Teaching Kids about Writing

Head down, office door closed, the last couple weeks of September and into October have been full of work. With seven books to wrap up, two magazine articles to write and travel queries to send out, there hasn’t been a lot of spare time.

Okay, maybe a little spare time… but not a lot!

So when I received a request for a school program late last week, I had to turn it down.


I jumped at the chance to talk writing while soaking up the positive energy that comes from a roomful of kids. It didn’t matter that taking another afternoon out of the office meant working late that night, those two hours were full of excitement and interest – and I think the kids enjoyed it, too 😉

Spending an afternoon with these keen kids wasn’t a chore, it was a privilege. Pushing my ability to multi-task when my plate was already full showed me that I was capable of more than I thought. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

3 Tips for School Presentations:

  1. Start strong with a hook. I began telling the kids how I wanted to write a novel full of adventure and drama when I first started writing. The problem was that I wasn’t any good at writing fiction. I pulled out a copy of my first Reader’s Digest article and read a paragraph of Marianne trapped on a ledge, yelling into the wind at her rescuers in the distance, and watching the lights disappear. I wasn’t good at writing fiction, but I was skilled at writing non-fiction. They were hooked!
  2. Circulate. I always make sure that there are several hands-on activities for the kids to do. Instead of twiddling my thumbs at the front of the room, I wander through the groups, offering suggestions and answering questions. The kids enjoy the one-on-one time.
  3. Break it up. Be sure to build in bathroom and stretch breaks. Everyone will be happier and better able to focus.

Long Weekend Skiing at Dave Henry Lodge

My friend pulled down a book from the narrow, wooden shelf high above the front window. It was “The Book of Awesome” by Neil Pasricha. The gist of the book is enjoying the little things in life – like waking up in the morning and realizing it’s a Saturday.

Dave Henry Lodge, Valemount B.C. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Dave Henry Lodge, Valemount B.C. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Or like standing on the main floor of Dave Henry Lodge, high in the mountains above Valemount, B.C. with two long-time friends and a half dozen or so new acquaintances, brooms and snow shovels and flattened cardboard boxes in hand, trying to coax a pine marten out from behind the indoor woodpile. And trying not to squeal like a little girl as the marten flies past the blockade of plastic ski boots, brooms, shovels, and cardboard and hides under the red and black benches surrounding the long table.

Live trapped and awaiting relocation. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Live trapped and awaiting relocation. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Awesome is walking down the narrow staircase from the sleeping bunks at 6:30 a.m. smelling fresh coffee wafting from the kitchen and seeing thick snow falling outside.

It’s having your guy give up a day of ripping up the slopes with the strong skiing group to find the perfect hero snowpatch for you to yo-yo up and down all day – and then complimenting you on your awesome descent through the thickly treed slope back to the cabin. Plus, it’s catching duplicate ear-to-ear grins on the faces of the lakeside snowshoers and steep and deep skiers at the end of the day.

My guy... (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

My guy… (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

...and I! (Photo Credit: B. Kopp)

…and I! (Photo Credit: B. Kopp)

Could it be just sitting in the low-roofed sauna with a cold beer, a bucket of snow and the irrepressible impulse to throw a snowball at your sauna mates?

Awesome is happy hour beginning with red grape salsa on goat cheese crostini and a guys versus gals game of Sequence, chasing it down with baked steelhead and round of travel and adventure tales and topping it all off with raspberry Linzer torte, Irish-cream laden coffee and a dollop of whip cream.

It’s having one of your new friends point out the silhouette of a hawk-owl perched high on a conifer tree in the middle of the day.

Maybe it’s skimming the tops of two snow-capped passes and banking hard right as the helicopter soars back towards spring.

Passes between Dave Henry and Swift Creek. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Passes between Dave Henry and Swift Creek. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

How was the weekend?  A whole lot of awesome.

  “Because, life’s too short, my friends. Let’s squeeze in as many laughs as we can get.
– Neil Pasricha

A little snowboot downward dog! "“Because, life’s too short, my friends. Let’s squeeze in as many laughs as we can get.”  - Neil Pasricha

A little pre-ski downward dog. Can someone help him back up? (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Places for Writers

“Sometimes you come across sites that are too good not to share with other writers. [places for writers] is one of those sites. The goal here is to help writers find homes for their work, in other words, to get published.

[places for writers] isn’t new, it’s been around since 1997 offering information on submissions and contests – most of which, but not all, are from Canada. Travel writers might be interested in Cargo literary magazine. They’re looking for travel essays, creative nonfiction, poetry and visual art (including photography) that explores travel and personal growth (deadline Jan 30/15.) Another one of interest is Carleton University’s “Passages: Transitions Between Worlds,” open until Feb 15/15.

