Like Rodney Dangerfield so many years before me, I’ve been spending a lot of time going back to school. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Ms. Poirier’s Fifth Grade class at the Duke of Connaught Public School. The class had read The Dead Kid Detective Agency as a group and knew the book inside and out. I was even treated to illustrations many of the students had made of the book – there were some really good renditions of fictional band Phantom Moustache and October smeared with teary black eyeliner. Some of the students were budding writers themselves; one student told me of her amazing work-in-progress about two friends who become rivals while running for class president. Others were keen to share their favourite horror movies. (The Omen got a lot of shout-outs. Should we be concerned?)
Tuesday morning was really a wonderful experience; I figured this must be what it’s like for the guy who wrote Where’s Waldo? when he visits schools.*
I then spend Tuesday night in the company of some of Canada’s best high school reciters of poetry at the Poetry In Voice competition. The annual bilingual poetry recitation contest for high-school students in Canada founded by Scott Griffin brought champions from Ontario and Quebec together for the finals at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, and man, was it impressive. These kids were amazing. Audiences were treated to renditions of classics like ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ by Walt Whitman and William Carlos William’s ‘Danse Russe,’ as well as contemporary works like Kevin Connolly’s ‘Plenty,’ Suzanne Buffam’s ‘The New Experience’ and Christian Bok’s ‘Chapter I.’ In high school, I don’t think you could have got me to say two words in front of an audience of hundreds, no less dramatically recite a poem I’d memorized.
Tomorrow night, I’ll be at the Oakville Public Library, returning to the scene of the crime (the crime being the illegal dumping of bacon grease collected at my summer job at What’s the Scoop?) to talk about The Dead Kid Detective Agency, and lead a mystery writing workshop. And this mystery writing workshop is going to be really good. Stolen volleyball trophies. That’s right. Just think where that mystery could lead. Hope to see some of you there!
*And yes, I know the man’s name is Maritn Handford. I just thought it was funnier this way.