YA Author Laura Lam visits Doon Academy

Laura Lam

After a much-deserved, if all-too-brief, February break, everyone was back into the swing of things at Doon Academy.

While we were certainly grateful for the chance to unwind, the return to reality was all too evident on the faces of our hard-working students (and the staff!). On the back of the recent prelims, more exams loom in the coming months – life-defining ones. So, you can imagine pupils’ utter delight then when award-winning fantasy novelist Laura Lam breezed into the library for a special guest appearance. After all, a small school like Doon welcomes its visitors with open arms.

Young Hearts

We cherry-picked Miss Lam to appear after securing Live Literature support. Laura’s achievements are vast and varied. Pantomime won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction in 2014 and appeared on reading lists promoted by the American Library Association on their Rainbow List. It also made the 2014 Popular Paperbacks List in the GLBTQ category and was the Teen Book of the Month on Scottish Book Trust’s website in May 2014. In 2014, Laura was also nominated for the British Fantasy Society book awards.

Her work is primarily concerned with identity, brain hacking, virtual reality and, of course, interpersonal relationships. Her prose is crisp and her themes relatable.

“Her delivery was pitch-perfect, her slide-show content was also well-informed and useful. Someone for our kids to aspire to.” - Norman Paton, English teacher at Doon.

Needless to say, Laura did not disappoint. Laura began proceedings by telling us about how she got to where she is today, recounting her stunning and rapid rise to prominence in explicit detail. Understandably, there was apprehension among our students initially, but the budding writers in the audience gasped when told of her two-book deal with Tor Books for the full-world English language rights to False Hearts and that her work has been translated into Italian, German and French.

When the pupils heard this, the atmosphere in the room changed. The kids realised they were in the presence of a real-life, successful writer who was able to do what she loved full time. Any nerves seemed to dissipate after that. There was only open-mouthed admiration.

Visual Cues/Getting started

Following her introductory slide-show, Laura reached beneath her desk and produced a bag of objects. She passed around two visual aids – a notebook and a small porcelain cat.

Laura explained that everyone had a story to tell and quoted Maya Angelou, who once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 

The kids would take their cues from the two objects and deliver a story outline in the 25 minutes Laura allocated them. She explained that getting started was often the most challenging part of the writing process, and these visual stimuli would help kindle the fires of their imaginations – provided everyone was willing to let the ideas ‘flow’ without overthinking things.

“It’s great to have these events in a small school like ours. It was a real privilege having an author of Laura’s esteem at Doon academy” - Hannah Roberts, Doon pupil

Mesmerised by her confident, easy-going manner and an exotic Californian schwa (Laura is an expat from San Francisco), it didn’t take long for the kids to commit wholeheartedly to the workshop’s premise. In fact, everyone was busy scribbling within minutes of being prompted. The kids had been galvanised, passing the objects back and forth, discussing concepts – even collaborating in some instances. The creative buzz was tangible, profound. Her visual stimuli were working.

When the 25 minutes were up, the braver children read a few passages from their work. Most elaborated upon planning pages and bullet points itemising specific character qualities. Laura was noticeably impressed by the overall class contributions; some students even approached her towards the end of the event to get feedback they were perhaps too shy to ask for during the session.

A Sad Farewell

“I was really impressed by Laura and how engaged the kids were. They really bought into it!” - Kim Steel, History teacher at Doon

After a short round of questions it was time for Laura Lam to leave Doon Academy. There were moans of disappointment but she left our kids in a state of invigorated chatter (and with a distinct reluctance to head to the period 7 class). Laura had cemented her place as a role model for the young writers of Dalmellington.

The experience was incredibly beneficial. I would recommend everyone seek out assistance through Live Literature! Laura had a great time and told us that, 'Doon Academy was a friendly group of young readers and writers, and I really appreciate them taking the time to come and hear me talk about the step-by-step process of being a writer.' Give her another gig if you get the chance! I know we’d love to have her back.

 

Check out some images from Laura's visit below!

Head over to the Live Literature homepage to find out how you can apply for funding to bring writers in to help with your projects.

Read our other posts about creative writing and get inspired!

 


Chris Kelso

Chris Kelso is a school library assistant at Doon Academy