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Vocamus Press Teen Writing Workshop (Guelph, ON) – February 2, 2018

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of running a story writing workshop for teens at the Guelph Public Library. Sponsored by local book advocates Vocamus Press, the workshop had a fairly broad scope (see below) so we focused on what we knew and what we’ve learned over the process of creating and releasing Group of 7. As for our expectations, we weren’t sure how many would show up (five did – on their PD Day no less!) or what they wanted to get out of hearing two middle-age new-ish story creators talk about Star Wars, Margaret Atwood, mythologist Joseph Campbell, comic books, character development and plot devices. We asked each to pitch us their story ideas (which ranged from personal stories of struggle to dystopian sci-fi thrillers) and then discussed some techniques the writer could use to move their idea forward. By workshop’s end, the participants were noticeably more comfortable talking about their stories with us (then they had been at the beginning) and each other (it didn’t appear any of the five knew each other previously). The workshop ended with the group recommending stories / films / shows to each other based on which story interests were shared in the workshop.

“You haven’t seen the Goonies yet?!” 😮

So far, Group of 7 has taken us to elementary schools, high schools, comic clubs and now library workshops. Wild ride. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

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Centenary of the death of Lt. Col. John McCrae at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Guelph, ON) – January 28, 2018

We were honoured to participate in the commemoration of the centenary of the death of Lt. Col. John McCrae at his hometown family church today. On January 28, 1918 McCrae died of pneumonia and meningitis at No. 14 British General Hospital in Wimereux, France. He was buried the next day in Wimereux Communal Cemetery with full military honours. General Arthur Currie was in attendance and McCrae’s horse Bonfire was part of the funeral procession.

John’s father David was an elder of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (the limestone building below opened in 1858) and superintendent of the Sunday School. To this day, a pew in the church has a plaque indicating where the McCrae family sat.

This comic book continues to involve us in scenarios and situations we couldn’t possibly have imagined four years ago when Jason and I first discussed the idea. Today was altogether amazing and humbling. Definitely the first time the comic has A) been featured in a religious program and B) given a shout out during a religious service.

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Bishop Macdonell Library Anime / Manga / Comics Club visit (Guelph, ON) – December 20, 2017

We finished off our 2017 on a high note with a visit to the Bishop Macdonell Library Anime / Manga / Comics Club, our first non-classroom school visit! Invited by school librarian Heather Thelwell (who we met at the Guelph Book Bash back in October and purchased 10 copies of Issue #1 for the school library) it was an opportunity to discuss the comic (and comics in general) with comic fans (some of who had read Issue #1!) in a relaxed setting. The Club (made up of students from grades 9 to 12) even provided a sweet spread of snacks which was greatly appreciated. There’s a good chance we’ll return once Issue #2 is released in early 2018.

One observation we had was that the Club was 90% female. Back when Jason and I were in high school (the ’90s), there were no official school comics clubs and all comics-talk was generally male and superhero dominated. So being able to have a discussion about a variety of comic genres with a group of interested and engaged young women was an unexpected development that we’re fortunate to have been a part of.

Looking forward to more opportunities like these in 2018.

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WhitCAF (Whitby, ON) – November 18, 2017

This past weekend we exhibited at our first comics-specific event – WhitCAF, the Whitby Comic Arts Festival. Sponsored and hosted by the Whitby Public Library, this happened to be the inaugural edition of the event and featured a number of comics and art creators, both local and from across the Greater Toronto Area.

We had a great time talking Group of 7 (and comics in general) and I managed to get a bunch of my Christmas shopping done (there was an abundance of amazing products on offer and I scored awesome comics from creators J. Torres and Meaghan Carter for my niece and nephew, I also picked up Dan Collins’ Auroraman for myself).

Best of all, I was asked to participate in Saturday Afternoon Comic-toons alongside Torres (Teen Titans Go!) and Collins (Adventures of Lil’ Auroraman) in which we read our comics with help from an audience of kids and parents. Seeing Group of 7 turned into a live script reading was something else. I really hope to do it again in future.

Oh and I met an entire troop of Star Wars pilots and stormtroopers which was, of course, incredible. The costume detail was insane!

WhitCAF marked the end of our 2017 exhibiting but we plan to be at more events in 2018! Turns out there are CAFs across southern Ontario and we’re more than willing and able.

Until the next one – Chris

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Ontario Heritage Fairs Association AGM (Toronto, ON) – October 28, 2017

A few months back, we were asked to present the comic and related resources at the Ontario Heritage Fairs Association AGM. The Association “offers students the opportunity to explore the many aspects of their Canadian heritage in a dynamic learning environment and to present the results of their efforts in either French or English in a public exhibition” (stolen directly from the website). These kinds of presentations are invaluable to both Jason and I as there’s always an angle or lens or suggestion we hadn’t yet considered in terms of how best to develop and share the comic with scholastic audiences. Overall, the meeting was vigorous and engaging and yet again affirmed the value of using resources like Group of 7 in a classroom setting. If we can help start a conversation about Canadian history, we’re pleased to do so.

(don’t mind the photo, I should have hit the lights beforehand)