It’s been exciting opening packages lately! I received my author copies of The Power of Wind, published by Nelson Cengage Learning in far-away Australia. Writing this information book took me on another fun research expedition and personal journey, learning all about wind. I included wind-powered transportation, such as a wind-powered car that travelled right across Australia in 2013. The section about recreation looks at hang-gliders, windsurfers, and innovative, three-wheeled kite buggies. There’s more about wind energy, types of wind, how to measure wind — and, of course, a section on tornadoes and hurricanes.
It’s fun thinking visually while writing descriptive, factual books like this. I enjoyed searching the Web for photo references for the designer and production team. They did a great job in finding a wide variety of images that show the splendour and this everyday weather phenomenon. A hot-air balloon, a boy flying a kite, and the dispersal of dandelion spores are among the classic images that help draw readers into this interesting area of weather science.
The story “Experiencing Hurricane Juan,” which makes up the book’s final pages, is based on a harrowing personal experience when I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I reframed this story from the point of view of a child. It was pretty neat to be able to weave my memories of that time into this short, fictionalized account. It felt like a risk when I submitted it, but the publisher was in favour. I admit it’s a bit of a thrill to have one’s own experiences transformed in this way. It was frightening and unforgettable to have 150-kilometre winds bombarding my coastal home.
There’s no doubt: extreme weather events leave a life-long impression. I’m sure that’s why I keep feeling compelled to write about this particular event.
Note: this title is sold directly to schools for use in literacy or language programs; it’s not available in bookstores. Find out more at Nelson Cengage Learning.
Signing off until next time, on this grey, rainy spring day.Read More »
You may recall my Hush Hush post about great things in the making. Well, this is one of my favourites. I’m thrilled to announce the arrival of a new book, which I wrote last summer: Every Drop Counts. I really, really enjoyed researching and writing this social-justice-themed book. The research phase involved interviewing several people, including two water-savvy 10-year-olds. Also, it was a great honour to interview Dene Elder Nancy Scanie from Cold Lake First Nation in Alberta.
Nancy told me how, as a child, she used to dip a cup into a lake or river and drink water than was “pure” and “tasty.” But today in Cold Lake, lakes are dying and families have to spend hundreds of dollars on bottled water. My first thought was knee-jerk skeptical. Why not just boil the water to purify it? Yes, this works for parasites, such as beaver fever — giardia — but boiling doesn’t rid water of deadly poisons like cyanide.
In her final message, Nancy said, “Keep Mother Earth clean and keep our waters clean.” And from all the articles I combed through, the stats I examined, and the people I spoke, to Nancy’s advice stands out for its simple honesty.
The books in Scholastic’s informative Take Action series encourage children to make a difference by making changes and speaking out.
If you teach children in grades 4 to 6, you might want to check out the classroom sets available through Scholastic Canada.
CountsRead More »
Huge apologies! I last wrote about having so much neat stuff on the go, and, well — hush-hush — and all that. Then I did a long disappearing act and didn’t blog for months. Sorry. Really.
I landed a one-year, full-time contract at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in October. It’s very exciting and I’m working with great people. Everyone there is incredibly smart and cool and there are chalkboards EVERYWHERE! I really do mean everywhere. In fact, only the washrooms don’t have chalkboards.
So, yeah, the rumours are true; I have a bunch of books coming out. (It feels so great to say that!) Exploring Caves was published in December with Nelson Cengage Learning in Australia. It’s part of a literacy series and meant for students in grade 5. This is a book I wrote last winter, so it’s really fun to see it now. I was delighted to pass on copies to my nephews and hope they like it. Also with Cengage, and available to schools soon, is The Power of Wind, which I wrote last spring. My third title with the same publishing house — written six months ago — is called Exploding Volcanoes. And these last two should be coming out imminently. I’m told these titles are being advertised in their catalogue so it’s OK to blab about them. (See Hush-Hush blog.) The neat thing about these literacy program books — from my view — is that my contracts are royalty-based. That means the more books schools buy, the better it is for me. Most contracts for educational books are flat-fee arrangements, so this seems extra sweet. I will cross my fingers that schools check them out. As always, it is heartwarming to imagine kids curled up in their favourite reading chair, learning about these neat topics. And, even more important, becoming better readers!
It was a lot of fun writing these books. I learned a whole lot and I tried my hand at a short fictional piece in The Power of Wind. It’s from the point of view of a boy whose family experiences Hurricane Juan. This hurricane hit Halifax in 2003 when I lived there and so I experienced it first-hand. In fact, lots of details in the fictionalized account were real things that happened, including the water dripping through the windows in my house. Scary stuff.Read More »
Why so quiet? Here’s the thing: So much about writing is hush-hush. You can’t always disclose the title, topic, or finer details of books until they hit the press’s catalogue. This is pretty much always the case for books in literacy programs. The educational market is highly competitive and no publisher wants their competition to know what they’re cooking up. When it comes to confidentiality, I tend to err on the side of caution and assume I shouldn’t say too much.
For submissions in trade (books that are sold in bookstores, as opposed to those sold exclusively to schools), it’s not always smart to tell the world what you’re working on—at least, not in too much detail—before it is in production and the pages are being set. Even then, it’s all about strategically worded teasers and working to get that social media and word-of-mouth buzz happening.
So, that’s why I’m being strangely silent, even though it’s been a crazy-productive year so far, with lots on the go. I’d love to announce I have a new trade book coming out soon, but alas, it’s going to be a while.
As a special note for those of you in Canada: Make your voice heard. Vote on October 19!Read More »
I’m half-way through writing my 20th book. YES! Since January, I’ve been blessed with four book contracts. They are all for educational publishers, so these books will be sold directly to schools, not bookstores (sorry!). I love knowing that kids in elementary schools across Canada and around the world will be reading and learning from these books. Some are nonfiction descriptive texts based on earth science topics. One is a social justice title that encourages kids to get involved and make a difference.
I had the great fortune of interviewing two 11-year-old kids, a nonprofit group founder, and a First Nations elder. Interviewing is a little nerve-wracking, challenging to set up, and downright hard to do. But the more I try it, the more I see its value. Speaking one-on-one with an expert is an honour. The information, the facts, and the personal stories people share are often moving, powerful, and inspiring. I can research ’til the cows come home, but including a quotation from an expert is like unearthing a nugget of GOLD.
I also absolutely love the way individual voices come through, adding truth and dimension to the manuscript. Young and old, from here or from afar, the individual voices in this particular project help show the power of people — including kids — in making a difference and changing the world to make it better for all.
And so, yes, I’m half-way through writing my 20th book. It feels GOOD! I always hoped I’d reach that magic number of 20, and here I am. I’d like to line up a trade book deal some time soon — that’s for the kind of book you can buy in a bookstore. In the meantime, the pickings have been mighty fine in the educational sphere.
And that means one happy writer!Read More »