Mon 30 October 2017

Writer Workshops - Mount Pleasant High School

Posted by. James Jackson This article was posted in Routine, General and tagged with Indie Authors, Writer Workshops

Four Writer Workshops in one day - Supporing our Next Gen Writers

terran chronicles universe blog In March of this year I was invited to speak at the Michigan Reading Associations 61st annual event. It was at this event where I met Andy Schoenborn, a teacher of literacy at Mount Pleasant High School.

We immediately clicked, and are now great friends. Many of his ideals on life are similar to mine, as is his passion for writing and reading, in particular, science fiction.

Andy did not wait long to ask if I would be willing to attend his classes, to see what his students are doing, and to perhaps, inspire them. I was honored, and naturally, I said yes!


James Jackson with students from Mount Pleasant High School in a Terran Chronicles Writers WorkshopSo, at 5:30am, on October 10th, I found myself cruising down the road on my motorbike. The school is some 113 miles from my house, and being October, in Michigan, it was around 40 degrees. (For my Aussie mates, that's in Fahrenheit!) Needless to say, after around 20 miles I was really thinking I should have taken the truck! It was dark, so dodging deer was easy, I could hardly see them, but the couple I did see on the roadside, added to my wish to have driven instead of riding.

I arrived at the school at 7:45am amongst school buses, students, and teachers. Minutes later Andy found me, and ushered into a classroom, with Ben, a student teacher from Central Michigan University. I am barely situated when students being pouring in.

The classes began with Andy introducing me by relaying his story of how we met, and the talks we had at the MRA around writing, teaching, science fiction, and just about everything else we discovered that we have in common.

I surprised myself at not being nervous, and began a shortened spiel on where I am from, what drove me to writing, and what keeps me going. I focused heavily on not letting negative views and opinions of others deter these young minds before me from putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

A key point of my talk is that people should enjoy their own genre, and with science fiction, that is around twenty percent of the reader audience. I impressed upon them, that this means that if they give their work to a group of their friends, most would not like it, but that's okay! Its normal!

Terran Chronicles book signing at Mount Pleasant High School with James Jackson, author of the Terran Chronicles           James Jackson enjoying the book signing in the Terran Chronicles Writers Workshop with students from Mount Pleasant High School students


The Writers Corner - The new hideaway yet to be realised

Along with this, I talked of finding a writing area, a quiet place, and dedicating time, quality time, in order to successfully add to their word-count each session. No matter how little is written each time they sit down, their stories will unfold.

I also warned them of internet trolls; people who live to hide behind anonymity and make scathing remarks. I told each of the classes that these kinds of people are not writers, editors, or publishers, and thus should, for the most part, be ignored. However, I did also tell the students to look for any truth in the negative comments, as sometimes there is! What these trolls are saying may be right! But presented as cyber bullying is wrong.

During the day I was fortunate to read many pieces of work, and to listen to many ideas. The diversity of ideas was refreshing, and inspiring! I offered few suggestions as it is not my place to say what is right or wrong with someone else's work. A few students did seek my specific advice, which I offered, hoping they took my thoughts as simply that, those of a single person.

A great end to a fantastic Writers Workshop with James Jackson, Author of the the Terran Chronicles at Mount Pleasant High School

I was asked questions, some of my work, some of their own difficulties in getting their ideas down. Some of the students seemed reluctant to share their writing at first, but eventually opened up, and let me see their efforts.
Most writers give up out of fear; fear that their efforts are somehow lesser than someone else's. It is important to realize that the greatest and most prolific writers in history, began with a 'first work', and from there they got better at their craft, as do all who practice. I attempted to allay these fears by relaying some of my own disastrous experiences, followed by a smile with a, 'but that's okay, mistakes are how we learn and grow.'

The day was amazing and ended with Andy and I having coffee at a local shop, where we recounted the day's events. Andy is a progressive thinking, and immediately talked of using some of the day's elements in future collaborative efforts.

My public speaking experience is limited, but as the topic is my own work, I find it's pretty easy to talk in front of an audience. In fact, I actually finding that I really enjoy speaking in front of people about my writing. I enjoy sharing what works for me in regards to getting the words and ideas out of my head and onto paper, well onto the computer screen!


Take it easy mates.

James Jackson