I'd Love to Visit Your School
In May 2015 I was lucky enough to tour Alberta with the TDCanada Trust Book Week. Prior to this I had visited dozens of schools in the Ottawa, Toronto, and Georgian Bay areas. I have given talks on a variety of topics to grades 6-12. See below for a full list of my most recent talks. I also can accommodate talks for Video Game design, Scriptwriting, and all levels of creative writing.
1. Everything I Know, I Learned from Skateboarding
In this talk I detail the art of failing and trying again. Depending on the location, I will ride in on a skateboard and fall. I then get back on, turn, and ride back. The presentation is then about my early days of skateboarding and snowboarding and the constant falling that happens. I relate this back to my skateboarding book Powerslide. Which leads to a discussion of that specific book and how I failed at it the first couple of times I tried but then, in the end, learned from these failures, adapted, adjusted, and produced something I am proud of and readers really enjoy. I end this presentation with the idea of practice in writing being the same as practice in soccer or hockey or skateboarding. You only get better by working at it.
This talk has worked very well in the past with students who are struggling with writing, enjoy the Orca Hi Lo books, or are in grades 6-8 and just beginning to look at their own storytelling abilities.
2. Story circle – Examination of Story Structure
For more advanced students who are working on longer stories, I detail the 8 part story circle: 1. Normal life 2. Character wants something 3. Character enters new world 4. Character adapts to new world 5. Character gets what he/she wants 6. Character pays a heavy price 7. Character returns to regular life 8. Character has changed.
This layout gives the students the ability to look critically at a book such as The Hunger Games (or any other YA book or movie the school selects) in a way that the structure of storytelling becomes apparent. More advanced students can apply this to their own writing as well as to critically examining any stories they read or watch.
I dissect The Drop or Set You Free for this talk and explain how I had the structure in mind prior to actually writing the first sentence of the book. I then go through one of these books and talk about the choices I made prior to beginning writing and how some of the ideas changed along the way and how I adapted the rest of the book to facilitate these changes. This is a kind of melding of the ‘seat of your pants’ and ‘planning’ schools of thought in creative writing.
This talk works well with more advanced high school students or in smaller workshop groups.
3. Love what you do, do what you love
My books are all about things I love to do. I snowboard all winter, surf whenever I’m near the ocean, skateboard every day, and for a number of years I was an International DJ, playing at clubs in Canada, the US, and Europe/England. This particular talk is about the many books I wrote prior to being a published author: adult novels, mysteries, Sci-fi and Fantasy, and how they didn’t work out. I examine why this was, and come to the conclusion that I didn’t really love what I was writing about. That anything we do we must love or else it won’t feel right or potentially be false to us. I link this back to my new Limelights novel At Ease which details the difficulties a young violinist has with nerves and how he manages to over come these issues by understanding that the only reason he is nervous is because he loves what he is doing and it matters to him. There are similar ideas in Above All Else where the lead character, Del, discovers that he has to play for himself, even within a team structure.
This talk works well with high school and middle school students.
4. The Mystery Box
In this talk I use a ‘Mystery Box’ to show how all stories are mysteries. I talk about how when we don’t know what is inside a box, we want to know, we need to know. And how, as a writer, you are simply giving readers one mystery box after another. I will use any movie (Star Wars and Lord of the Rings work well) Video Game (Different examples depending on the age of the audience), or book to show how one mystery is given to the viewer or reader and how it needs to be solved or, at least, satisfied before moving onto the next mystery. Video games work very well for this presentation as they all use major and minor arcs rolling one mystery into another. Having taught Scriptwring for Game Design for the past 6 years, I am well versed in game narratives. This summer I am presenting four separate lectures on game narratives to students ranging in ages from 8-17 at the Carleton University Summer Creative Writing Camp.
The bored board on a board skateboard I use for my 'Everything I Know' talk.