Writer’s Seminar – Ransom Riggs

Excerpt: Chapter 1 pgs 34-37

I picked up the flashlight and stepped toward the trees. My grandfather was out there somewhere, I was sure of it.

But where? I was no tracker, and neither was Ricky. And yet something seemed to guide me anyway—a quickening

in the chest; a whisper in the viscous air—and suddenly I couldn’t wait another second. I tromped into the

underbrush like a bloodhound scenting an invisible trail.

It’s hard to run in a Florida woods, where every square foot not occupied by trees is bristling with thigh-high

palmetto spears and nets of entangling skunk vine, but I did my best, calling my grandfather’s name and sweeping

my flashlight everywhere. I caught a white glint out of the corner of my eye and made a beeline for it, but upon

closer inspection it turned out to be just a bleached and deflated soccer ball I’d lost years before.

I was about to give up and go back for Ricky when I spied a narrow corridor of freshly stomped palmettos not far

away. I stepped into it and shone my light around; the leaves were splattered with something dark. My throat went

dry. Steeling myself, I began to follow the trail. The farther I went, the more my stomach knotted, as though my

body knew what lay ahead and was trying to warn me. And then the trail of the flattened brush widened out, and I

saw him.

. . .

“I thought I could protect you,” he said. “I should’ve told you a long time ago . . . ” I could see the life going out of


“Told me what?” I said, choking back tears.

“There’s no time,” he whispered. Then he raised his head off the ground, trembling with the effort, and breathed into

my ear: “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940.” I nodded, but

he could see that I didn’t understand. With his last bit of strength, he added, “Emerson—the letter. Tell them what

happened, Yakob.”

With that he sank back, spent and fading. I told him I loved him. And then he seemed to disappear into himself, his

gaze drifting past me to the sky, bristling now with stars.

. . .

There was no moon and no movement in the underbrush but our own, and yet somehow I knew just when to raise

my flashlight and just where to aim it, and for an instant in that narrow cut of light I saw a face that seemed to have

been transplanted directly from the nightmares of my childhood. It stared back with eyes that swam in dark liquid,

furrowed trenches of carbon-black flesh loose on its hunched frame, its mouth hinged open grotesquely so that a

mass of long eel-like tongues could wriggle out. I shouted something and then it twisted and was gone, shaking the

brush and drawing Ricky’s attention. He raised his .22 and fired,pap-pap- pap-pap, saying, “What was that? What the

hell was that?” But he hadn’t seen it and I couldn’t speak to tell him, frozen in place as I was, my dying flashlight

flickering over the blank woods. And then I must’ve blacked out because he was saying Jacob, Jake, hey Ed

areyouokayorwhat, and that’s the last thing I remember.


*title slide*

H1 – Welcome to today’s show! Thank you all for joining us! I’m sure you’re all excited to see

our special guest today! Well here he is! Ransom Riggs!

*walks in*

H2- Thank you so much for coming on our show today!

RR- Thank you for having me!

H3- Now let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like?

RR- Well I grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland on a farm as well as a small house by the

beach in Englewood, Florida. After I started writing, when I was a little older, I got a camera for

Christmas and developed a passion for photography, and then older still, I found a half broken

video camera and began to make my own movies that starred my friends and I, using our

bedrooms and backyards for sets. Ever since, I’ve held a passion for writing stories, taking

pictures, and making movies and have endeavored to do all three.

H1- You sure have experience in lots of areas. How old were you when you began writing?

RR- I was around 7 or 8 and I began on an old typewriter that jammed and longhand on legal


H2- Most writers are readers in the beginning, so which writers did you admire? And what

influence did they have on you?

*change slide*

RR- I started out with C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” and in Junior High I found Stephen King. At first all of

my writing was about young boys finding portals to other worlds. An obvious imitation of Lewis.

During my Stephen King phase, I wrote short stories and novellas about serial killers, ghosts,

monsters, all in a wry, seen-it- all voice that was my 13-year- old self’s best impression of King. In

general I just really enjoyed stories that were grounded in our world, but there was a way to get

to another world. I like finding the portal. Which shows in ‘Miss Peregrine’.

