It's cold and grey in Montreal, but I still had a sunshine-y day -- thanks to Mr. P's, Miss Jennifer's and Miss Houlihan's students at Sunshine Academy. (Plus a really fun and surprising thing happened... but you'll have to check tomorrow's blog entry to read about that.)
Okay, back to my sunshine-y day. I've visited Sunshine Academy several times, so I know my way around! My first stop was the library, where I chatted with my friend, school librarian Mrs. Susan.
Then it was on to the classrooms. I met two groups of students -- both quite different, and fun in their own ways. Mr. P's students were wide awake and focused. I told them several stories, then moved on to writing tips and a short writing exercises. Many of the students already enjoy writing. Some have great stories to tell. For example, Yasin, who was born in Haiti, but who traveled last summer to Rwanda. He knows a lot about Rwanda's history and about the terrible genocide that happened there. In fact, Yasin knows someone whose mother lived in Rwanda during those years. If you know me, you can guess what I told him: INTERVIEW THE WOMAN, ASK QUESTIONS, GET HER STORY! THEN WRITE IT DOWN!
When I do school visits, of course I'm there to teach the students, but sometimes I end up learning cool stuff, too. For instance, I learned it is possible to talk and yawn at the same time (thanks, Jesse, for the demonstration!), and that Sneha (the name of one of the students) is Hindi for "affection." (I told Sneha that I love saying her name -- it's the kind of word that rolls on your tongue in the most pleasant way!)
During the writing exercise, a student named Ryan wrote about a game he used to play with a friend in elementary school. I won't say too much about it here -- except that it makes a great story, Ryan -- and I hope you'll write it!
There was a short break between my two sessions -- that's when events relating to the surprise took place -- and then it was onto Miss Jennifer and Miss Houlihan's class. As soon as I walked into the classroom, I knew it was going to be an adventure. That's because a man who looked like he could be a cop (only he wasn't in uniform!) was sitting at the back of the room. That turned out to be Mr. Garen, who was there to keep his eye on students' behavior. (I might have to use that scene in a book one of these days.)
The second group was what I'd call high-energy! But they did keep me entertained. We talked about how trouble fuels a story. Then we found a case of trouble in the classroom: a young man named Abedin happened to be coming down with a cold precisely during my talk. Poor Abedin was sneezing and sniffling, but being extremely polite about it -- and not being insulted when I started backing away from his desk!
This second group had loads of questions. Alex loves writing and wanted to know the best way to start a story. He explained that his last story begins with the classic opening, "Once upon a time." I told him "Once upon a time" is great for fairy tales, but he might shake things up by beginning with an exciting scene, or a surprising twist, or great dialogue.
Because there wasn't time to answer every question, I spent lunchtime in the library, where several students dropped by to show me their work or ask more questions. A student named Khyleigh told me she read my book 121 Express in a day -- that she even read it while she walked home and also at Tim Hortons. Daphne asked about the steps that go into making a book (great question, Daphne!) and I tried to give her a good answer, which was basically: getting the idea, doing research, starting to write, re-writing, re-writing, developing more ideas, doing more research as necessary, re-writing and re-writing!
I'm afraid I've written a very long blog entry today, but that's because there was so much interesting stuff to tell you. Some days, school visits demand a lot of my energy. Other days, and today was one of them, I get energized by the young people I meet. (Okay, the surprise helped too -- read tomorrow's blog entry to find out what the surprise was. Hey, I didn't know I could write cliffhangers!!!)
Thanks, Mrs. Susan, for the invite. PS: You make good coffee!