If you have read my YA novel, 121 Express, you will remember Mr. Adams. What you may not know is that the fictional Mr. Adams is based on a wonderful real-life teacher named Mr. Adams, who is now the head of the English Department at Lauren Hill Academy, Junior Campus, here in Montreal.
I met Mr. Adams several years ago, when I worked with him and his students on a Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation project, which ended up inspiring 121 Express. Which meant that I got to spend a lot of time at Lauren Hill's Junior Campus.
So you will understand why I was so pleased to be invited back there this morning! I am just home from doing three workshops at the school -- and the first one was for TEACHERS! Basically, I did the same thing with the teachers that I did later with their students -- shared my writing tips, and got them WRITING!
Afterwards, I worked with two large groups of students -- I think I probably spoke to over 200 students in all... and they were great. It's not easy for participants in such large groups to stay focused, but these kids were just about perfect.
I talked about the important link between our memories and the stories we need to write. During a short writing exercise, a student named Azur asked, "Can we keep it in the present?" I thought this was a sophisticated question and I told Azur, yes, absolutely, use the present. I find that when I am writing about memories, the present tense adds immediacy -- something that Azur was discovering on her own. A student named Kiki wrote about a difficult memory involving violence. Kiki gave me permission to share a few lines here: "Not again. Not another bruise. Not another day." Those are powerful words, Kiki, and they make me want to keep reading your story!
When he was introducing me to the second group, Mr. Adams said, "Writing is a life skill -- not just a school skill." I thought that was so smart and well-put that I had to write it down in my notes. See, writers are ALWAYS TAKING NOTES, even during our own presentations!
I showed the students (and the teachers) my book of "pages" -- the journal I write in every morning. After I was done with my last presentation, a student named Matthew asked, "May I read the book you write in every morning?" I had a quick answer for Matthew: "NO!"
I also got to meet the school's vice-principal. And it turns out that she has read one of my books. Plus, she has the best name for a vice-principal: MS. EXCELLENT. Ms. Excellent, you are definitely going into one of my future books!
A big shout-out to my friends at Lauren Hill Academy, Junior Campus -- thanks for being a great audience, thanks to Mr. Adams for the invite, to the other English teachers for coming to the teachers' workshops, and to Ms. Excellent for living up to her name!