H3- How did you escape their influence and find you own voice?

RR- Well I gave up writing for years, as my love for Stephen King made me want to make films,

and I picked up a video camera. It wasn’t until a creative writing course in college that I started

writing again. I realized then that I couldn’t imitate someone if I wanted to write a good book.

After spending time in film school, I finally went back to fiction, to write my novel, and I was

more at ease with myself and I found I wasn’t pushing so hard to sound like someone else. The

key was time.

H1- Well we’re all glad you did come back to writing. What did you do while in college, and then


RR- I went to Kenyon College in rural Ohio, where I studies literature and got a degree in

English. I then studies film at the University of Southern California in LA. Here I learned how to

make my films bigger, better, and shiny looking. I graduated with a thesis film and went out to

conquer the film festival circuit and then Hollywood. Things didn’t go as planned and I spent the

next few years writing scripts, taking meetings and not getting very far. I was a daily blogger for

mentalfloss.com for 5 years, wrote for their magazine, and contributed to a few books they

published through Harpercollins, as well as writing for a couple other publications.

H2- So how did this lead to the career you have in writing today?

RR- A small publisher knew my editors at metalfloss. That was Quirk Books and they asked me if

I wanted to write a book on Sherlock Holmes for them. I jumped at the opportunity and this

became the “Sherlock Holmes Handbook”. Afterwards came “Miss Peregrine’s Home for

Peculiar Children” born from my collection of vintage photographs.

*change slide*

H3- That’s a very unique inspiration for a story. How did you get interested in collecting photos?

RR- When I was 11 or 12 years old my grandma would take me to second hand shops and I

would find old boxes of snapshots. One picture in particular reminded me of a girl I had a crush

on in summer camp so I bought it and put it by my bed. Years later I took it out of its frame and

on the back it said she had died at 15 of leukemia. I thought, oh, wow, I’ve been living with a

ghost. I realized I can find these amazing little lost pieces of art and be my own curator and

rescue them from the garbage. And they’re a quarter each. Since then I’ve been drawn to odd

and disturbing photos that suggest a lost back story.

H1- The photos within the book are quite interesting. How did you choose which ones to


RR- I let the photos tell me what the story would be. I try to be careful to choose photos that

will add a layer of detail and meaning that can’t be expressed in words. They do something that

words can’t do.

H2- A very interesting process. However, something words can explain are genres. What genre

would this book be?

RR- This series of books would be considered as young adult literature as well as dark fantasy.

H3- I’m going to switch gears slightly now to reading. When you are writing, do you change

what you read so you aren’t unintentionally influenced?

RR- No! I’m always writing so if I did that I’d never read what I wanted to! Now I know how to

be inspired by an author’s style without imitating it.

H1- As we are running out of time, what advice would you like to give any young writers we

have watching today?

RR- I think if you don’t have a strong sense of yourself as a writer, there’s a danger that too

many workshops and classes and other people’s voices in your head could warp your style,

make it something other than what it naturally would be. You have to be convinced that you’re

a very good writer, no matter what other people say. Because other people will have all sorts of

opinions. If you have a lack of confidence, you are unlikely to succeed.

H2- Well that’s all the time we have for today! Thank you again for coming in and to everyone


*change slide*

Some common themes include family, death and obscurity, time, greed, past vs present,

courage and identity.

The family dynamic is shown in Miss Peregrine’s home as well as through the main character

and his grandfather.

Death, or cheating it, is shown through not only his grandfather dying and by one of the

peculiar’s skills of being able to bring inanimate objects to life but by the wights and hollows,

which are monsters that attack peculiars, search for immorality.

Time through the loops that the characters go through and live in. Ymbrynes are bird humans

that control the time loops and giving that much power to a person can be dangerous as its

something we usually can’t change.

Greed through the peculiars wanting things from the future and the wights and hollows

wanting immortality, neither of which they can have.

Past vs present deals with the time loops and a peculiar struggling to differentiate between her

feelings for the main character’s grandfather from the past and for him now.

Courage through all the characters doing everything they can to save themselves and their


And finally identity through the main character deciding where he wants to stay and the

peculiars learning where and how they fit in.