Another site that caught my eye was “The Punctuation Guide.” It’s a quick and easy reference to terminal points, pausing points, hyphens and dashes, quotations and other points. If nothing else, check out the Top Ten Tips for a valuable punctuation refresher!

Got a worthy writing link to share? Feel free to add it in the comments below!


“As she has planted, so does she harvest; such is the field of karma.”
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib




Turkey: A Hiking Adventure

The Ride
It all started when we asked Hilal, our pansyion owner, if he could help us arrange a ride to another town for a one-way hike back to Üçağiz. No problem, only 50 Turkish lira (TL). When he ushered us out onto the street, I stared slack-jawed at the little blue sedan. Loading our packs into the trunk and avoiding the rusted holes revealing glimpses of cobblestones below, I crossed my fingers that the packs would be there when we stopped.

The car tilted as the driver plunked into his seat, which leaned back at an angle and rested against my legs. I looked out at the driver’s mirror hanging on by a wire. The rearview was shaking so hard as the engine coughed and spluttered that I couldn’t look at it for long. Fumes wafted through every crack and crevice. The gas gauge read empty. No wait, it wasn’t empty. None of the gauges were working. We chugged slowly up the hill out of town and then sputtered to a halt. Stalled mid-road, our driver calmly turned off the engine, started it again, pumped the gas a few times and we were off. We could walk faster at this point.

Creeping up the hill past the bus parking, it was all looking good – and then we crested the hill. At this point, I had a second to wonder about the brakes before we started flying down around the first corner. Up and down we go, blasting past the big new shiny mosque in Boğazcık before coming to a rolling stop beside the Lycian Way trail – our destination.

The chariot. (Credit: M. Kopp)

The chariot. (Credit: M. Kopp)

The Trail
Standing trailside, we stared at the trailside marker. There were three route options. The sign didn’t point to any of them. It momentarily threw us for a loop, until a local came out and kindly mimed that the sign was angled slight off kilter.

Full of ankle bending rocks and rubble, roadway crossings, navigational challenges, spectacular and seldom-visited ruins, and close up encounters with all kinds of “wild” life – we wandered along the route for almost five hours through olive groves and abandoned homesteads before reaching Aperlae and the unexpected opportunity to avoid the remaining three-hour trek back to Üçağiz in the heat of the day.

"Wild" life along the hike. (Credit: M.Kopp)

“Wild” life along the hike. (Credit: M.Kopp)

The Boat
When the price dropped quickly from 80 to 60 TL, we hopped on board. Or would have, if it was our boat. This one – with sunshade and pillowed seats – belonged to another group of hikers. Our boat was on its way.

“Only 40 minutes,” the harbour master muttered under his breath. Forty minutes? Maybe we’ll walk.

“No, no,” he spoke up quickly, “15 minutes.” Now we’re talking.

Forty-five minutes later our one-armed captain jumped spryly off the worn little vessel, deftly avoiding the empty beer bottle just to his right. Not a chance there’s going to be a single life jacket on this puppy. Good thing the wind – and a strong one at that – was blowing at our back.

All aboard! (Credit: M.Kopp)

All aboard! (Credit: M.Kopp)

When our captain left the tiller to skip forward and share a tale about the blood money used to buy yachts like the massive black one pulling into the harbour, I clung to the centre, oddly cross-shaped pole. Sideways in the waves we went – only to be distracted as flying fish soared past.

I was almost sorry the trip was over as our tiny vessel nosed its way between a row of boats to pull up dockside in Üçağiz and the captain killed the motor – by putting two bare wires together.

Focus on the journey, not the destination.
Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.”
– Greg Anderson



A room, a book, another idea

Ta da!

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work this writer goes!

Yes, the office is back to its new norm with flooring in place, fresh paint on the walls, and too many years of collected scraps of paper sorted and saved or recycled.

In the midst of the renos, I met my deadline by wrapping up the final edits for a kid’s book on NASCAR drivers (who knew that Jimmie Johnson gets carsick when not behind the wheel of a moving car). If you say you can’t write because you don’t have the space or there’s too much distraction, you’re just not trying hard enough. Proof positive right here.

I also re-discovered a half-baked project idea buried in the depths of the storage closet. The question was what to do with those files. The idea was to explore the fine line between art and craft. I had brainstormed the project with a friend who is an artisan. She had the hands-on knowledge and I had the writing background. It seemed like the perfect partnership, but other commitments got in our way.

With this newly-found idea still percolating through the recesses of my mind, I happened to pick up the September issue of Writer’s Digest. In it was an article about blogging your way to a book. Our idea would work well as a series of blog posts.

I think I like that idea. Time to call Sus and see what she thinks!

Are you blogging about a topic that has book potential? If you stuck with it long enough to build a solid platform to support a book, would you consider traditional marketing of the idea, write an e-book, or look at self-publishing?

Before writing, think a lot.
After writing, erase a lot.”
– Carlos Herrar Alvarez