Hello and welcome to “I’ve Got Company!” My Summer Guest Blog Series.
I’m thrilled to introduce my first two guests, teen writers Maryse Dupuy and Emily Murphy.
LF: Welcome Maryse and Emily. It’s great to have you here!
Before we start, let me tell those joining us today that if they leave a comment at the end of today's blog, their name will be entered into a draw for “Project Clove” an anthology of works written by young writers. I’ll draw the name tomorrow morning (Saturday August 6th 10am – Montreal Quebec time)
Now, let’s get right to it!
Maryse, I’ll start with you. You’re seventeen, and you’re headed to CEGEP (college) in the fall, where you’ll be studying Language Arts. It’s going to be a very exciting time, for sure. However, last year you took on quite an interesting assignment while attending your high school, in le Programme d’études internationales. Would you please tell us about it?
MD: I’d love to. Well, at my high school, as part of the IB program, all Secondary 5 students must choose a personal project they’ll work on for the whole year. We were required to plan, set goals and document the year-long progress in a report and at the end of the year we had to present the completed project and hand in the detailed report. We were graded on both the report and the end result of our project. At graduation, we would receive a special certificate for this project along with our IB certificate and diploma.
LF: What did you decide to do for your personal project?
MD: It was on our trip to France, that the crazy idea to write a novel came to me. Once I got back home, I got to work.
LF: A novel? That’s quite an undertaking. Can you tell us about it?
MD: First of all, it’s written in French, because my first language is French. My story is called "Isolés" and the best way to describe it is by sharing the blurb at the back of the book and I’ll translate it:
Incitée à voyager par sa grand-mère, une adolescente se rend dans une ville française presque inconnue. Son séjour prend toutefois une direction inattendue…
(Encouraged by her grandmother to travel, a young girl arrives in a little known town in France where her stay takes an unexpected turn....)
LF: What inspired you to write your story?
MD: When I was in France, Piriac-Sur-Mer really inspired me. In my story, I decided to drop this town on an island not far from the French coast. I won’t say in what year this story happens, because it’s the whole point of the book.
LF: What were the guidelines for this project?
MD: Since everyone had a different project theme/subject, the report was the one thing that we all had in common. It had to be at least 5000 words. When it came to my novel, by the end of the writing process it was 110 pages, totaling over 27,000 words.
LF: How long did it take to write it?
MD: 3 months. The rest of the school year I researched and gathered
information for my story and also learned how to write a book.
LF: Did you have help?
MD: My father helped me with the editing and my mother helped with formatting the book and getting it printed. A writer I know also helped me by sharing some writing tips.
LF: That’s wonderful that your parents got involved. So tell me, now that you’ve seen your work in limited print, what plans do you have for this story in the future?
MD: It needs to be expanded before I’d consider submitting it to a publisher. There's much more story to tell.
LF: Spoken like a true writer! Was it the first time you’d ever attempted to write?
MD: No, the interest has been there since I was about 12 years old.
LF: What inspired you to start writing at that age?
MD: A friend of mine loaned me a book. It was a rougher style than I usually read but it impressed me. I wanted to write something as powerful and so I started to jot down ideas. I tried to write for years after that but wasn’t organized enough to finish anything I started. I always had lots of ideas for beginnings, some plot points, but never the complete story. My thought process wasn’t thorough but it gave me the opportunity to try different styles and to see what suited me best. When we had to decide on the subject of our personal project, I thought it was time to challenge myself to do what I always wanted to do—write a complete story.
LF: I think it was a fabulous idea. I loved the story. It was engaging and well written.
Now, I’ll introduce Emily Murphy and get her in on this conversation. Emily, you’re fourteen and in high school. In the fall you’re heading to secondary three. You also had a school-related event that took an interesting turn. Would you tell us about it?
EM: Sure mom. LOL!
EM: Don’t tell me your blog visitors haven’t already figured out I’m your
daughter and Maryse is your niece! Why are you looking at me that way? LOL! Okay, okay. In secondary two I was in Enriched English. Sometimes that class does more than the required curriculum. One of those extra things we did last year was write Slam Poetry.
LF: What’s Slam Poetry?
EM: It’s a poem using strong words and emotional reaction. It’s animated, dramatic. To prepare us, our teacher Mrs. Barrons had us read lots of slam poetry and watch videos of writers “performing” their poems. Actually writing Slam Poetry was hard to do.
LF: In what way was it difficult?
EM: I felt like my life experiences didn’t suit Slam. All my ideas drifted to sports, that’s a happy place for me, so my emotions didn’t make me feel angry enough to scream and yell like I saw the writers do on the videos in class.
LF: What did you do?
EM: Well, we had a month to hand in the assignment. After three weeks I had seven drafts and not one was powerful enough. Then one night, I woke up with an idea. I wrote it down. The words flowed easily. The next day I formatted it. It was the one.
LF: Really? Could you share that idea with us?
EM: It was about friends distancing themselves from each other because of choices they’ve made and the different paths they’ve taken. I’d been thinking about how I missed someone I’d been close friends with. I didn’t know how much missing that person affected me until I tapped into my memories. The idea came from those feelings.
LF: What happened next?
