised her hand to say that J. K. Rowling got the idea for her Harry Potter books when she was on a train. I didn't know that -- and now I'll be able to work that info into my presentation. Thanks, Alyssa! At recess, Alyssa came back to the library where I was doing my presentation and showed me an excellent short story she's working on. "I don't really like it," she told me. So I took that opportunity to tell Alyssa she should try to speak more kindly about her own creations! I suggested she try saying, "I know my story still needs work." I think the words we use to talk about writing matter -- and it's great to know our stories need work -- mine certainly do.
A student named Alex seemed to know a lot about the writing process. This is how he described it to me: "You're on a page and it's hard to imagine what to write when you get to another page." I told Alex I feel the same way. Partly, the feeling makes me a little anxious, but you know, it's also exciting not knowing what's coming next. Sometimes, when we're lucky, we writers surprise ourselves with our own stories!
I told the students that I am obsessed with asking the question, "What if?" -- and that that question "fuels" my stories. A student named Bridget, who during the writing exercise wrote a lovely paragraph about how distressed she felt as a little girl when she lost a necklace, told me she aks "What if?" a lot too. Especially, Bridget said, when she is dancing: "I often think, 'What if that one event happened and the chain effect it could create.'"
I get invited to schools to help inspire students to write... but as you can tell from today's blog entry, it often works the other way too. I've come home totally inspired by these young writers at MTJHS. Thanks, Miss Farrell, for the invite, and Miss Venditti for sharing your beautiful, recently pruned library with all of us today!