monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

4 minutes reading time (786 words)

Working with Young Writers at Laval Junior Academy

I bet you think the kids' in today's pics are clapping because I did such a good job during my writing workshop! But that isn't why! That picture was taken at the start of this morning's workshops (before I had a chance to do a good job!!) when Ms. Milea, the students' English teacher, asked me whether I'd gone for my usual morning run. It's minus 10 in Montreal today -- I think it's the coldest day we've had so far this season -- so the class clapped for my bravery!! But as you can tell from my smile, I did enjoy that clapping!!

So onto some thoughts and observations related to today's workshops.

This was my second session with two Grade Seven groups, which let me concentrate more on THEIR stories! I tested out a new writing-about-the-pandemic-exercise -- I asked students to write about a memory associated with a pandemic birthday. For those of us born between March 13 and December 15, we've had a pandemic birthday. But even winter babies have stories to tell about other people's birthdays. How, for instance, did you celebrate a sibling's birthday, or your best friend's birthday, or a grandparent's birthday?

A student named Angie came up with a super idea. "What if," she said (note that WHAT IF is my favourite question in the world) "you have a party and the police come?" Ah ha! Excellent work, Angie. I like that this idea is FULL OF TROUBLE. You may remember my view that TROUBLE IS LIKE FUEL. TROUBLE MOVES A STORY FORWARD!

Ms. Milea talked about how the students were a little put off by all the comments and corrections she had made on their English assignments. To cheer them up, I shared the story of how my old boxing coach never let me give up, even when I told him I was too tired to punch hard. Ms. Milea admitted that there's an upside to students being dissatisfied with their grades: "I love it when they are mad they didn't get the grade they wanted." Because of course, the fact that we are edited -- and it's important to realize that every writer needs an editor -- motivates us to do a better job!

My second workshop was with a smaller group -- and there was more time to share stories. Ms. Milea even told us about HER pandemic birthday -- when her dog went chasing a doe! She told us, "I saw a fluffy tail in the bushes, and then a mass of fur leapt out." See how the use of details takes us into the story!

Joshua shared his pandemic birthday story too. I loved how he started telling me the story, by saying, "Let's fast forward five hours." Joshua, I think you should try to keep that line in the written version! In Joshua's story, he stays up until 4 AM the morning of his birthday, and later that afternoon, some friends from church pass by his house. One of his friends shares his own hockey cards with Joshua -- which is pretty special. I advised Joshua to add some TROUBLE to his story. WHAT IF Joshua's parents get upset with him for staying up so late? What if the friend wants his hockey cards back?!

My last reader was Michael, who gave me permission to share the title of the book he's been working on: "The Forest of Madagascar." I love the sound of that title, don't you? I especially love the word Madagascar. Neither Michael nor I have ever been there, but Michael, it might be worth doing some Googling over the holidays to see if you can add some real life details about Madagascar to your book! I loved that Michael's story has an animal high school, that he included the theme of bullying, and that he used dialogue. One of the bullies says, "Are you going to cry to your daddy now?" I love that line because it's just the sort of thing a bully would say. I shared a bit of well-known writing advice with Michael -- that he should SHOW; NOT TELL. For instance, instead of telling us that a character is "mean and scary," why not find a way to SHOW IT? (like he showed us in with the dialogue I just mentioned).

So that's it for my school visits for 2020! Thanks to Ms. Milea for arranging my visits to LJA -- and for making the Zooms fun. I'm planning to spend my holidays WRITING and also READING. I hope those two items will be on your agenda too. Happy holidays to all! Stay safe -- and don't forget to take notes for your future books!

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Monday, 04 December 2023

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