Last Thursday, I went on a mission to Poland. It was actually school business and connected to ERASMUS (check out the link), so the awesomeness happened more or less (well, less, to be honest) along the way.
Some background-information: As some of you may remember, I spent two weeks in Dublin last year, in connection to an ERASMUS seminar in a group of some 80+ (I think…) teachers from all over Europe. One of the teachers in the team I ended up was a very nice lady from Poland who was also into fantasy literature and games. Fast forward a few months, we had stayed in touch and she asked me if she could use one of my stories for a school project, I agreed and sent her a few, among them The Bane of Vairos.
Fast forward a few more weeks and she invited me to come visit, maybe organize a students’ exchange, and also talk to her pupils involved in the project. Of course I agreed and it turned out to be better than I had ever expected.
Warning! Teacher-speak ahead! Proceed with caution!
The children had worked in groups of five and each group had turned my sword and sorcery vignette into a booklet complete with an appendix with all the words they had not known in the beginning, so the story helped them expand their vocabulary. They had obviously worked with the text, which was of a kind and length they were not familiar with, this helped train their reading skills. Also, they had talked about the story, had done the planing and exchanged ideas in English during the lessons, which increased their speaking skills and they had produced something tangible in the end. This product serves as a direct connection and reminder of the learning experience which amplifies it and helps in remembering what they have learned. So just from a teaching perspective, the project was a great success.
End of teacher-speak.
In addition to that, the groups were also encouraged to illustrate the story with images of the scenes they read about and this inspired some incredible art (we are talking about children between 13 and 14 years of age here):
The header image of this article is also taken from an illustration. I will link to one complete work at the bottom.
The best three booklets received awards (certificates of achievements and vouchers) during a ceremony at the local library that Friday in the afternoon. I also bought a special present for the artist who created the header image of the article and the tower above. And the library brings me to the most awesome part of the trip:
The local university’s science-fiction club had prepared a presentation on steampunk prior to the awards ceremony in which I was mentioned, I was the guest of honor (Oh my Cthulhu!), after the presentation, I gave a short interview (what my connection to steampunk was, when I had started writing, how prolific I was, stuff like that) and then the children wanted writing advice.
To be honest, I simply passed along what other and greater writers have said before me (mainly Stephen King and Neil Gaiman), but the children were so enthusiastic. Especially one of the boys who has already written several anime-inspired short stories and spoke English really well and two girls kept coming with more questions and were really interested in just chatting with me. I was really touched by their enthusiasm, their hard work in producing the booklets and the quality of the artwork moved me to tears. literally!
And there is still more: I had a chat with the guy from the science fiction club and they are organizing a convention every year, I had just missed the last one by two weeks, and they asked me if I would like to participate in the next one.
OF COURSE, I WOULD LOVE TO!
So, what came out of this trip to Poland?
- The first steps towards a students exchange between our schools, Cthulhu willing. We are starting with some joint online projects for now.
- Children who learned a lot and produced some great results within their projects.
- I hopefully inspired some fledgling artists and authors to continue.
- Another cross-border connection between sci-fi and fantasy fans and hopefully take part a convention (if time allows).
- There is actually a chance that “The Bane of Vairos” will be published in Poland.
So overall: An awesome four days in Poland, and now for one of the finished works, here is a PDF, the one with the best artwork and overall execution.