*change slide*

Now we’ll give you 5 minutes to try and analyze this yourself and then we’ll share what we


Does anyone have anything they found that they want to share?

*Share analyzing (others’ and self)*

Now we’ll give you about 10 minutes to emulate from this.

*share emulations*

Presentation slides



The Girl In The Sky

Each night she picked the brightest stars from the night sky and squeezed them together. Each morning she threw the bundle up high into the sky, and pulled the moon back down.

She did not grow, or change, or even talk, for she had no one to talk to. Her only purpose was picking, pulling and throwing. She kept the world moving, kept the people sane, but she never got anything in return. She had become forgotten in this new modern world, turned into a mere story told to guide the young ones to sleep.

In the beginning she thought she would be okay, just seeing their happy faces in the sunlight she created was enough. She never felt pain, or hunger, or cold. Her life was easy compared to those below her. She knew she was lucky, to be able to live so simply in her pretty dress made from the fallen stars and stray rays of light, her long, golden hair stained from the countless kisses of the sun and the moon flowing softly  behind her.

But she was alone.

She envied the people below her, always so busy with their own lives. Lives they made for themselves. They always had places to be, people to meet, they didn’t have time to look up and bathe in the beauty of the sky she worked so hard on. She wanted to be acknowledged . To have people to praise her and help her, to talk to and laugh with. To have places to be and people to meet. She had grown tired of always being in the same place, to have the whole world right below her, but not being able to explore it.

She wanted to put her hard work into living a good life, eating hearty meals and making a happy family, falling asleep together in beds as soft as the clouds surrounding her, in arms as warm as the raging sun. She wanted to experience love and heartbreak, feel the pain of hunger, feel the fresh breath of a cold winter day, see the world change right in front of her as she wrinkled and grayed. She wanted so much, yet she couldn’t have any of it.

And decides, the sky wasn’t the same as it was when she first started taking care of it. It was no longer the clear, blue ocean that she could never grow tired of. It had become murky and full of waste, leaving her sick and dizzy at times. She had to work twice as hard as before in order keep it even moderately clean. It was her home and the dream of the people below her, yet they gave her pollution in thanks.

She liked to think of how they’d react if the mess they created killed her. When the air around her becomes more toxic gas than anything, and she falls to the ground because she had forgotten what a fresh breath of air felt like. She loved imaging their terrified faces as the moon never left the sky and the sun became a sweet dream, the warmth leaving their skin and their faces pale underneath the soft glow of the moonlight.

Maybe then they’d remember her, the girl who never stopped working, the girl who lived in the sky.

She wondered when she her thoughts had gotten so twisted. When had she started wishing for whatever evils she could think of to descend onto the clueless mortals scurrying on the ground. Maybe she did deserve the pollution that seemed to grow larger each day, because she too had become polluted.

She wanted to live down below, where it was clean and pretty and you could easily forget the growing threat contaminating the sky. She had grown greedy, from living such an easy life, she wanted even more.

And now, as the strength left her body and she fell straight down, she wanted all of it with such a strong urge she almost couldn’t feel her body slowly disappearing, or the tears gliding down her face. The imaginary life she dreamt of so often flashed before her, and the beauty of living passed by in a second. Her sad smile was the last to fade away as she came in contact with the earth, before anyone could even notice her.

And as the last corner of her sweet, pink lips vanished, the sky came to a stop. The moon stood tall in all its glory, surrounded by its army of stars, protected by a shield of soft clouds. The sun lay hidden, its light still bright as ever, as it always will be, but never to be seen again.

Just like she wished, their faces became terrified, their minds confused, and their hearts nervously marched to their own rhythm. The moon never left the sky, the heat of a bright summer day, forgotten.


