Budding writers were given a boost when popular B.C.-based young adult author Eileen Cook came by Earl Marriott Secondary earlier this month to share her insights with creative writing students.
Cook – who has won international acclaim and a movie deal with such page-turners as Unpredictable and What Would Emma Do? – spoke on Dec. 4 to a combined gathering including students from both Marriott’s Writing 10/12 class, led by Bev Schellenberg, and Frank Hurt’s Writing 10/12 class led by Megan Barnet.
The two classes have shared an exchange which will continue at least until the end of January and which has included correspondence between students and visits to each others’ schools – a valuable experience in encountering others who share the same enthusiasm for writing, Schellenberg and Barnet said.
The affable, witty and animated Cook – who acknowledged she loves interacting with writing students – shared a love of creative fiction (“my parents called it lying,” she quipped) which went back to her early childhood in Michigan.
A turning point for her, she said, was walking into the adult section of a library when she was 10 or 11 years old and checking out Salem’s Lot by Stephen King – although warned by a librarian that “it wasn’t appropriate because it was really scary.”
“I wanted to read it 20 times more then,” she said. “I felt insulted. It turned out to be really scary. I slept with the lights on for several nights – possibly a month.”
It impressed her however that “something that was made up could make you feel real emotion.”
Cook shared that numerous early attempts to write and sell novels met only rejection from publishers. She gave up on it for two years before she realized that she really loved and missed writing, she said, recommending a love of writing as a prime motivator (“This is not a particularly easy career choice,” she said. “Surround yourself with people who are going to encourage you.”)
After taking the students through her version of the “Hero’s Journey’ – one of the most compelling storytelling formulas, she said, provided one can create an interesting main character, a quest that readers that will care about and sufficiently large obstacles in the hero’s path – she took questions from the group.
Among things students wanted to know was how she managed to schedule writing around a full-time job (“Different things work for different people – there’s no one right way”) and how long it takes her to write a book (“It now takes me around nine months,” she said).