See that sweet young woman kneeling next to me in today's pic? It's Lea Beddia -- whom I taught at Marianopolis College some 15 years ago. Today, I drove northeast of Montreal to Joliette, where I worked with Miss Beddia's Grade Seven English classes at Joliette High School. Miss Beddia (Lea to me!) is just as smart and funny as I remember her and I must say it was a special delight to see one of my former students doing such great work with her own students!! I know I shouldn't take credit... but I still do!!
I turned up at lunch time, so I got to hang out with Miss Beddia and some of the school's budding authors. Afterwards, I worked with about 40 students, sharing writing tips and, of course, telling a few stories. Then Miss Beddia divided the students into smaller groups so I could give them some one-on-one advice about the creative writing pieces they have been working on.
Whenever I do school visits, I like to share highlights of my day -- so here they come! At lunch, a student named Chloe said, "If you write about yourself as a character, you can find out more about yourself." That comment led those of us sitting at our table to discuss the connection between ourselves and the characters we create. I think that in some way, our characters are reflections of us -- and that sometimes they represent the parts of ourselves we seldom ,if ever, get to express! Why else do I keep writing about troublemaking boys?!!
Many of the students at JHS spend a lot of time on the schoolbus. Julia (who kindly corrected some French notes I am preparing for a radio column next week -- grand merci, Julia!) told me she uses her time on the bus to "observe people and imagine their stories." Spoken like a real writer, Julia!
When I was sharing writing tips, I asked the students, "What do you think happens when I write?" A young man named Nikolas came up with a great answer. He said, "You make a lot of mistakes!" And that's totally true -- and helps explain why I spend even more time REwriting than I spend writing my first drafts!
I also met a student named Blanche. When I told her how much I liked her name, Blanche told me her middle name is Neige. For those of you blog readers who do not speak French, that translates into "Snow White." Beautiful, don't you agree?
During a short writing exercise, Sebastien wrote about the last time he saw his great-grandmother. Here's a line that gave me shivers from Sebastien's piece: "Just by shaking her hand, I knew something was wrong."
I wish I had taken notes when I was looking at the students' stories -- but I was too busy reading and trying to provide some useful feedback. But I do remember a few of the suggestions I came up with: add dialogue to add life to your writing; show -- don't tell; take the reader with you by providing sensory details; and lose the adverbs.
Thanks, Miss Beddia, for staying wonderful all these years and for sharing your classes with me today; thanks Miss Murphy for letting us use your beautiful Community Learning Centre; and thanks to the students for working so hard! You guys were great!!!
It was a honor to see you. I didn't read one of your books but I am looking foward to it.
-Laury from Joliette High School
i'm honored to meet you too, and i STILL cant believe your mother meat Anne frank. thank you for your feed back, i will read "what is left of our world" thinking of you and my grand ma.
i do agree with Seb, it really was an honnor to meet you because you truly are my favourite author, and "what world is left" is one of the best books i ever read, not because it's about the holocaust but also because i know that most of the story is true.
Thank you Monique for your kindness, your energy (I managed to keep up), and for the wrinkle in time you creayed to be a part of my students' lives. It was much appreciated.
Although I didn't get a chance to meet you (every time I came to the Library you were so engrossed with the students I didn't dare interrupt, and I wanted them to take up your time, not me) I wanted to thank you for signing my Sec. 5 Literature Circles copies of On the Game! Thank you for coming to our little school and sharing your expertise and time, and yes, you are right about Lea, she is all you mentioned and more!
Hello Laury, Sebastien, Blanche, Miss Beddia and Miss Lowry,
You guys made my day with all your comments. So happy that I got to end my school year with such a fun visit. Have a great summer all of you -- good luck with exams, and keep reading and writing!
Thank you for visting our school !! It was really a good day! I hope you will come back and thanks for helping me out in my piece of writng. Your presentation was really good by the way
Thank you so much for taking your time to visit our little school! It's been great meeting you, and the little time we have spent talking has already helped me in my writing! It's exceptional, seeing how inspiration can come, when you think about it, and you certainly were one! Having the chance to interact with a real author is also wonderful, since it's a solid, real-life proof that people can live by being one ( Ha! That'll show all the people who don't believe it!). And, as trivial as it may seem, helping you with the translation has made me incredibly happy, since I can now say that I actually helped an author with something! Your overwhelming energy, the truth of your words and simply shaking your hand was a real honour, and has made more than my day! I believe that I can safely say it has made my whole month perfect! I know I probably sound like an over excited fan, but it's not everyday you get to meet someone working in the domain you wish to enter, is it? Once again, that you so much!!!
I had written the best paragraph of my life and I submitted it, but it was not submitted properly before I left the page and now it's gone! I can't remember exactly what I wrote, which is quite disappointing, but I'll still try to express the general thoughts of it! Meeting you, was extraordinary! I haven't actually read your books, but the way you talked and moved and explained your stories made me want to read them so much! I was quite impressed by your, at times, overwhelming energy, I was most definitely caught off guard by your sense of humour and I really appreciated your way of relaying your love of literature to us! Getting to speak to a real-life author, able to make money out of doing so ( Ha! That'll show those who tell me you can't making a living by writing!) was really a wonderful opportunity, and I'm not sure if you can imagine how much it's meant to me! Talking to you has really inspired me to find different ways of writing and titans different approaches. I always took the same steps to writing, and it always left me blocked on the same one. Now, I've started trying different things, using my previous knowledge of writing and incorporating your techniques into it. I believe that what was most wonderful of meeting you was seeing you at work, as you helped the younger students. It seemed that every time you spoke to one, you approached their piece of writing in a different manner, and every piece of advice you gave them has helped me in a way or another. Strangely, or perhaps not so much, I've started seeing in woks I read the advice you gave and pointing it out to myself. I think that doing so is really good practice, because it allows me to find my own mistakes afterwards. Finally, I must say that helping you with the translation made me not-so-humble! I couldn't help but telling everyone who'd listen that I had “actually helped out a real-life, flesh and bones author!!!!”, followed by many squeals of joy. It was fantastic, seeing you work and meeting you, and I really do hope we have an opportunity to meet again. Once more, thank you so much!!
PS. I realize that this is really long, but in order to challenge life I really felt the need to make it longer than my first...
Sadly, I was busy during your presentation and was incapable of coming to meet you but my sister was there and told me the tricks you gave here and there. I am a passionate writer myself and I'm sad that I misses the occasion to meet you. Please come back to JHS anytime because meeting a real author would be one of my dreams come true.
Hi Julia and Kimberly,
Thanks thanks for the messages. Kimberly, I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you, but I'm glad your sister passed along my tricks. YAY! Now Julia, first of all, I love what you have written -- both because it makes me happy that I inspired you, and also because you're such a fine writer. I really hear your voice when you write and I feel your enthusiasm. Finding your voice is something that usually takes lots of practice and time. So, in my opinion, you're well on the way to a writing life. (PS: I did my Radio-Canada talk this week, and your translations were perfect.) Now get to work: write and read a lot this summer. Looking forward to hearing about your progress!!
Oops... I didn't realize that my first comment HAD been sent... Oh well! I'm glad my translation was worth it! Also, in my second comment is the word ‘titan’, but I was aiming for ‘try’... Damned autocorrectors! I know I've said it before, but once again, thank you so much!