Yesterday YA author Lori Weber came to talk to my "Writing for Children" class at Marianopolis College. Lori has written five YA books, including Klepto, which we have been discussing in class. Yesterday was an exciting day for us because Lori read from her latest novel If You Live Like Me. In fact, we were present for Lori's debut performance -- since yesterday was the first time Lori read publicly from the novel.
Lori had many important things to tell us about writing and about how she gets her ideas. She told us that many of her characters are inspired by real people. For instance, a social worker who visited Lori's family when she was growing up and who drove a red Corvette, found her way into Klepto.
Lori has an expression to explain how real life incidents and feelings can inspire stories. She calls it, "One True Thing." Lori went on to say how "kernels of true things... something that had a profound effect on you" can inspire creative work.
Lori also spent some time discussing setting, which she describe as "an under-used element of fiction." I thought she gave great advice when she told the class, "Don't describe anything unless it's important."
But I'd say the highlight of Lori's visit was when she read from If You Live Like Me. The story is set in Newfoundland, and Lori read us the opening scene -- in it, the protagonist Cheryl is on the plane from Montreal, just about to land in Newfoundland and not too thrilled about it. I can't wait to read the rest of the book! Lori will be launching it on May 28 at Babar Books in Pointe-Claire and everyone's welcome to join the party.
After class ended, Lori stayed to workshop with individual students. I was working in my own office down the hall, but I had the impression Lori had quite a lot of "customers"!
When Lori was packing up to leave, I asked whether she had time for one more customer -- me!!
I've been struggling with one scene in my manuscript, The Middle of Everywhere, and Lori agreed to take a quick look at it. So there we were, in the hallway at Marianopolis, and guess what? Lori read the three pages I printed up, asked me a few questions about what I was up to in the story, and made a simple suggestion. And that simple suggestion really helped!! So, thanks to Lori for visiting my class, for working with students afterwards and for helping out a fellow writer. As the Beatles wrote, "I get by with a little help from my friends!"
Check out this pic of Lori with my very dear class! How could students who turn up reliably twice a week at 8:15 in the morning (and generally in good spirits, too) not be very dear?