I did another school visit today -- at Westmount High School in Montreal. Again, I'm feeling very inspired by the young people I met. The school librarian Susan Chau (Miss Chau to the students) arranged the visit. (She is the same librarian who helped me when I was writing a story for The National Post newspaper about bibliotherapy.) My friend and fellow writer Lori Weber also visited WestmountHigh today -- so afterwards, we got to go for lunch and compare notes!!
The first group I met were grade 11 students. There was a bit of rustling while I was talking about my life as a writer -- but everyone really settled down when I read them a funny scene from my book No More Pranks. There's nothing we writers like more than an attentive audience! Afterwards, three students stayed to chat with me. It turns out they were all fairly new to the school. Lea and Larissa are exchange students; Lea comes from north of Cologne in Germany, Larissa comes from Sao Paulo in Brazil. I also met Shayna who recently moved to Montreal from New Jersey. Shayna told me she is working on a novella. My favourite moment happened when Shayna called out: "I need a pen. I just got an idea!" That sounded to me like someone who's got the writing bug. Way to go, Shayna!!
The second group of students were grade tens. I must say they were perfectly well behaved. Ironically, the only time I had to "shush" anybody was when TWO TEACHERS were talking. Pretty funny, no?!! I also got to chat with a couple of students afterwards. One of them, Melissa, writes poetry and she let me read her poems called "It's a pathetic kind of love." The poem is powerful and as I told Melissa, I love the title. I suggested she post it on the blog, so look out for it in this space. From the poem, it feels to me like Melissa has already experienced some difficult moments in her life. I always tell students there's one good thing about going through tough times: YOU GET MATERIAL TO WRITE ABOUT. Actually, there's another important thing that comes from going through tough times: YOU DEVELOP COMPASSION FOR OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE IT TOUGH. In fact, and I know I'm going on a bit here, but this is something I really believe in: it takes compassion to sympathize with a character in a book you are reading, and it takes compassion to develop believable characters in the stories we are writing. I still want to tell you about two more students, both of whom told me things about themselves that made me admire their courage. One was a girl named Holly, who said she could really relate to one of my books. And then there was Nicefar, who has begun writing a book about her own life. Nicefar was raised in Grenada by her grandmother and aunt. She faced some challenges growing up, but it's easy to see that, like Holly, she's gained an unusual sensitivity along the way.Â
Like I told these students, JUST WRITE!!! Don't worry if you haven't got the beginning, the middle or the end of your story. The German writer Goethe said, "Anything you want or think you want, begin it!" Writing stories is our way to make sense of an often complicated world.Â
I do feel like my own world gets bigger every time I visit a school and meet more students. So, a big thanks to all of you!! And send me your comments or questions about writing.