Yesterday afternoon, Cheryl Rainfield and I presented to grade five and six classes at Sir William Stephenson public school in Whitby.
I didn’t attend Stephenson, but I did attend Kathleen Rowe, the much older, much smaller and much loved school that used to exist on the site where Stephenson now stands. The roof beams in Stephenson’s library are the same ones that held up the K. Rowe library, and the large mural of stones in the front hall is the one I used to look at and touch on the few occasions when I had a reason to be at K. Rowe’s front doors.
This was my first author presentation in a school. I can’t think of a better way to start than by going back to K. Rowe ground. But that’s not the real reason why it was a perfect first visit. Most of the credit for that goes to the amazing librarian, Andrea Laroque, and to the teachers who read the books with the students, and to the wonderful students who got involved with the presentation from the start and had such insightful ideas and comments and questions. They had created posters for the books, and written letters to the characters! Cheryl and I will treasure the posters, and we have promised that the characters will write back.
Cheryl and I did a writing workshop with the kids. We took them through the steps of planning a story, and looked at story structure with references to the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, to the Dragon Speaker books, and to the first Spider Man movie. Guess which one resonated?
Actually, the kids shocked me. I knew they would relate to Spider Man. What I wasn’t prepared for was how readily they connected the story structure ideas to Cheryl’s book and mine. They were brilliant. Really, truly brilliant.
We brainstormed to come up with a story idea and outline as a group. I had jotted down a back-up idea, just in case things didn’t go well. Turns out I didn’t need to do that! These students came up with story concepts that would look at home on any bookstore shelf. I’ve gone into them in more detail on my dragonspeakerbooks.com post about the school presentation, but to summarize–the sixth graders created a YA thriller about a viral outbreak in a small town, while the fifth graders took us on a prehistoric volcano fantasy/adventure with a little boy who ends up working with the same bullies from whom he was fleeing at the start of the story.
I hope they write the books, because I want to read them. And as if that weren’t enough creativity for a day, each student then came up with his or her own story idea and did some outlining, writing, and setting work on it. These kids worked hard, and they did it happily. They were a wonderful audience. I’m sure there are some future writers in that group, because their ideas were just too good to be wasted.
They make me proud to be counted among the K.Rowe/Stephenson alumni. 🙂