Ami Sands Brodoff is an award-winning novelist, short story author, and creative writing teacher. She is the author of the novel, Can You See Me? which centers on a family grappling with schizophrenia, and which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and of the volume of stories, Bloodknots. Many of the stories in Bloodknots have won awards and been anthologized. The collection revolves around orphans, strays, and characters who have lost or been cut off from family and must try to find it wherever they can. The collection was a finalist for the Re-Lit Award, honouring the best in Canadian publishing from the independent presses. Her latest novel, The White Space Between, a mother-daughter story and love song to Montréal, will be published in the fall of 2008.
Stories from Bloodknots.
*These titles have been suggested by the author based on the activities that he/she proposes to students.
It is, however, up to teachers to verify whether the titles are appropriate for their groups (age and education level, specific context, etc.).
Teaching staff are invited to contact the author for clarification on this aspect and assistance in preparing their groups for his/her visit.
The writer works closely with the teacher to discover what the students are reading and discussing, and then tailors her activities to dramatize elements of fictional craft. She always gets the students writing in a workshop, gives them an opportunity to share their pieces, and to talk to her directly about her life as a writer and aspects of fiction they wish to learn more about. She sets aside plenty of time for questions.
The workshop element is always fun and liberating. Because the author’s activities are all “writing in the moment,” there is no pressure for students to produce finished or perfect work. This type of writing often produces surprisingly exciting and vivid pieces, which students can then continue in class or at home if they choose to do so.
The author has a good deal of experience hosting writing workshops with teens and finds that creative writing provides an excellent outlet for emotions, issues, and creative energy at this powerful stage of life. Her own work often focuses on extremity and characters on the edge, which many teens connect with strongly.
Examples of activities
To work on bringing character to life, the author hands out dramatic colour photographs featuring images of people. Each student chooses a picture and then writes for fifteen or twenty minutes from the voice of the character in the photograph, so that the workshop host and other participants get to know him or her and glean a sense of voice. Then volunteers read their excerpts aloud. After some initial shyness, most students are eager to jump in and to share their work.
Another great writing activity that teens love is the grab-bag. The author brings in a bag of interesting objects from nature, as well as knick-knacks, and has the participants choose something that intrigues them, building a story around the object. She might further focus the catalyst by saying they need to write a story about a character finding a treasure or losing a cherished object. This exercise teaches students about dramatic structure and shaping a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.
To work on how a writer creates the layers of fresh details that make any piece of fiction spring to life, she has students create an imaginary “perfect place,” either indoors or outdoors, and describe this dream place using all of their senses. This provides a fun escape from school!
To dramatize how point-of-view works in stories, the author gives workshop participants a kick-off sentence, such as:
Students then continue the sentence into a monologue. The workshop host and participants talk about the effects of a first-person narrative, such as intimacy, and then transpose the pieces into the third person to see how that changes the tone of the piece.
Ami Sands Brodoff
Phone : 514 481-5270
Email : email@example.com
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