Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Great Day - Teaching and Dr. Who

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Today two exciting things are happening in my life, well one has already happened and one is about to. They are:

Dr. Who's 50th anniversary episode is airing. I am a huge fan of the show. I've been watching it since I was very young. Also, the first episode aired on my birthday. Granted - I wasn't born until a few years later. Still, me and the show, we have a connection.

And second: I got to teach writing to some wonderful young immigrants. I've just finished my last class in a project put together by the Calgary Public Library and YMAP - which is out of the YMCA. It's a project which pairs four groups of immigrant youth (one from each quadrant of the city) with a team of writers with the goal of helping the kids write their immigrant story.

I was privileged to be on one such team. There are four sessions in total. The first session is about different methods of story writing. I heard it was a great session and the kids got a lot out of it. My two sessions followed a few weeks later. In the first we covered the topic of writing your story, in which I helped the kids write out four different scenarios. The areas we worked on were: When you were first told you were moving. When you first got on the plane in your home country. The first impression of your new country. And finally, when you felt like you fit in and this could be home. Today was my second session. We went through an exploration of the senses in order to bring the reader into their story. This involved eating Pop Rocks and smelling curry and whatnot (if you want to know more about this - see my blog from a few days ago, Top Ten Writing Games). In two weeks the kids will be with their final teacher to learn about editing and make their stories look all professional.

The kids I taught were so diverse and taking them through their immigrant story was really quite amazing for me. One girl made the trek from her home country of Brazil completely on her own. I don't mean just getting on the plane. She took a bus from her small town, then a small plane, followed by a big plane to Canada all on her own. She was sixteen! To top it off, her mom didn't even tell her she was moving until three months after the fact via Skype. She thought she was just on vacation. This was completely different than another young girl who was told she was moving to Canada a year before she moved over. She and her mom researched Canada for the entire year before she left and when she did come, the family came as a group. They even camped for three weeks as a real holiday, visiting the National Parks and seeing wildlife, before her parents settled her into the place she would be staying and headed back home. There was another girl who also came on her own. She talked about how she was sitting on the plane leaving her home country, thinking how she would now have to deal with things by herself. Of course she could talk to her mother on the internet, but her mom was no longer right there to rely on and she was very much on her own.

These young immigrants have incredible strength and fortitude. They have stories. I don't even think many of them realize how amazing they are. They are normal teenagers thrust into the world where they are forced to survive and, in the case of this group, thrive. I am so impressed and so honored to have had the chance to work with them and to give them the chance to tell their story. I'm really looking forward to when the book - which is the end game of this project - comes out.

So that was my morning - teaching. And my night will be spent eating fish sticks and custard, while waving my sonic screwdriver around (it really is sonic - it makes all kinds of noise). A great day! I am so satisfied.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is a writer and creative writing instructor in Calgary. Her teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

Go to Kim Firmston’s Author Page