Marty Chan has spent about a dozen years traveling to schools and libraries, helping students develop creative skills in writing.
Originally from Morinville, Chan first became inspired to be a writer when he was in high school. His language arts teacher gave the students an assignment where they could design their bedroom in any way they wanted; they just had to describe it through writing. Chan wrote about a room where he never had to get out of bed, as his bed was on an elevator and each floor was filled with a kitchen or a pool or a library.
When handing the assignment back, his teacher told him to consider becoming a writer.
"That was the first time that I thought, 'oh wow, I could actually do something that is creative and fun and get paid for it'. That was the spark that got me into writing," Chan recalled.
Since then, Chan has published thirteen children's books and spends his time visiting schools and libraries, helping kids embrace their creative side.
Chan works all ages of students. His methods include finding out what interests the kids and encouraging them to base their writing on that.
"As long as I can tap into something that they care about, it's a lot easier for them to buy into the concept of them writing about something that they enjoy as opposed to just writing for the sake of writing. I know sometimes if you're forced to do something that you don't want to do, instead of being inspired or being passionate about it, you end up hating it."
Having that connection between the student's mind and their writing has seemed to be extremely effective in Chan's workshops. Not only has it sparked interest in writing in the students, but it also teaches them how to effectively organize and communicate their thoughts as well as forces them to use their imagination, skills that can help them in any field of life.
Chan recently spent two weeks in Sherwood Park at Woodbridge Farms Elementary working with the students. He hosted half-hour writing sessions with the Grades 1 to 3 and hour-long sessions with the Grades 4 to 6.
"My favourite thing is when I come across that reluctant reader or that reluctant writer who goes 'I don't want to be here, I don't want to do this' and then in the span of a half hour or over a couple of days, that same kid is now writing pages and pages of a story because they're just so excited about writing."
Woodbridge Farms teachers have reported that some students are now working on their own stories. Not for marks or extra credit, but for the simple joy of writing.