I don't want to give you the gorey details, but I came down with a bad case of the stomach flu earlier this week. When I got up this morning, I was still feeling a little woozy, and I contemplated cancelling today's visit to Laval Junior Academy where I was scheduled to do my last day of writing workshops with Miss Milena's and Miss Farrell's English classes. But in the end, I decided to make my way over. And guess what? Those kids fixed me!
Maybe I'll start with some of my favourite comments from the kids today. When he was finishing up a creative exercise, a student named Ryan told me, "I don't think I did it right." Which led me to tell him WHEN IT COMES TO CREATIVE WORK, YOU CAN'T DO IT WRONG. YOU JUST HAVE TO DO IT! My other favourite line was when a student named Fred wanted to read my soon-to-be-released book Princess Angelica: Camp Catatrophe (I happened to have a copy hot off the press), and after about ten minutes of reading, Fred called out, "This is actually a good book!" (You didn't have to sound SO SURPRISED ABOUT IT, FRED!!) By the way, that is Fred IN RED in today's pic, and he's with Massimo -- and guess what? Today was Massimo's birthday!
Another cool thing about today: I invented a new writing exercise (and it worked!). I credit the flu for inspiring me. I asked the students to write about the hardest thing they have been through, assuring them that I would not read whatever they wrote. (In fact, I told them to fold up their writing afterwards and hide it some place, but NEVER TO THROW IT AWAY). The next step was for them to identify one or two strong FEELINGS associated with the memory, and then the final step was to write a fictionalized version -- changing up characters and events so the story could not be linked to them. Some of the feelings that the students recognized were: numbness, regret, sadness, anger, disappointment and trauma. You know what I say to all that? WOW -- and also USE IT in your writing. The events authors describe don't need to be true, but the FEELINGS HAVE TO BE REAL.
Another highlight of the day was when Miss Milea's Grade 7's reported that they actually did the "homework" I'd assigned them. I suggested that they interview a grandparent (or another elderly person) and ask the same question -- what was the hardest thing they'd ever been through. Several students had FABULOUS STORIES to share with me and their classmates. I think my favourite was Olivia's -- her grandmother told her that she was one of seven children growing up during wartime in Greece. Her family was so poor that Olivia's great-grandmother had to give her youngest child, a daughter, away to a neighbour who could afford to take better care of her. The older children all looked out for the little one in the schoolyard. DON'T YOU JUST LOVE THAT STORY?
There were even more wonderful things that happened today. It turns out that the Grade Seven students at Laval Junior have had to move lockers -- which led Kiera and Kasandra (who share a locker) to tell me that their old locker was HAUNTED. That definitely gave me goosebumps, which for me is a sign that there's a story there: THE CASE OF THE HAUNTED LOCKER. I like that for a book title, don't you?
Finally, my day ended with a sweet surprise: a lovely Happy 2018 card signed by the students. It's full of special messages. I thought I'd include one here: "Thank you so very much for helping all of us develop our writing, and for being so open with us about your life and your mother's as it helped me a lot." Know what? That card is the best holiday present you could give this author! Thanks to all of the kids for being awesome, and to your awesome teachers Miss Milea and Miss Farrell for hosting me. HERE'S TO WRITING AND STORIES AND OPENING OUR HEARTS. And thanks for curing my stomach flu!!