I'm sitting at my computer, but I'm still flying from my big day at LaurenHill Academy's Junior campus in Ville St. Laurent. LaurenHill is a special school for me -- since that's where I got my idea for my newest book, 121 Express. The idea came about in November 2006, on the day I met Andrew Adams, an English teacher at the school. Andrew and I were paired up for a Blue MetropolisLiterary Foundation project called Quebec Roots, in which students write (and take photographs) about their community. I still remember the very moment when Andrew told me how his students, generally lovely kids, turn into monsters when, every day after school, they step onto a bus called the 121 Express. The rest is history!
So today, I got to read from the book, talk about writing, and do a writing exercise with about 350 grade eight students at the school. IT WAS SUPER FUN!!! The kids laughed at all the right spots, which made me so so so happy. It's one thing when you're at your computer, trying to imagine your characters and hoping to connect with your readers -- but quite another when readers laugh when you want them to. I have a feeling I'll be flying all weekend.
Andrew Adams couldn't make it today, but I met several of his colleagues, including Colleen Long, head of the English department, who organized today's visit. Thanks so much Andrew and Colleen for everything!
For the writing exercise, I asked students to imagine a character they might write a story about -- and then to try and hear that character's voice in their heads. The kids came up with some pretty neat stuff. Sharon said she wanted to write about a bully. (I told her I thought that was a great idea since most stories about bullying focus on the victim. Wouldn't you like to know what makes a bully turn into a bully?) Tia wants to write about someone who's been abused. Vanessa wants to write about a student who appears happy on the outside, but who's troubled inside. Bryan told us he'd like to write about a refugee. Angelo sounds like he's done so much thinking about his character, he might actually be ready to start his book; he's interested in writing about a boy who's picked on, and who channels his anger by boxing.
I met lots more students and talked to several about their interest in reading and writing. Arthi has already written poems about summer for a school project. I suggested she might incorporate summer as a setting in her own book. Maisha told me she writes every single day in her diary, mostly before she goes to bed. And I decided that Evan, who was wearing a blue hoodie and told me he likes reading "a bit," would make a great character in a book -- there was something intriguing about the way he was hiding inside that hoodie!
Hopefully, one day, I'll get to read some of those books -- as well as the books written by other readers of this blog. I like the feeling of knowing there are an infinite number of stories out there. Finds yours -- then tell it. Special hello to the students at LaurenHill if you're reading today's blog. You guys are awesome!!
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Well, how about coincidences. I discovered yesterday that one of my friends at another CEGEP takes the 121 quite regularly -- though I doubt she takes it at the same time as the LaurenHill students, since she finishes rather late.
And all of those ideas for characters sound really neat -- you're right to say that characters with something troubling them (or their lives) are the most interesting, becuase there's something to say about them, their growth, etc.
I feel like some of the students are going through what they want their characters to go through... I feel like writing about "themselves" could be theraputic... sounds interesting... an idea for a story can be an author who helps troubled kids through writing... sound cool!