I'm becoming a bit of an expert over here in on-line teaching! That's because between my own teaching at Marianopolis College, and the writing workshops I've been doing with students at other schools, I'm getting a lot of practice! This morning, I worked with Crina Tirtoaca's Grade Six class at Ecole du Vieux-Chène in Terrebonne. We used the Teams platform, and faced a bit of a challenge when I couldn't hear any sound from the other end. Luckily, the kids could hear me, and Miss Crina used the chat function to post comments and questions.

One funny moment was when I showed the students the monkey man necklace I wear every day (that necklace has inspired a picture book coming out with Scholastic Books). I held the monkey man charm up to my camera and told the students, "He's ugly" and they ansered in the chat box, "He is!" I also explained that, for me, the monkey man's story (he was a gift given to my mom in Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp, on her thirteenth birthday) makes him beautiful.

Because I had 90 minutes with the class, there was time for writing tips, some stories, and even a mini-writing exercise. Miss Crina has 26 students. When I asked how many are interested in writing, Miss Crina did a quick survey -- and told me, via the chat, that half the class had answered yes. As you can imagine, that information made me happy!

When I talked about how most writers need to do some research before they begin writing a book, I used the example of my novel Straight Punch, which tells the story of a young boxer. I asked the class, "How do you think I learned about boxing?" Two boys, Chrisler and Ray, came up to the screen to answer my question. It turns out the pair are good friends. Miss Crina sent me Ray's answer in the chat: "you went to see a boxing match." Good guess, Ray! But I told the kids I did even better than that -- that I took four years of private boxing lessons. I even got up from my chair to demonstrate a straight punch!

The students had questions for me, too. My favourite question came from Alejandro, who wanted to know, "How do you create your characters?" So I told the class my secret -- I steal my characters! I gave them the example of Chrisler and Ray -- first of all, I like the sounds of the team "Chrisler and Ray" (I think it would make a great book title, don't you?) ... and then I added my favourite question "What if?" -- "What if," I asked the class, "one of those two is a hardworking focused student, and other one's a good student, just not so hard working?"

So you see, one of the reasons I enjoy school visits -- even virtual ones -- is that I get inspired by the kids I meet. Another funny thing happened at the end of class when Chrisler came back to talk to me. "How did you know about our qualities?" he asked me. Turns out I was correct -- one of the pair is slightly harder working than his pal! (I'm not saying which one!!)

You definitely should not steal people and stash them in your basement! But what I've found is that people are super interesting. Pay attention to everyone you meet. They could end up being your Chrisler and Ray!

Thanks to Miss Crina for inviting me to Vieux-Chène. Thanks to the kids for making me happy. And thanks to Quebec's Culture in the Schools program for making today's visit possible.