Last year, I did three creative writing sessions with a group of very keen students at Hebrew Academy. Today, I'm going back to do the first of three more sessions. Most of the students I'll be working with are ones I worked with last year -- which means I've had to come up with new material. One thing I know for sure about these students is they love to write, and they write easily... quite a change from many older students I know, for whom writing is stressful and often, not much fun. So my plan for today is to talk about PLANNING OUT STORIES. When it's time to begin a book, some writers just turn to a fresh page and start writing... they let the story and its characters lead them. Other writers prefer to plan ahead. Today, I'm going to talk a little about the two strategies and I'm going to ask the students to do some planning for the stories they'll be working on over the next few weeks.

In case you're wondering which approach I favour (not planning -vs- planning), I'd say I do a bit of both. I certainly like when the story carries me, but sometimes, when I'm working on a rewrite (as I am now), I do wish I'd done more planning and more research, too. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be rewriting my manuscript that is set in Nunavik. Last week, one of my friends in Nunavik got back to me with his response to what I'd written. Let's just say I've got a lot of work to do! For instance, in my story, one of the Inuit kids bullies my narrator (a boy who comes from Montreal). But my friend in Nunavik told me Inuit kids aren't bullies in the way that city kids are -- they might tease someone, but they wouldn't say vicious things the way the bullies I'm used to would. Interesting, no? So that's an example of the sort of problem I'll be trying to correct on my rewrite, which is due on December 15. Another lesson you might take from today's blog entry: make sure you get a terrific first reader to check your work. I can't thank my friends in Nunavik enough for helping me with this first draft -- especially Mark and Gillian, as well as Julianne and Sapina. What would I do without you guys?!!

Okay, I'm just back from my visit to Hebrew Academy. Together, the students and I came up with a great idea for a group project. They're going to write first person pieces set in the Cavendish Mall. For those of you who don't know Montreal, the Cavendish Mall is a once popular shopping mall that has fallen on hard times. One student is going to be a pig in the petting zoo; another is going to be the conductor of a little train that gives kids rides during the holiday season. I think I might even contribute a short chapter since I remember the day in 1975 (or 1976) when the mall first opened. Sounds like fun, no?!