Week 2 (Fiction II) of Imagination Academy started with a bang! pop! POW! on Tuesday, July 15. Author Sophie Bell introduced the readers to her bubbly superheroines, the Ultra-Violets. Using her stories as a model, Sophie discussed the guidelines for creating a superhero story or graphic novel. From mashup words and onomatopoeia, to the evil that lurks in villainous hearts and spoiler alerts, the kids worked step by step to create a superhero and foe of their own. The young writers shared their heroes and antiheroes of every shape and form—there was even a Super Cat named Cloud McMuffin.
Wednesday’s guest speaker was Polly Shulman, author of the magical Grimm Legacy series. Polly discussed—what else—the use of magic in stories! The group discussed favorite books, types of magic, settings, magical animals, and the strengths and weaknesses of magic as a thematic element. In the workshop section, Polly distributed “magical” objects to the children, who then listed the special properties their item might have. William wrote a memorable story about a “nerd” who uses trickery to turn a bully into coral!
On Thursday, we had the privilege of hosting Newbery honoree Joan Bauer. She shared her story with the group, from winning a Crazy Poetry Contest in the Chicago Tribune, to her horrible car accident that led her to struggle with writing for years. She drew from her personal troubles to fuel her writing. The latter half of the day was jam-packed with writing exercises! Children’s Librarian Jackie Schector was amazed by the depth of the kids’ responses to a particularly sad writing prompt. Oliver wrote ““Why Lucy? Of all the people in the world to leave, why did she have to be the one to go? My best friend, my only friend….” At one point, interns Nicole and Amber had to get tissues for the participants! Joan left the group with some valuable writing advice: don’t be afraid of criticism; every good writer gets stuck; every good writer wants to touch people with their words; every good writer is a reader.
On Friday, Jackie and the kids did a few more writing exercises, but Joan was a tough act to follow. Joan’s visit seems to have been the highlight of Imagination Academy thus far! The group did enjoy the last exercise of the day, which was to write a story for the prompt "And that's why you never touch the bag." We had cursed bags, bags filled with demons, and bags full of evil goats.
We would like to extend a huge thank-you to Melinda Quick, Author Appearance Coordinator at Penguin Young Readers Group, for helping us book Sophie, Polly, and Joan.