Sunday, 5 July 2015

Hosting a Writing Workshop For Teens

Last month I had the pleasure of hosting a writing workshop for teens at the gorgeous Halifax Central Library.

Have you been to the Central Library? It's so frickin' spectacular that people (especially the bookish types with particular appreciation for libraries) cry their eyeballs out as they walk around its four levels.

Seriously. It's that bee-u-tee-ful.

The workshop session was small. I had six potential best sellers staring at me, waiting for my wisdom. Luckily there were cupcakes and drinks to provide a distraction.

I introduced myself and gave a speedy recap on how I became published, emphasizing my success on Wattpad and how it gave me the confidence to send my manuscript to a local publisher.

Then I did a couple of polls to get everyone talking. Warning, these kids were total smarty pants and I was blown away by their brain power.

#1. How many of you have written a book?

Everyone raised their hands.

#2. What's the last book you read?

Saint Anything
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
House of Blue Leaves (play)
World of War Craft (the complete series)
Julie of the Wolves
Pretty Little Liars

#3. Which book have you reread the most?

The Book Thief
The Fault In Our Stars
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

#4. What's your favourite social media?

Three said Instagram
The other half said Twitter

#5. Is there a book you wished had never been made into a movie?

Percy Jackson
The Hobbit

This was a great way to get the teens talking about books and reading. As you can see by their answers this was an eclectic group of thinkers. I loved how they bounced ideas off each other. We talked for at least half an hour.

Next we did a few writing activities.

I asked them to write a six word story and gave them three minutes. Here are a few of the examples.

I'm warning you, don't come any closer.

Butterflies hate dragonflies for one reason.

He wasn't asleep, he was dead.

She smiled then pulled the trigger.

Holy brainiacs! These kids blew me away. What a wicked bunch!  

Then I spoke about the most common pitfalls for a beginning writer; excessive description, lack of a distinct voice, and too much backstory in the first few chapters.

The kids had the most questions about the first issue, so I focused on that and did a quick activity to emphasize the importance of description.

I asked them to think of one of their favourite fictional characters, then I had them list five traits that best described them and the rest of the group would try and guess who they were talking about.

This was a blast! Not only were the characters incredibly varied (Percy Jackson to Elizabeth Bennet) but in every list, none of the kids wrote down a PHYSICAL characteristic.

I used this exercise to point out that the most memorable traits aren't appearances. So never EVER have your character stand in front of a mirror and describe themselves. It's a waste of space and as one teen pointed out, when you're reading along you have an image in your mind so when the author throws in a pair of green eyes or blonde hair it takes you out of the story for a moment.

See? Smarty pants ;)  

As the session drew to a close, I answered any questions they had about publishing. The kids had lots of great insight and were eager to talk about their own projects. We even brain stormed a title for a girl's short story.

I ended the session by giving away a prize and drew a name at random for an autographed copy of Butterflies Don't Lie. Yay!

I hope this helps you plan your own workshop.

Do you have any ideas to share for workshops? What activities worked best for you?

1 comment:

Seawaneka said...

Sounds like fun!

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