David Homel is the perfect example of the unsuccessful student, the guy who just managed to scrape by. A weak performer in secondary school, he nevertheless went on to write six books, scripts for documentary films, all sorts of essays, translations, miles of journalism for print and electronic media. All that is because he liked to travel, and reading and writing are pathways towards other people, and a healthy means of escape. In his books, the author created dramatic situations in Russia, the USA, the Balkans – and even in Montréal. For him, writing is always a social activity. He studies society and his position in it through his books.
Travels with My Family (Groundwood Books, 2006)
On The Road Again! (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2008)
The Speaking Cure (Douglas & McIntyre, 2003)
Summer in the City (Groundwood Books, 2012)
*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.
David Homel always starts at the beginning. He has the students read the first few pages of three or four of his books (depending on the time available, the level), and he then asks them questions. Where do you think this story is going? What are its roots, its motivations, what do you think the writer is getting at? This is a way of exploring the Number 1 issue: where do stories come from and how do writers find their plots (and vice versa)? Then the author and students go towards the elements of narration: the setting, the building of characters, theme, how to create a plot. He combines the pleasure of reading – including reading out loud – with a more pedagogical approach. Students can look into the writer's tools of the trade. Often students are interested in the figure of the writer. The author tries to lead them towards seeing themselves as creative people, instead of distancing the writer as some sort of mythical beast.
Examples of activities
The author is a big fan of reading out loud in order to hear the music of language. He likes everyone to participate. Ideally, the students will have given him some texts to read before he comes to the school, or at least present something in class (is the author being too demanding?). ln any case, preparation is essential. If he presents the first couple pages of several books, the students will have read these excerpts, and will be prepared to discuss them. The author and the students could go further: since The Speaking Cure is a historical novel, students could do some research on the events in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. These are some of the examples of what we could do.
Please note that Travels with my Family, a novel for the 7 to 11 age group, will come out in March of 2006. This book will open up new groups for the author.
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