Thursday, November 8, 2012

Skype visit with Stephen McCranie

Today, my two language arts classes had an amazing visit with Stephen McCranie, the author/illustrator of the Mal and Chad graphic novel series.  What a fun time we had, and Stephen was a wonderful guest!

He gave some great writing advice:
  • Every story should focus on two things: 1) what does my character want? and 2) what is getting in the way of the character getting what they want?  An easy formula for writers to follow.
  • He shared that he will frequently write up to 14 or 15 drafts like a screenplay before he ever starts a sketch for the graphic novel.  I have a lot of students who want to sketch frequently during writing workshop; it was great for them to hear from this author that if you don't have a good, solid story, the pictures won't matter.
  • Stephen said it is easier to rewrite words online than "rewrite" pictures.
  • He stressed how important editing is in his process.
  • One of my favorite lines: he told the classes that creativity is a muscle you make stronger by practice.  What great advice for those students who don't feel like they have any creativity - they can work to achieve that creativity. 
Stephen designs his drawings with a special computer program, and he was able to screen share it with us in real time.  Based on his formula, he asked for the students to give him a character - they chose MaryLou.  They decided that MaryLou liked a boy named Bob, but that she was jealous of another girl, Priscilla.  As the students fed him the details for the story, he sketched it all out for them - it was so impressive to have him talking, answering questions, and drawing at the same time.

And if the Skype visit wasn't enough, Stephen also sent us a signed copy of everything he drew today so I can copy it for the kids AND he sent the first few chapters of the next Mal and Chad graphic novel.  What a wonderful experience!!  A huge thank you to Stephen McCranie for his generosity of time, talent, and writing wisdom!!

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