Some days, magic happens.
That's how I feel after the virtual visit I just had with students at J.L. Crowe Secondary School in Trail, BC. I was "in" Trail to celebrate Day 4 of the CCBC's Book Week.
What, you may be wondering, made the visit magic?
Well, for one thing, when I demonstrated my boxing moves (I took up boxing while I was doing the RESEARCH for my YA novel Straight Punch), Ms. Smith's class (check them out in today's pic), got up from their desks and did the moves too!
Another thing that added to the magic, I think, was the presence of teacher-librarian Ms. Lunde. She's the person at J.L. Crowe who helped arrange my visit today, and she "attended." There she was in one of my Zoom boxes -- obviously having fun because she was smiling a lot, and also sending me encouraging messages in the "chat." So looking back, I think that having such an enthusiastic "student" as Ms. Lunde, well, it made my usual high-energy get a little higher (if such a thing is possible!)
Okay, but what really made the visit magical was the students' questions. There were so many that I spent a little extra time with the classes, and even when the students were allowed to leave, a few stragglers stayed behind to ask more questions. The thing is -- and this is unusual -- EVERY SINGLE QUESTION WAS THOUGHT-PROVOKING. What, I wonder, do they feed the kids in Trail to make them so smart?!
Marcus wanted to know, "When you start with a book, how do you keep with the idea, and how do you not let it turn into ... well... a mess?" I told Marcus that because I sign book contracts in advance, I have no choice but to stay focused. But you know what? Writing this blog makes me realize I have an even better answer for Marcus -- sometimes a book HAS to turn into a mess before it gets good. it's all part of the process!
Ollie said, "i don't really want to be a writer... but to be a writer, how do you get noticed?" An interesting question which led me to talk a little about social media and its importance, but also to emphasize my view that writers need to write the stories that are calling to them -- I think it's better not to write to get noticed. If we do get noticed, why, it's bonus!
Jackson wanted to know, "Is it better to leave stories on a cliffhanger or to know what happens?" I didn't really have an anawer for Jackson, except to say that I notice a trend towards book series lately. But even when I read a book that is part of a series, I feel like I want some sense of satisfaction at the end of the book, a sense that issues have been resolved and that the main characters have grown.
Keirra asked, "How do you show emotion without stating it?" I told Keirra that I'm hooked on body language. For instance, I observed that she was clutching her hands -- a sign of a little bit of nervousness. Writers look for small signs to help us show our readers' feelings.
Presley wanted to know which story trope I like the least. I told her it was the one where a girl has a crush on a boy who pays no attention to her. Arghh! Then I asked Presley, "What's your least favourite trope?" I loved her answer, which was: "Happy endings." Which led me to tell Presley that in my own Writing for Children class at Marianopolis College here in Montreal, I tell my students to lose their happy endings. But I also tell them that their characters need to GROW.
So here's to growth and magic and great questions and the CCBC Book Week. Thanks to Ms. Lunde for arranging the visit, to teachers Ms. Smith, Ms. Tekavicic and Ms. Eggert for sharing your kids with me. And thanks, of course, to the gang at the CCBC for all you do to make book week possible. Signed, One Happy Writer
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Thank you for teaching us the ins and outs of creative writing and showing us to be brave. Although I'm kind of salty that I didn't get put in your blog I'm sure ill get over it. I hope you and your boyfriend are doing good. Third times the charm
Hey Monique! It's Keirra from the zoom yesterday, thank you for joining us and helping us with our many questions. You inspired me so much in fact, that when I got home I started reading and writing myself! I enjoyed hearing your stories, about your life, and your mother's necklace. I'm glad you included me in your blog, I was very excited to see it! Thank you, Monique!
Hi there! My name's Austin and I was in Mrs. Smith's class during this Zoom meeting and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to have a meet with us! I absolutely loved the energy you brought with you, and I greatly enjoyed the personal stories and writing tips!
hey its Brooklin, i didn't ask any questions lol. but i had a lot of fun on your zoom call, your story was very interesting and i had fun.
Thank you for teaching us how to start writing our own books, and the cool example stories. I really liked the stories you told about how to get ideas, my favourite was the "catching a butterfly in your hand" example!
-Rylin from JLCrowe
Hey, this is Evan, I just wanted to say thank you for taking time out of your day to present to our class. It was great to hear from such an accomplished writer and I'm sure you inspired many people, myself included. Thank you for all the tips and the advice for writing, best wishes.
Thank you for letting me get away with not doing any work for half the day
Thank you for the engaging presentation and positive energy, you radiate amazing vibes. As we were reading this morning we noticed there were a lot of "what if?" questions, like you had mentioned in your zoom presentation. We are currently writing an essay and all of your advice has helped to improve our essays. Using pain and trouble to fuel our stories, engaging the audience.
Hi Monique, It's Presley! Your presentation was something I didn't originally think I would enjoy as I've attended other author presentations and they bored me into the ground. Yours was simply not that though! I quite enjoyed all your stories as well as all your answers to our questions. You kept me (and a large majority of my class, I'm sure,) entertained to the fullest! It was great talking to you through zoom and I hope to read one of your books soon, they seemed quite interesting. Also tell your boyfriend hi for me, he seemed cool. Much love from J.L Crowe!
Hi Monique, I thought your was presentation pretty entertaning, everything was very interesting for me. I really liked the story of how you got the monkey man, it really made me think of how these things in the past are never forgotten and can make a good story. Thank you for the presentation.
Hi Monique, I really enjoyed the zoom meeting and found it super informational. The story about how you came up with the book about the girl who is anxious about violence going to the alternative school was very inspirational. You give off the best vibes and that's a very good trait to have. I wish you well with your boyfriend and hope the rest of the pandemic treats you with care. Stay Steezy.
Joshua Aiden Grove
Thank you for presenting to our class, you inspired me to be more interested in writing, and you were a very entertaining presenter.
Thank you for sharing the story about your monkey necklace. It was so interesting the history behind it. I thought it was really cool that you did research to try to find the woman who gave it to your mother. I thought that even though it was a terribly sad story it created something quite amazing like how you wrote the story and then released the book in holland. I loved the way you talked about how you write about the little things like the butterfly in your hand because I feel there are many small beautiful things in life that go unnoticed. From Ya boi Marcus.
I really admired how you told the story about the monkey human neckless thingy, I thought it was very special and thoughtful of you to tell that women's story because it doesn't matter if she is alive or not her story is now carried on and I will remember her for years and years to come. Thank you for speaking to our class, we all appreciated you and it shows in the class's excitement afterwards. Everyone had a smile on their face at some point during the presentation. Best of luck with the rest of your writing.
Hello Monique, thank you for presenting to our class and giving good advice, and also for being cheerful and excited to be here- Shelby Johnson
From your presentation, I took away a couple of key points which will hopefully inspire me to write more stories and become a thoughtful writer, maybe not thoughtful but a writer! meaning just putting pen to paper or fingers to keys and jotting down the foggy memories of my day or simply how I feel about something. I learned trouble out of all emotions is a great basis for stories, not that I should create it but live it when it's happening then write about it later, in the shower... I learned to write nonfiction stories, recycling and reusing others' and secretes is very intriguing, as its a side of the world others have never seen. And for fiction, a great story can always come from the what-ifs of your imagination! thanks for the tips and friendly personality -Yours truly Ollie