Picture from: favim.com/image/2734227/

Different Feelings

He had been scary lately, because of his wife. Always fighting and arguing about pointless things. He took his anger out on me, playing songs roughly and hitting my keys too hard. I wanted my music to comfort him, not to fuel his rage even more.               But that’s just how he is I suppose.                                                                                                                                                                                            He doesn’t like having his feelings show, never lets anything out when someone could be watching.
But I’m always watching. He just doesn’t know it.
I see him pacing, sitting down with a huff and a sigh. I feel him play a sad tune while his fingers push down harshly, no longer dancing gracefully across me. I worry I might soon forget the feeling.
Through the window I can see his wife destroy the garden he worked so hard to grow, that he loves almost as much as me, maybe even more than her.
She’s gone mad.
But that’s just how she is.
They both become lost when faced with their feelings.
She should just leave. Leave us in peace while she goes off to find her daughter that none of us can even remember.
I’ve grown tired of hearing depressing tunes flowing out of me. I miss the sweet melodies he used to play, and the gentle caresses from his loving hands. I can’t stand him never being home because he’s taken on more jobs, because he can no longer being in his own wife’s presence. And she always takes her time alone to scheme and plan more ways to destroy him.
But what more could I ask of them.
She’s stuck here, while he’s stuck with her.
And I’m stuck too, always watching in silence.
I’m so terribly tired of this.
And so terribly scared.
Scared of what her feelings will drive her to do, of what their fighting will lead to. Scared that maybe something can happen to me, that I’m not as important to him as I think I am.
They’re too easily blinded by their emotions, by their need to satisfy themselves. Who knows what she’ll do to get his attention. And just how far will he go to ensure the peace and quiet he loves so much?
They’ll just end up destroying each other, and in the end, themselves.
Where will I be after this has passed? In pieces unable to make music ever again? All alone without anyone to play me? Or stuck forever listening to the sounds of sadness, surrounded by awkward quiet and the aches of the house, forgetting what happiness sounds like?
I refuse to believe that that is the future I have to look forward to. But it’s inevitable, with the way things are now.
We’re all too afraid to face our reality, to fix the messes we’ve made ourselves into. They can do nothing more than fight and forget. I don’t think they know how to do anything else. But it’s not an do any better than them. No matter how much I scream and protest, no one can hear me but me.
I could’ve tried harder, I really should have. Maybe if I had done something differently then things would still be okay, if only I wasn’t so weak. But they should have tried harder too. It’s their own lives they’re ruining, you’d have thought they’d at least put some effort into saving themselves. Why should I be the only one trying?
But me even thinking these thoughts only proves how weak I am. I’d rather put the blame onto someone else to make myself feel better. How horrible I am. How horrible we all are.


I lay holding her in my arms, studying every single detail.

Her soft, sweet lips. Long, ebony hair that cascaded all around us. Piercing eyes, so pale and pure.

She was my everything, my one and only. Everything seemed to go against us, but I knew that if I worked hard enough, I’d be able to have her all to myself.

Even she acted like she didn’t want me at times, but she had to. Because we were destined to be together. And nothing could stop us.

I was always watching her. Protecting her. Making sure nothing ever hurt her.

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let her come to any harm. It was hard at first. But after the second time it got easier.

So far there had been three of them. Three beasts who dared lay a hand on her.

But I took care of them. Made sure they wouldn’t be able to touch her ever again.

It was thrilling, cutting each of them apart, limb by limb. I was careful, so very careful. Even now they’re still looking for them. But I made sure there aren’t even any bodies left to find.

Some would call it crazy, but I call it love. Because love can make you do crazy things, right?

And I’m sure she would do the same for me, if she had to. I know she watches me too, I know her eyes always follow me when I’m in the room, even if she tries to hide it.

That’s why we’re even able to be together now.

Sitting in the middle of my room, the pictures I’ve taken throughout the years all around us, little objects I’ve collected that I knew she wouldn’t  notice were gone scattered all over, and her in my arms. My heart so full it could burst.

I look down at her one more time. I just can’t get enough.

Her soft, sweet lips sewn shut. Long, ebony hair cascading all around us, though it was no longer attached to her head. And her eyes, staring back at me in the jar I placed them in.

All of my favourite parts of her.

I’ll make them last forever, because I can’t do the same with her body.

Love is beautiful. Isn’t it?


A Night To Remember

He blended into the background, didn’t stand out at all. He didn’t even know why he decided to come, why he thought he’d actually be able to have a good time.

But then he saw her, and knew she was all the reason he needed to be there at all.

