Joel Yanofsky is not only one of my favourite writers, he's one of my favourite people. So imagine how pleased I was when he accepted my invitation to come and speak to my Journalism class today.
Joel is an author and journalist based here in Montreal. His latest book is Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism. It's a frank, big-hearted account of Joel's life with his son Jonah. That's Joel in today's pic. He's with another delightful person -- my student Emily Wing, who's been working on a book review of Bad Animals.
My students practically chortled with pleasure when Joel told them he doesn't use an outline. (That's because my students are kind of sick of teachers -- like me -- who insist they do outlines.) But Joel did say, "I think in terms of chunks of material." Sorry, students, to tell you this, but that's kind of like an outline!
Joel also compared writing to doing a jigsaw puzzle. "You organize your chunks. You put all the yellow chunks for the sun together. And all the blue chunks for the sky." Then he admitted, "I outline in my head."
If you know Joel's writing (and if you don't, hurry out and get yourself a copy of Bad Animals -- Joel told us it's now available at Costco at a steeply discounted price), you'll know that he has a natural style that seems almost effortless. Joel confessed it takes a lot of effort to achieve that effortless quality!
Luckily, Joel enjoys revising. He told us he spent two hours last night revising a story for the Montreal Gazette (the story is about Passover; look for it in this Saturday's paper), and another hour or two on the same project this morning. "You know you're a real writer," Joel said, "if you lose track of time when you're revising."
Thanks, Joel, for the wisdom -- and the inspiration! As for you students, KEEP OUTLINING -- at least in your heads!!!