EM: The class presented their slam poetry the following week. The teacher was really impressed with the results from the class, how committed they were to their work and their presentation. People were crying and screaming…it was pretty intense. Anyway, the teacher felt the poems should be shared. She had us present our poems to the other classes and then she contacted someone she knew that was planning to have an anthology published. She forwarded everyone’s poems to her and after the woman read them, she wanted to use them all. We had to resubmit our work on our own. My slam poem is entitled "I Can't Put a Title to This" and it appears on page 82 in the anthology published by Youth Fusion and Concordia University called “Project Clove”.
LF: Wow. That’s impressive. How long have you been interested in writing?
EM: Since the third grade. My teacher Mrs. Pavonetti made writing fun. It was in her class that I knew I liked to write.
LF: This question is for both of you. Did you enjoy composition homework/writing assignments?
EM: I’m happy when we have to write compositions it gives me the opportunity to work on new ideas.
MD: Same for me. I’m only frustrated by the cap on word count. Once I had to delete 14 pages because I wrote too much.
LF: That’s a lot of words. I guess you were in your groove.
MD: I think I work best with structured guidelines and deadlines, my thoughts are more focused and the words come easier.
LF: Would you say that was true for you too, Emily?
EM: Yup. When I sit down to write, I’m focused only on my story or poem.
LF: What do you do when an idea pops into your head, how do you work it out on paper?
MD: I like to structure my story. I write plot points one-by-one and number them in the order I want them to play out in my story. I find it easier to get the story written with this kind of guide. For Isolés I had 5 pages of plot points.
EM: I plot my stories in my head. The sub-plots, too.
LF: How much of your own life makes its way into your stories?
MD: Descriptions of favourite places, I love descriptions. Les faits vécu. Real-life reactions.
EM: For me it’s mostly they way people react. It’s not planned, it’s sub-conscious.
LF: I’m interested in your tastes in books.
MD: All the French classics, especially “le style romantique du 19ieme siècle”, Victor Hugo, Maupassant. But the series that ignited my love for reading was “Les Baudelaires” in English it’s called, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.
EM: I love that series. I’m reading the tenth book right now. Of course, I also love Harry Potter, Edgar & Ellen, The Hunger Games and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The series I enjoyed in elementary school was The Magic Treehouse, Mrs. Pavonetti had the complete series. It was amazing!
LF: I’m curious to know how important book cover art is in making your decision to buy a book.
MD/EM: Not important.
LF: You both answered at the same time! Oops, cover artists everywhere are
going to hunt you down!
MD: LOL! No, I love the artwork but what I usually do is pull out a book of an author I’m interested in, flip it open and read a random page. If I like the author’s writing style, I’ll buy it.
EM: I have posters of book cover art plastered all over my bedroom wall, so I do appreciate it a lot but when we go to a bookstore I scan the spines, pull out a book that sparks my interest, and then flip to the back cover to read the blurb. If I like it, I make you buy it for me.
LF: I know, you usually walk over to me with a stack of at least 10.
MM: Excuse me, can I say something?
LF: Sure, everyone, this is Megan Murphy, Emily’s 12 year old sister. (By the way, we’re doing this interview in the car on our way to spend the day at the lake. I’m taking notes while sitting in the passenger seat. Megan’s been quiet and listening to this interview.)
MM: If the cover art is fake-looking, I won’t buy the book. It’s all about the artwork for me.
LF: Thank you Megan.
MM: No problem, I just wanted to make sure my voice was heard.
LF: It was and speaking of voices, it leads me to my next question for our teen writers, what Points of View do you like?
MD: Third person
EM: First person but third’s my favorite.
MD/EM: Lemony Snickets POV – a witness account of events.
LF: Interesting…What do you look for in a book?
MD: I want my books to take me to other places in another time. I’m not
interested in reading contemporary issues about my peers. There’s enough of that in school.
EM: A story with well developed characters. I like it when I can connect to them, so I can feel their emotion and feel as if I know them, like a friend, best friend. I also like stories with very fictional plots; things that would never be able to happen to me. I don't want to read books that basically have the same story line as my life; I want to explore a new and crazy world, like the Harry Potter books for example.
LF: What books are you reading right now?
MD: The duology, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources by Marcel Pagnol
EM: I’ve got a couple going, #10 of Unfortunate Events and Tweak by Nic Sheff.
LF: I have to say you both have very interesting and varied tastes in literature. I’ve really enjoyed discussing writing and books with you.
EM: This was fun, mom.
MD: Yeah, the time went by so fast!
LF: I'm glad. I just want to do one more thing. In the book biz there’s something called a tagline –a twenty word line used in marketing a book. After speaking with you and touching upon the surface of your many passions here’s how I’d summarize you both using a tagline:
With “le style romantique” as inspiration, Maryse Dupuy dances and pens her way with commitment and a flurry of creativity.
Emily Murphy approaches her love of writing and reading with a passion fierce and true to her competitive, athletic spirit.
I hope you continue to write and share your ideas with the world. I wish you the best in your writing and other endeavors. And ladies… keep buying books!
Thank you so much for visiting my blog today. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of “Project Clove” can contact the project coordinator of Journalism/Media, Cindy Elston at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please join me next week when my guest will be Alison ArmstrongKelley Armstrong.
Photo credits: Teen writers - Rae-Anne Smith and Christine Forget