If you live in Montreal, you probably know that LCC stands for Lower Canada College -- a private school formerly just for boys, but now co-ed. I live just a few streets away from LCC and I jog by several times a week. This week, I got to know the school and its Grades Five and Six students better because I spent most of Wednesday and all of this morning doing writing workshops at the Junior Library.
There is so much to tell about the wonderful students I met. I actually have several pages of notes, so I have a lot to choose from. Hey, that ties in to one of the writing tips I shared with the kids -- that a writer needs to be OBSERVANT, and then a writer needs to SELECT DETAILS.
So how about I share some of my favourite snippets with you?
A student named Aryeh was in the first group I worked with on Wednesday. His teacher is Ms. Armstrong and the kids paid me a big compliment when they said, "You remind us of Ms. Armstrong!" Aryeh told me that his name is the Hebrew word for lion. Cool! When I told the class I get some of my best story ideas when I am out on a run, Aryeh suggested, "You could try a marathon and write during it." That would make a funny story, Aryeh! But you should be the one to write it, not me!
Chloe, who is in Aryeh's class wanted to know, "When you write a book, does it ever hurt your hand?" I had to think about that one. When I'm writing, I really get into the "zone," so I wouldn't even notice if my hand was hurting!
I also collected some cool names on Wednesday -- there was Aryeh, and also Finn and Arabella. Here's something you may not know: a lot of kids' book authors get our characters' names during school visits!!
I also met Ms. De Toni and one set of her Grade Fives on Wednesday. One of my favourite moments happened with this group when I was telling the kids I usually feel like I'm suffering when I'm writing -- because it's hard work and I am seldom satisfied with what I've written. At which point a student named Nat called out, "Same!" That cracked me up!
I was also impressed to learn that Nat writes down his dreams (dreams are a great source of inspiration!), and that a student named Aishani sings and comes up with stories when she's in the shower. "Then I write about it," she told me. Aishani wanted to know what kinds of books I read when I was a kid. My answer was inappropriate ones! My parents kept the grown-up books in my bedroom and I read all sorts of books I could not really understand! But that didn't stop me from enjoying them!!
Here's something else interesting: Ms. De Toni teaches her students to include a "kick-off" in their stories. "Every story needs a kick-off," she explained, and she said she learned about the kick-off technique from a story program the class is working with. I definitely need a kick-off to get me hooked when I start reading a book! And even if I didn't learn the term until Wednesday, I definitely try to start my books with a strong kick-off!
This morning I was back at LCC working with Ms Rashotte's Grade Sixes, and then Ms. De Toni's second Grade Five group. We were talking about how writers can observe body language, then use it in their stories, when I noticed some fascinating body language. Gio (which is short for Giovani, though his parents call him Jo) raises his right eyebrow when he thinks. I love that! Also, Gio, who is in Ms. Rashotte's class, thinks a lot, which is a great thing in a person of any age. I know Gio thinks a lot because I was watching that right eyebrow of his!
When I asked Ms. Rashotte's students, "Do you all want to develop as writers?" Francesca stole my heart when she answered, "Maybe." I loved her answer because it is so HONEST.
I finished my day with Ms. De Toni's second group. Abigail struck me as a sensitive, thought-full person. She told me, "I've wanted to be a writer since first grade -- kind of. I actually like doing writing homework." Of course, that made both Ms. De Toni and me happy!
We also played a little writing game together. Inspired by a student named Matthew who was sitting up front and answering all my questions, we all came up with words that start with the letter M. I admit I got the most words (29!), but some of the students had way better words than mine. Abigail got min fadlack, which she explained means thank you in Arabic! (I had told the students their M words could come from any language.) Felix kept thinking of more M words. When I said that I liked my word marjoram, he called out, "Margarine!" And Ms. De Toni came up with the word meticulous, which means precise and attentive. So I asked Ms. De Toni whether she was meticulous, and we both laughed when she admitted she wasn't -- and I told her that I wasn't meticulous either!
When we discussed eavesdropping as a possible source for stories, a student named Nelly said, "I'm very nosy." That prompted me to suggest she should write a book called Nosy Nelly. But then Ms. De Toni thought there already was a book with that title -- and so she Googled it, and indeed, an author named Linda Mason already wrote Nosy Nelly. I suggested that Nelly might call her book Extra-Nosy Nelly.
I'm going to end today's blog entry -- the last blog entry after a busy week of school visits -- with my favourite comment of all. It's from Abigail, who raised her hand and said, "Maybe one day you'll find a book of mine on the shelf next to yours!" Abigail, I can hardly wait!
Thanks to librarian Laura Sanders for arranging my visit to LCC; thanks to all the other wonderful librarians I met during my visit including Marie-Noël; thanks to members of the communications team who came to take pictures (and who also listened to my talks!); thanks to director of the junior school, Alison Wearing, who came up with the idea of inviting me in the first place. But most of all, thanks to the kids -- you DAZZLED me with your energy, cleverness, sense of fun and especially your love for stories. Now get to work! You've got loads and loads to read and write!