Back in May I had the great honour of pinch-hitting as one of four Guest Authors at the Toronto District School Board’s Authors’ Day, part of the TCTE Annual Short Fiction Contest celebration.
My friend and fellow Toronto Women Writers’ Salon member Lesley Anne Cowan organizes this event. I’ve been so eager to get involved with the TDSB that I made a point of telling Lesley I could be available even at the very last minute, if one of the scheduled authors dropped out. Lo and behold, she called me the day before–yet another positive lesson in Sarah-stick-yer-neck-out!
I was massively impressed by the uniqueness and variety of great story concepts I heard the students share. A surly boy who makes daily visits to a seniors’ home. A woman married to an inmate meeting her husband for the first time after his release. A young hitchhiker, the old woman who gives him a ride, and the disastrous effects of their mutual paranoia. Here at the outset of our writing careers, the students seemed to be saying, all subjects are ours. I found this an incredibly inspiring notion.
My two-hour workshop with ten Grade 12 students was a crazily compressed version of my usual twelve-week courses: a brief go-around to introduce ourselves, reading out a page from each story, giving brief feedback, reflecting on general principles. Take risks, I said. Have courage. But I hardly needed to say it! These were confident writers and generous, articulate readers–theirs were the top 40 contest entries in the GTA, after all. I felt inordinately proud when, after we regrouped in the main room, it turned out that my Isabelle had won first place for her story about child sex trafficking, and my Angela’s time-loop tale was a top-ten runner up.