The day the RCMP told me to leave town and what I learned about writing from a grade sixer …

It's not everyday the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP for those in the know) tell me to leave town.

On Friday we had the storm of the century – snow that is. Really people – bald prairies? Put up a few trees, it might shelter the highway from the blowing snow … just saying.

I was scheduled to do two school visits, one in Brooks, Alberta and the other in Bassano.

When I left Friday morning it was clear, dry and sunny. I saw the second Sundog that I’ve seen in my life (last time was in Brooks as well).

It was pajama day at Brooks Eastbrook and I was met at the door by two girls (one was Kate who emailed me beforehand about how excited she was to meet an author).

I took two classes through a writing exercise and when I presented to the second class, the teacher asked one girl to read what she wrote. The girl said no. The teacher really wanted to hear what the girl wrote and asked if she would be comfortable if someone else read it. The girl said no. I totally got what was going on.

When the girl came up to buy a book we had a chat.

Me: You’re a writer aren’t you.

Girl: Yes, I’m a very, very good writer.

Me: Why didn’t you want to read what you wrote?

Girl: Because it wasn’t very good.

Me: Never say your writing isn’t good. Writing is a process. The first draft that any writer writes isn’t very good.

This is something that all writers need to learn. Writing is a process. It’s not meant to be a finished product after the first draft. That’s why they call it the first draft. I never worry about first drafts because I know that through the process of writing the subsequent drafts it will get to where it needs to be. I know writers who stall out after a few chapters and refuse to keep writing. Write through to the end. Then go back and start editing.

Mind you, I don’t always show that draft to anyone. She was in grade six, and she already knew that you don’t share your work with just anyone, and you might not want to share the first draft. I like to get it to a place where the feedback I get will take it to the next level.

Then I drove to Bassano – the storm was moving in. We agreed I’d only do one session and then leave. That session was interrupted by a teacher who announced that the RCMP said if I wanted to get out of town that I needed to leave now.

Thanks to teacher Linda and her husband Sid who let me follow behind their truck until they turned off at the Siksika First Nation. If you happen to be in that area (when there isn’t a winter storm) check out the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. It’s where Treaty 7 was signed between the Blackfoot and the Great White Mother Across the Ocean. There is a wonderful museum/interpretive centre, powwow grounds and a teepee campground.

Here’s an email I got the next day from Kate in the Brooks class (totally unedited):

Man! Your book is great! I've been reading it when ever I can but thats just not enough!

I love the names Cheese Pie Man, and Cheese Omelette. I migh posibly be done by the end of the weekend. I'm so excited to find out the end. Your writting rules! You could write an entire book on food and I would read it! You're my new favorit aouther!

Kate :)

Awwww, thanks Kate!

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