Along with eight other children's artists from Alberta, I spent two incredible mornings leading students in grades five and six through a series of writing and illustrating workshops.
As much as I pride myself on offering energetic, informative sessions, sometimes the students simply take over... and I love it when that happens!
Annie* (to the class): “The protagonist is the main character and I bet I know who you’re going to talk about next–the antagonist, because that’s, like, the protagonist’s enemy and sometimes I like to hate on that character but sometimes I like that enemy-antagonist guy a bit too.”
[Wow! That also sums up my feelings about the antagonist… that the antagonist isn’t ALL bad, and some of the best stories give us insights into why antagonists behave as they do. Way to go, Annie!]
And then there was Keenan*: “Have you ever noticed that books sometimes start with a little bit of stuff about who the character is and where he lives, then the action suddenly takes off?”
[Yes, Keenan, I have. That’s the cool thing about the inciting incident--the event that alters the protagonist’s world. And then the action TAKES OFF! Good catch!]
(*student names have been changed)
I also invited the students to share their thoughts about what they wrote. Here are some of them, along with the students’ pen names:
“I was proudest that I wrote my own half story.” Anonymous, grade 6
“I liked that we got to write about being accused for things we didn’t do.” K, grade 6
“What I liked best in my story was the dark figure disappearing in the shadow.” T, grade 6
“I liked talking and making the settings for the story. I wrote lots and put lots of details.” Cyborg Hot Dog, grade 6
“I thought it was a lot of fun how we got to finish an actual author’s story.” I.H., grade 6
“I loved it. It helped me with my writing. I loved my twist ending.” J, grade 5
“What I liked best is that Karen is so funny! All of it made me proud.” Squishy Heart, grade 5
“The writing was the best part. I was proud of my creativity.” X, grade 5
“I liked that we got to write our own story. I was proudest of my powerful words.” S, grade 5/6
“What I liked best was that she was funny. I’m proud of the amount I wrote.” Cherry Chipotle, grade 5
“What made me proudest was when people talk in my story.” Mr. Bearpaw, grade 6 [Author note: I am thrilled to have found someone else who loves writing dialogue as much as I do!]
“Karen was nice and funny and I learned a lot. I am proud that I thought of so many things.” Success Queen, grade 5
“I liked the part where we learn the pro tips and the part where we got to write. Something I did well was where I solved the story.” Astra, grade 5
“I liked when you told the story, ‘Missing.’ I was proudest of how I wrote that the mean character said, ‘I thought it was my dad.'” Unicorn, grade 5 [Author note: that was a seriously cool plot twist!]
“I liked all of it. The fun characters made me proudest.” Buzzfeed, grade 6
“What I liked best was writing how to prove you’re innocent. I explained it step by step.” J, grade 6
“What I liked best was EVERYTHING!!! I was proud that I made it interesting and I put in a twist in the end.” Kitty Vi, grade 6
As always, the students made me incredibly proud. Best of all, I think they made themselves proud too.
Many thanks to the Young Alberta Book Society (YABS) for organizing Story Avenue, and to their amazing cast of volunteers. Thanks also to the generous, literacy-loving sponsors for funding the program, which included buying a book for each student. One student in particular could hardly believe he was getting his very own book… to keep!
Hearts and kudos to these sponsoring organizations for their commitment to fostering literacy:
Edmonton Oilers; Telus; Werklund Foundation; Edmonton Public Teachers (Local 37); City of Edmonton; Alberta Foundation for the Arts; Edmonton Arts Council; Alberta Government.
You are all heroes to me and, I believe, to the several hundred students who participated in Story Avenue.