Her porcelain skin glowed flawlessly in the moonlight, and he could only mindlessly follow her like a moth to a flame. She seemed to effortlessly weave through any obstacles she encountered, and the people naturally split apart as if they knew not to get in her way. Long, flowing dark hair trailed behind her as the wind blew her sweet scent into his face. Everything about her drew him in. Her soft smile, innocent eyes, and musical laugh only added to her perfection.

He felt as if nothing else mattered in the world except for her, not the party carrying on around him, or the annoying party-goers that kept him from watching her. He wondered how no one else could have noticed her beauty, how no one else followed her every move like he did. He supposed he preferred it this way, for he didn’t know what he would do if there was even a chance of her being taken away from him. Even if she wasn’t even his.

He wanted her in a way he didn’t know you could want something, and it hurt him to be unable to have her, safe in his grasp.

He didn’t know where these thoughts were coming from, yet he started moving forward towards her without even noticing. He wasn’t paying attention to anything else but her warm smile that only beckoned him closer. He was so fixated on that sweet, sweet smile, he didn’t notice the darkness that crept it’s way into her eyes, or how fast it disappeared.

Every move she made seemed to pull him closer, like he was under a spell, not that he cared. He only wanted to move faster and faster as she twisted her way out of the crowd and into the silent, still night.

And then he had her. Her soft body against his and her hands roaming through his mess of hair. He couldn’t get enough of her, couldn’t believe her smooth skin and hypnotizing scent was all his. All he could focus on was her and how she was so real, yet so unbelievable.

He was so caught up in the feeling of her face buried in his neck, making him feel all kinds of things, he didn’t even hear the quiet snarl or the piercing of his delicate flesh.

He still couldn’t even feel the pain as she peeled her small body away from his and revealed the creature hidden beneath her alluring skin. All he could feel was shock as his body began to freeze up at the sight of the razor sharp claws growing longer and longer. Her face split open as rows of deadly teeth revealed themselves and the darkness quickly surrounded her once again.

The beast now standing in front of him was the complete opposite of the gorgeous girl that had lured him out into the shadows, away from watchful eyes. Now he was the one having his every move watched as the demon pictured every single way he could be tortured before giving him a slow, painful death.

He was so desperate to live, to see the next day. He begged and begged between pitiful cries for help, but the creature was starving, and seeing his pain only made it more excited for the kill.

With one last rush of adrenaline, he made a move to run and escape. But he barely even twitched before the beast pounced and sunk its teeth into the poor man. With the party still going strong, no one could hear his cries full of regret and despair as the monster tore apart his flesh and ripped chunks out of him again and again.

Never before had the creature had a meal so easy to fool, so full of desire that quickly turned into delicious fear.

It was certainly a night to remember, a night so perfect for deceiving and and pretending. Made just for the beast, to let its true self roam free.



I’m From

I’m from a land of unspoken thoughts and imaginative worlds, bordering between my sad reality and broken mind

I’m from a hectic life full of stress and worry

I’m from  a hazy, dreamlike digital world where no one knows who I am

Escaping daily to my online identity, where there are no standards or expectations

Taunted by the never ending varying opinions of those around me, but never voicing my own

I’m from the hidden fire in my heart, muffled by layers of protective stone;

the fire, the spark, burning brighter than ever, but it doesn’t dare try to break free

I’m from a swarming fury of self-hate and self-doubt, constantly warping my view on reality

While dear friends find themselves, I am left behind,

wondering what it is that they have found

I’m from forgotten memories lost to the world,

happiness and contentment flash by in swirls of blinding brightness,

only to get swallowed by the infinite gloom

I’m from the hole I bury my pain in to so I don’t  seem weak,

so I don’t look as fragile as I really am,

so I can survive each day with a “brave” face

I’m from a dream that was shattered long ago

A dream of a happy, normal future that I now know is impossible to achieve

For I am hopeless in this world where you need hope to survive

I’m from a dreary nightmare that doesn’t end when I awaken

I’m from a life once beautiful, but is now a worthless dark smudge;

an ugly black blur on the map

I’m from stories tucked away into the folds of my memory,

taking me away to a better world

Enchanted into fantasies and adventures I can revisit in my dreams,

only when the nightmares are at rest

Capturing my heart, cruelly letting me believe there is something better out there

