Students of Mecca Glen School were in for a treat on Friday, May 23, when an Albertan author graced their halls and shared her children’s books as well as tips and knowledge of the process to becoming a published author.
Maxine Spence of Didsbury indulged the younger students with a lively felt board retelling of her book Leaf, published three years ago. Grades 2 and 3 were walked through a presentation on idea generation; grades 4 to 7 took part in a writers’ workshop and grades 8 and 9 learned about the writing to publishing process.
Despite having been published multiple times, Spence told the students how releasing her work into the world remained an effervescent experience for her. “When you’ve written as long as I have, and that’s my whole life long, it is so amazing to see your name in print.”
Spence began her presentation to the Grade 2 and 3 split students by teaching them about editing, whether a writer feels they need to or not. “Sometimes the first draft of a creation isn’t good, yet sometimes it is . . . you can still make it brilliant.”
However, before anyone can get to the editing process, their story must begin with an idea. Spence says ideas mainly come to a person through the five senses and their emotions. “You’re swimming in a soup of ideas.”
Sight is a common source of inspiration of Spence, as is hearing and she will often sit in coffee shops, innocently eavesdropping on the conversations around her waiting to turn peoples’ words into her own ideas.
“Sometimes words arrive in my head and I don’t even know where it came from,” said Spence.
“I think it’s because I’m keeping my brain fed and the best way to keep your brain fed is to read,” she added, throwing encouragement for literacy into her presentation.
Her inspiration for Leaf came on a blustery spring day as Spence went for a walk around the block. However, she had just moved to the country from the city and her walk expanded from a city block to several country miles. Tired by the end, she focused on a tree at the end of her driveway and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.
“I trudged toward that tree and as I got closer I noticed a leaf, a dried up wrinkly old leaf . . . and I wondered,” said Spence.
The idea of the leaf and why it had not blown away with the rest of the tree’s foliage would not leave Spence alone and eventually she was driven to write the tale of the leaf that stayed through the winter.
“It’s not just enough to swim in the soup, you need to wonder about it,” said Spence.
“To me that’s magic. That I saw a wrinkled old, brown leaf on a tree and I wondered and a story was born,” she added.
Spence also launched her latest book — Down in the Jungle — over the Mothers’ Day weekend and she took a different approach than she has traditionally done. Rather than use the money generated from Leaf to fund Down in the Jungle, she took her business to the website Kickstarter and the attempt paid off.