You might be wondering who's that with me in today's pic? It's Scout, the CBC mascot I met earlier this afternoon at Arts Alive! -- an arts festival organized by ELAN (English Language Arts Network). I was there to do a multi-generational writing workshop. But first, I need to explain about Scout.
The festival is taking place all this weekend at St. John Fisher School in Pointe-Claire. The first thing I did when I walked into the building was ask where the bathroom was (you'll do that too when you're fifty-seven years old!!). The bathroom was immediately to my left. When I walked in, there was Scout sitting on the floor! I asked Scout whether she was all right... Scout told me, "I needed a break from the heat and all the kids!" I guess the bathroom was the only safe place for Scout to escape to!
Why am I telling you all this about Scout? Beause it isn't every day you walk into a school bathroom and find a mascot sitting on the tile floor. And that's how I opened this afternoon's writing workshop -- with the story of Scout. I told my workshop participants that writers need to be on the lookout for things that are WEIRD, FUNNY, and also SAD. Meeting Scout was weird and funny. And hey, I could make up the sad part. (That's the best thing about being a fiction writer ... we get to make stuff up!!) What if Scout (or more accurately the girl underneath the costume) saw her old frenemy from high school -- and she was worried that her frenemy might figure out that she had to spend today wearing a heavy, wooly costume for minimum wage pay? What if she ducked into the bathroom to avoid her frenemy? (See how much fun it is to make stuff up...)
There were only three participants at today's workshop. But because we were such a small group, we got a lot done and there was time to read from each other's work. There were two kids: Zahra, who's 10, and her brother Noah, who's 8. Zahra has been at several of my writing workshops. Soon, she'll be able to GIVE the workshops for me. The other participant was a grown-up named Mary.
I think it's safe to say we had a blast.
Here are some highlights from our ninety minutes together.
When I talked about how writers need to read, Zahra said, "I can't go to sleep without reading." Then Mary called out, "Me too, me too." I pointed out that Mary's use of the double "Me too" was a great example of fun language. Later, I was not surprised to discover that Mary writes great dialogue.
Another fun moment happened when I told the group, "Get ready to do a lot of writing." Noah looked up from his paper and said, "I can't spell though." I assured him that there are many fine writers who can't spell and that there's always spellcheck. For today, all he had to do was write write write. Noah also made us laugh when I asked the kids their ages. I wasn't going to ask Mary hers -- she's a grownup after all, and not all grown ups like to divulge this sort of information... but then Noah turned to Mary and asked, "How old are you?"
We did an exercise tht involved writing about a memory from when we were five years old. Zahra wrote about palying ringette. She included the line, "My toes hurt from rubbing on my ice skates for so long."I thought that was an excellent use of detail. Mary remembered being in her family's barn with a workhorse named King: "King munched on hay -- and I did too." I LOVE the picture of a five-year-old girl eating hay along with her horse. Don't you?
i was a little sorry when our ninety minutes were over. Zahra was going to her Arab lesson, Mary met up with her husband. And guess who I ran into in the school lobby? Scout.
Have a lovely weekend whenever you are. Hope you meet someone WEIRD and FUNNY too. And if something SAD happens, I wish you strength to deal with it... and don't forget to take notes. Because hey, that's what writers do!!!
Here's one more pic from the actual workshop today!
Saturday's workshop was terrific. Thank you so much for challenging me to get my rusty writing skills back up and running. Such great exercises too. Loved them all but my favourite was reaching back to a great memory from when I was 5 using all of my senses to describe the memory. The memories came flooding back. I was only restricted by time and the limitations of writing with pen and paper instead of on my computer. The children in your workshop were a real inspiration too - terrific, clever, and fun.
Will definitely check out lots of children's picture books on my trip to the local library tomorrow.
Thank you again. Let me know if you have upcoming writing classes.
Now, apple picking awaits. Must get out there before the heat hits and while there are still some apples on the trees. This dry fall is not an apple orchard farmer's friend.
Yay Mary! Thanks for posting this comment. Had a great time with you guys. Looking forward to your farm stories. I smell a whole collection!!
Ah, that is so nice. I don't really know what to do with stories that I write and then make nice and tight and bright. Guess, I need to know the process of where to go with story ideas and possibilities. Ideas come faster than I can get them down but I am stalled with sharing them, setting them free, and giving them a wider audience.