Disease of 'what if?' ... germs of imagination

Last Saturday I presented at the Calgary Young Writers' Conference put on by the Calgary Board of Education. More than a thousand super keen children, in grades 4-8, who love reading and writing gave up a Saturday to spend the day in writing workshops, listening to a key note address, revelling in the book store set up by Mount Royal University Book Store and getting autographs from all of the 45 writers, illustrators and poets who were presenting. 

Multiple award winning (which basically means I'm too lazy to look up all the awards he's received and list them for your reading pleasure) author Tim Wynne-Jones presented the key note address. I had a blue pencil session with him last fall at the Surrey International Writers' Conference and we were both equally covered in cat hair (thus re-enforcing the stereotype that writers like cats).   
The kids loved him, and he was funny. He diagnosed writers as having the disease of 'what if?' This isn't spread by germs, but by imagination (does that mean I can lay off the hand sanitizer)? Writers observe the world around us and ask 'what if?' then follow that thought, create a world and populate it with characters. 

It was a truly wonderful and inspirational day. I presented two 75 minute workshops where I made the kids write until their fingers bled encouraged the youth to express their creativity through the medium of writing.  

I gave them a writing exercise and told them to stretch their imagination and let their ideas take flight. One diminutive grade four student with an equally tiny voice put up her hand and squeaked: "without imagination you don't have anything. You don't have a story!" So true!

When I asked them to take the scene they'd written (which was mostly telling and not showing) and write it all in dialogue one student blurted out: "but that's hard!" My response: "yes, yes it is and every writer struggles to write believable dialogue."   

Thanks to all the great kids who dedicated a Saturday to hanging out with writers and learning more about writing. Many, many teachers volunteered to make the conference work and kudos to the organizers. 
I guess writers do like cats!


Candy Gourlay said…
sounds mind boggling. you must feel honoured to be in the company of so much talent! that kid who said you need imagination to write ... was it lisa simpson?
Sounds like a fabulous day and a fabulous conference. It takes me back to when I was 10 (grade 5) and I got to go to a young writer's workshop just like this one. I was really inspired, thanks to authors like you who took the time to come out and talk to us. I still remember how much fun I had.
Jan Markley said…
It was an amazing conference Candy - the logistics alone with staggering - I was thrilled to be invited to present. Yes, that girl had Lisa Simpson like wisdom, she summed up my whole presentation in one sentence. Sounds like you went to a fabulous conference as well Jennifer. It's amazing how those early influences stay with us and encourages on our paths.

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