From the lovely middle grade novel, Caterpillar Summer by Gillian…
The last Guess Who was posted and it is time to reveal the author! Drumroll….
Timm Holmes! Timm is a children’s picture book author who has been writing since he was eight years old! He also recently started the Start a Story Workshop, which is the focus of our interview today.
Welcome to the blog Timm!
Start a Story Workshop
Let’s start with a description of the workshop.
What is a Start a Story Workshop?
It is a 75-90 minute group story building adventure for children from kindergarten to grade six! We share ideas, combine ideas, vote for our favourites and even do some colorful drawing to add more detail to our story! The workshop culminates in a theatrical storytelling of the tale they’ve just created to celebrate that the children have all become authors of something amazing and that they did it together!
Start A Story has also been produced into a pilot for a children’s 30 minute television show, has an app in development, and a family card game coming as well!
This sounds amazing! How did you become a part of this workshop?
I created Start A Story Young Writers Workshop when it was suggested by an enthusiastic kindergarten teacher who loved the way I spoke to her class about how my own books were created after originally being bedtime stories created for my two young sons.
I love that you were able to take her compliment and run with it! If a teacher wanted to have this workshop, when and where is this workshop and how long is it?
Most often Start A Story comes to you by request. It visits schools, community groups, libraries, and even birthday parties.
I’m based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and keep busy throughout the school year at Ottawa area schools. The last two summers I’ve been a part of the TD Summer Reading Program at the Ottawa Public Library visiting five or six locations through July and August. These are an amazing opportunity for the public to access the workshop for free!
Coming up shortly, I’ll be going international with the program for the first time as I’ve been invited for a week-long stay to present Start A Story to ten classes at Lincoln School for Early Learning in Coquille, Oregon!
Who is the audience?
Children from kindergarten to grade six are my focus. That being said, I’m experimenting with extending the program to older grades and even adults.
Thank you for the overview! Now, let’s talk about your first workshop. Tell me your feelings leading up to the big trip.
How often do you travel for writing-related activities?
I visit schools and attend events in Ottawa and the surrounding areas two to three times a week during the school year and about once a week during the summer. Part of the reason I’m excited to share my story with you is to get the message out to a wider audience that I’m willing to travel more regularly to excite and inspire young authors all over North America! When travel isn’t an option Skype or Google Hangouts is a great way to connect. Although I currently do not perform Start A Story Workshop over video calls.
How have you planned for this workshop? What pre-planning have you done and what worries do you have about what you have planned?
Coquille, Oregon is a small community and arranging the flights there proved difficult without arriving incredibly jet lagged or sleeping in airports waiting for connections. So I’m honestly worried about making my connections as missing them would be a larger than normal issue.
The trip itself was a catalyst to create a truly travel-ready Story Cube – my colorful spinning white board cube that helps us track our story points as we build it. It is a box of PVC pipe though. Nervous how customs will view it, so I’ve attached pictures of the constructed device inside the case to show what it forms into.
Some major thought and redesign went into this more compact contraption that collapses into a carry-on sized container!
I’m also hoping to have ARCs of my third picture book “The Rainobuzz” (Nov 2019) to share with the students during a planned Thursday evening family storytelling night.
Describe your emotions in a timeline format-from when you first wanted to take part until now.
September 2018 I was invited to visit Coquille after donating close to 80 books to Lincoln School for Early Learning and at the time there were thoughts of having me visit in February or April 2019.
I was beyond excited! My Imposter Syndrome kicked in though. Why me? Isn’t there an author that lives closer they should invite? But it was the program they wanted. They had to give their students Start A Story!
Then disappointment. February fell through because an already challenging trip would be made more difficult with winter weather. I’m impatient by nature but our backup plan was April. That wasn’t too much longer.
Then I felt sick to my stomach when April fell through due to state-wide testing and other factors contributing to what we thought might be a distracted student population.
It was a surreal feeling part elation, part numb from disbelief in late June 2019 when the September visit was 100% solidified.
Not directly related to the trip, I’m dealing with a small amount of anxiety and guilt.
This is going to be the longest time I’ve been away from my wife since we were married and I’m leaving her to be a single parent for nine days with two strong willed boys. This will also be the longest I’ve been away from my two sons since we adopted them six years ago.
That will be very challenging to handle emotionally. Family is incredibly important to me.
Thank your for sharing those emotions and worries. Now, let’s talk about how the trip went! What was your greatest success?
Performing my seventh and last workshop of the week with the same energy and creativity as the first one of the week. This was a major concern since I normally only perform one workshop per day when at home in Ottawa. Performing two per day for four days straight I honestly wasn’t sure how cross eyed I’d feel. However I seemed to feed off the energy of the amazing young authors that I had the pleasure of working with!
What is your most memorable moment?
I have three stand outs.
#1 – Landing in North Bend, Oregon a rowdy group of golfers on the plane took an interest in what I was doing (I was wearing a Start A Story tshirt). Their rowdiness, my voice that carries, and it being a small plane all combined into me telling the entire plane my “author story” and handing out business cards like they were $20 bills!
#2 – Multiple times kids would see me in the staff room between workshops and get all excited, but one particular girl turned to her teacher and, in an excited whisper you might use when seeing a rockstar you’re a fan of out in public, said, “I saw the AUTHOR!” That left me feeling great!
#3 – The family storytelling evening on Thursday night had me reading from my books, handing out signed copies to every child, and meeting all the kids parents. One kindergarten boy who refused to call me anything except “Mister Timm Holmes” posed for a picture with me. Just as the picture was taken he leaned back into me and nuzzled his head into the space between my neck and shoulder. My son Cooper does this and we call it our “backwards hug”. I had been missing my family all week, but this moment just about broke me! It was a sweet moment with a young fan, but also a knife to my heart that made me ready to return home.
When were you most nervous?
Going through customs with my Start A Story cube that I carry around in a carry-on sized container. It breaks down into a large collection of PVC pipe and I really wasn’t sure how much trouble it would be explaining it to each security check point. As it turned out, it wasn’t much of a hassle!
Any face-palm moments? Moments you were embarrassed? How did you recover?
Overall it was a pretty spectacular week. One boy in the first or second workshop drew a picture of a character with what I thought was a belly button. He corrected me with a big grin on his face. “Nope”and then he explained that it was a private part.
I couldn’t help myself – I laughed out loud and suggested to him that we keep that detail as our little secret. He seemed to like that idea and it never came up again.
How did you grow as a writer?
Confidence. Knowing that I bring to the table a unique energy and enthusiasm, and that I have an ability to reach the reluctantly creative students and give them an outlet in a manner they find amusing and manageable. A friend of mine used to give me a hard time about my Imposter Syndrome. I was always surprised at the successes and situations that I found myself in. I did not believe I had earned my place. I’m so glad to have given the children of Coquille, Oregon so many stories to spend their year perfecting. They gave me something special too. They made me feel like I belong where I am, doing what I’m doing, no longer an Imposter.
Wow. What an incredible adventure and the Start A Story Workshop sounds like a really wonderful idea and I wish you success. Thank you for the interview. You are not an imposter!
Read more about Timm and his Start A Story Workshop and purchase his books on his website, TimmHolmes.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @TimmWrites!