I started my day with a virtual visit to Laval Junior High School, where I worked with two of Ms. Milea's Grade Seven classes. A year ago -- so on last Deceber 1st -- who would ever have dreamed author would be visiting schools (even local ones) by Zoom and that the students we'd "meet" on our computers would be wearing masks! Our world has certainly changed in a short time! But as I pointed out to the students today, they will have stories to tell about the COVID-19 pandemic for the rest of their lives. When you think about it, young people have a front row seat to history-in-the-making. WHICH IS WHY I TOLD MS. MILEA'S STUDENTS TO TAKE A LOT OF NOTES!!
I'm happy I'll get to work with each of Ms. Milea's English classes twice. That gives me time to review the writing tips I cover in my usual workshops, and also time to discuss the students' story ideas and give them some feedback on their writing.
As usual, I'll share some fun moments from today's workshops. Here goes! I asked the first class to guess how I learned about boxing so I could write my YA novel Straight Punch. Kelly said, "You went to a boxing ring to see what it's like." Luca said, "You interviewed a boxer." Mya said, "You watched videos." Anthony said, "Maybe you have a friend who's a boxer." I told Kelly, Luca, Mya and Anthony they were all correct -- but that I'd done even better research than that -- that I had taken four years of boxing lessons! That's when I heard Anthony call out, "Oh my god!" -- which cracked me up!!
I do believe in doing on-the-spot research whenever possible. Talking about that led me to talking about how writers need to use the five senses -- or at least some of the five! So I was impressed when Ms. Milea explained that in September, these students had worked on poems about the fall, and that they'd had to include sensory details. YES to that writing exercise!!
I also compared writing to cooking (another thing I love to do). I told the students how including TROUBLE in a story gets things moving -- turns up the heat on, for example, spaghetti sauce. (Can you tell I'm in the mood for spaghetti?) I also talked about adding WHAT IF? to the recipe. I ask myself the WHAT IF? question all the time when I am developing a story plot. What if a character, for example. contracts COVID-19 and transmits it to someone she loves? WHAT IF? also helps to get our stories cooking. I asked the students whether any of them are WHAT IF? thinkers. A student named Many said he was. He said, "I think, 'what if I ordered something else at a Greek restaurant?'" Then Ms. Milea added some sensible advice: "When you go to a Greek restaurant, you order everything!"
As I told the students, it's great to add humour to a story -- even to a serious or sad story. (That's why I like to include funny moments in these blog entries.)
The second class I worked with was quieter, but super-focused. At least I think they were super-focused! At the end of my talk, a student named Michael asked, "What inspired you to be a writer?" I told Michael I think the answer is that I have always loved stories. And I still do. I can't seem to stop reading and writing them. I hope if you're one of the young writers I worked with today, or if you are just someone reading this blog, that you are also hooked on stories.
Thanks to Ms. Milea for arranging today's visit, and for not minding that I wanted to "travel" by Zoom. Thanks to the kids for being smart and fun (an excellent combination if you ask me). I'm already looking forward to my second session with you guys!