Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a panel discussion about writing at College Beaubois in Pierrefonds, Quebec. The panel was organized by College Beaubois English teacher Anthony Lombardi. My fellow panelists were children's writer Jane Barclay, short story author Barry Webster, and film and TV writer Janice Benthin. I must say that in listening to the other writers speak, I think I learnedas much as Mr. Lombardi's students did!

Benthin compared writing professionally to running a marathon. "You can't just get up and run. You have to be in training. You have to be writing all the time." Webster told us he prefers to write in a library. Barclay does most of her writing from her home. Webster, who is a classically trained musician, says he has benefitted from the discipline his musical background gave him. Though he has never experienced writer's block, he admitted he tosses out a lot of what he writes in a first draft: "I never have blocks ever, but a lot of it is really bad."

I find it very heartening when others writers share the struggles they experience with the process. It's like we're all out there together, soldiering away, but somehow, unwilling to give up this strange, sometimes frustrating, but sometimes magical experience of finding words to tell the stories that matter to us.

There was time for a few questions from students. Lori wanted to know how we felt about on-line books (we all admitted we had never read a book on-line) and Sabrina wanted to know how we'd feel if one of our new books was less successful than the book that came before it. We all agreed that writers need to have tough skins. 

So hats off to Mr. Lombardi's students at College Beaubois. You guys were a great audience -- focused and interested in the material. Tomorrow, I spend the day doing writing workshops at Beaconsfield High School. I'll fill you in on how that goes in my next blog entry.