Letting the fire escape through the cracks, only to have it burn out as soon as it escapes

I’m from a place where there is no room for hope

but I can certainly dream and wish,

that maybe one day, I’ll be able to shine

Puppets Of Society

She always felt different from everyone else, but she could never really place why. Everybody was perfectly fine with following the newest trend from who knows where and not even making their own choices, just going along with whatever society deemed as “cool” at the moment. Apparently, wanting to be your own person was a bad thing, but why was it so terrible that you were punished for voicing your own opinion?
She learned long ago to keep her thoughts to herself, to not question anything and mindlessly copy the others. There is no individuality in this world, and she was supposed to be fine with that.
Everyone had to dress the same, talk the same, even look the same. Everything had to be the same and there were no exceptions. She sometimes couldn’t even tell her family apart from the other mindless drones known as humans. The amount of time people spent trying to “fix” themselves to be presentable to society sickened her, yet she didn’t do anything about it.
“Same” is safe but she wasn’t happy. She could no longer count the number of surgeries her parents forced her to have to follow the trends or how much makeup she wore to cover up any differences. She felt like she could go crazy if she kept hiding her thoughts and opinions, if she didn’t do what she wanted to do herself, simply because she wanted to, not because everyone else wanted to.
She always fought with herself. Would she rather not have her own thoughts but be included by society, or would she rather be her own person but be isolated from everyone?
She felt like this world had to be a pretty messed up place if she was having this problem, and she couldn’t even share her troubles with anyone else in fear of being ignored and forgotten.
She was a mere puppet of society but all she wanted was to be human.

Calgary Teen Found Dead In The Elbow River

Jason Belle, a 17 year-old Calgary teen, was found dead floating in the Elbow River  Saturday morning. His bloated body indicates that he had been in the river nearly all night, though autopsies have shown there were no signs of a fight. Police still aren’t convinced he jumped in willingly due to the numerous faded bruises dotted al over his body.

Belle was a good kid, had good grades, and was a good student. He may not come from the happiest family, or live in the safest neighbourhood, but nobody would think anyone could have a big enough problem with him to kill him. He always seemed to avoid trouble, and therefore trouble stayed away from him too, or so it seemed.

Belle was found by 23 year-old Macy Simmons on her daily morning walk. “It was horrifying , he was all swollen and bloated. It was definitely not how I wanted to start my morning.” Simmons tells us. The owner of the nearby cafe, Sarah Jennings, confessed to having seen Belle at the bridge with another man the night of his death from the window of her cafe. “I didn’t think anything of it, it was late and all kinds of people wander around at that time. I think around 11:00pm. I couldn’t really see their faces, but one was slightly taller than the other, and little but more muscly I think.” says Jennings, “I remember turning away for a moment, and when I looked back, one was gone while the taller guy was walking away. It was so late, I didn’t even think about the fact that something could’ve been wrong”

Jennings has described the mysterious individual as tall, around 6′, wearing a dark sweater and jeans.

Police have next to no leads on the killer due to the lack of witnesses and surveillance, but they do find it odd the parents of the teen still haven’t commented on the situation at all. No missing persons reports or worried calls, nothing. Neighbours of the victim have told us of the loud shouting and fighting that could occasionally be heard from his house. On more than one occasion they saw Belle running off with his step-father yelling after him. No one found it strange or out of the ordinary to witness a bit of family trouble, and they never saw anything get physical, so they kept to themselves and eventually forgot about it.

Belle’s father passed away when he was only a child. For most of his life it was just Jason and his mother. Only last year did the youth’s mother, Mae Belle, remarry to 47 year-old, Matt Corbel.They seemed like a normal family, or at least as normal as they could be. Step-father issues, a troubled teen, and a doting mother who wants the fighting to stop but never does anything about him. Completely normal for their rough neighbourhood, but could it have been something more than just a teenager who couldn’t accept his new dad?

A quiet kid from a sketchy neighbourhood no one knows a whole lot about, what secrets could he have been hiding? What was really going on behind the walls of his home? And most importantly, what really happened to Jason Belle on that cold Friday night?