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Immersed in Student Writing

A stage full of awesome authors at the Ottawa Public Library’s Awesome Authors Award Ceremony this week.

This Tuesday, I had the pleasure of calling the names of twelve young writers whose short fiction won places in the Ottawa Public Library’s Awesome Authors Contest. What a pleasure to be one of this year’s judges and to read excerpts from the fantastic mix of winning stories: humour, drama, sci-fi, horror, and sad, sad contemporary realism. What talented young writers.

I’ve been immersed in student writing this season. One of my favourite school visits was at my local junior high, Symmes-D’Arcy, where I spent four days with Secondary I (grade 7) English classes working on short stories. With funding from Quebec’s Culture in the Schools Program, I visited three English classes for two days in February, giving workshops on character, setting, and plot development. I left the students to work on their stories under the guidance of their fabulous teacher, Alex Peach, before I took all the draft stories home to read over March Break. I returned to the classes for another two days in March, to talk about critiquing and revision, and to meet with each student for one-on-one feedback.

One of the heartwarming thank-you letters I received from Symmes Jr High School students whose classes I visited this winter.

What a treat! I’m used to visiting schools to give one-day presentations or writing workshops, so it was a special opportunity to spend several classes with the same groups of students, to watch them begin with blank pages and basic ideas and work up to polished pieces of writing. An intense and inspiring experience for me.

And what fabulous stories I got to read! I’m always amazed at the sheer variety of creative writing a small group of students can develop in a short time. Mystery, memoir, romance, realism, stories that moved my heart and stories that made me laugh. All those kids creating worlds that didn’t exist before they wrote them. It’s magical.

What a treat to speak to Bishop’s  History of Children’s Literature class.

Another standout for me this month was a visit to Bishops University to speak to students in Professor Heather Davis’s History of Children’s Literature course. (My first children’s novel, Walking Backwardpublished in 2009 with Orca Book Publishers, was on the course reading list.) I’ve spoken to elementary, secondary, and CEGEP classes who’d studied my books before, but this was my first university-level visit. It was awesome!

University classrooms are way more technologically advanced than back in my day. It was cool just to be there. The students were wonderful — it’s inspiring to be around so many bright young minds. It was an honour to share my writing experiences with them and to hear their thoughts about my book, children’s books, and the creative process. I expect to read some of their books some day soon.

I have a few secondary school visits coming up next month, where I’ll get to meet even more students, and hopefully read some of their writing. It’s one of the greatest parts of being an author — visiting classes and being around young readers. It always makes me want to write more books.

And that’s what I’m off to do now. Happy Friday.

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