Some days, magic happens.
That's how I feel after the virtual visit I just had with students at J.L. Crowe Secondary School in Trail, BC. I was "in" Trail to celebrate Day 4 of the CCBC's Book Week.
What, you may be wondering, made the visit magic?
Well, for one thing, when I demonstrated my boxing moves (I took up boxing while I was doing the RESEARCH for my YA novel Straight Punch), Ms. Smith's class (check them out in today's pic), got up from their desks and did the moves too!
Another thing that added to the magic, I think, was the presence of teacher-librarian Ms. Lunde. She's the person at J.L. Crowe who helped arrange my visit today, and she "attended." There she was in one of my Zoom boxes -- obviously having fun because she was smiling a lot, and also sending me encouraging messages in the "chat." So looking back, I think that having such an enthusiastic "student" as Ms. Lunde, well, it made my usual high-energy get a little higher (if such a thing is possible!)
Okay, but what really made the visit magical was the students' questions. There were so many that I spent a little extra time with the classes, and even when the students were allowed to leave, a few stragglers stayed behind to ask more questions. The thing is -- and this is unusual -- EVERY SINGLE QUESTION WAS THOUGHT-PROVOKING. What, I wonder, do they feed the kids in Trail to make them so smart?!
Marcus wanted to know, "When you start with a book, how do you keep with the idea, and how do you not let it turn into ... well... a mess?" I told Marcus that because I sign book contracts in advance, I have no choice but to stay focused. But you know what? Writing this blog makes me realize I have an even better answer for Marcus -- sometimes a book HAS to turn into a mess before it gets good. it's all part of the process!
Ollie said, "i don't really want to be a writer... but to be a writer, how do you get noticed?" An interesting question which led me to talk a little about social media and its importance, but also to emphasize my view that writers need to write the stories that are calling to them -- I think it's better not to write to get noticed. If we do get noticed, why, it's bonus!
Jackson wanted to know, "Is it better to leave stories on a cliffhanger or to know what happens?" I didn't really have an anawer for Jackson, except to say that I notice a trend towards book series lately. But even when I read a book that is part of a series, I feel like I want some sense of satisfaction at the end of the book, a sense that issues have been resolved and that the main characters have grown.
Keirra asked, "How do you show emotion without stating it?" I told Keirra that I'm hooked on body language. For instance, I observed that she was clutching her hands -- a sign of a little bit of nervousness. Writers look for small signs to help us show our readers' feelings.
Presley wanted to know which story trope I like the least. I told her it was the one where a girl has a crush on a boy who pays no attention to her. Arghh! Then I asked Presley, "What's your least favourite trope?" I loved her answer, which was: "Happy endings." Which led me to tell Presley that in my own Writing for Children class at Marianopolis College here in Montreal, I tell my students to lose their happy endings. But I also tell them that their characters need to GROW.
So here's to growth and magic and great questions and the CCBC Book Week. Thanks to Ms. Lunde for arranging the visit, to teachers Ms. Smith, Ms. Tekavicic and Ms. Eggert for sharing your kids with me. And thanks, of course, to the gang at the CCBC for all you do to make book week possible. Signed, One Happy Writer