The three-hour train: a story in the making

The Three Hour Train: A Story Under Construction


What do you do when you have drawn lots for the words “train” and “feather”? How can they inspire us to write a fabulous story? With her book Le train de trois heures, author Jennifer Tremblay introduces young people to writing.

The three-hour train presents an original and different concept. Where did you get the idea?

For a few years, I have been giving writing workshops. I worked a lot with the Grammar of the imaginationby Gianni Rodari with adults wishing to write texts for children. I was on vacation and while walking by the water, I imagined myself starting a book by talking to a young reader, as if I were talking to him. But I would have to tell him a story, because if you open a book, it's to be told a story! One thing leading to another, my book became a writing workshop, but also a tribute to reading and culture.

Have you played the game of spontaneous creation yourself?

I tried to make it as authentic as possible, that is to say that I wrote without knowing where I was going. So, the story of the end, I did not know it. I was looking for something unexpected… I wanted to mark the evolution in the mind of the author; how far, far, far a story can be pushed.

So you really describe this book as a writing workshop? 

The book is “unclassifiable”. Some told me it was a trial for children and I think it makes sense! It is rare, a test for children. You could also say it's a writing guide… But it sure isn't a novel!

Do you really have an envelope with 43 words written on scraps of paper to draw from?

Yes. There are no lies in the book! I use this envelope in the writing workshops that I present. I have very positive feedback on my book. Adults say to me, “Wow, reading this book, I learned as much as if I were a child, I think! Then, sometimes it's laborious in class for teachers to give children a taste for writing. This word picking thing is really becoming like a game!

Describe The Three Hour Train in three words.

In fact, I would say that it is the story of a story being written. I like to say that, because there is the word “train” in it (laughs)! It is an apology for creativity, for the capacity of the human brain to invent ad infinitum. We forget that we have this ability. We forget that without our imagination, we go nowhere. This is why it is very important to let children express their imagination and exploit it. Give them opportunities to develop it. It's fundamental… and that's more than three words!