Hello from cold and blustery Kingston, Ontario. I’m accepting bookings from schools for author talks in March, April, May, and June. Interested teachers can email me directly to set a date. The Writers’ Union of Canada has funding available to offset costs and make these visits very affordable. Investigate further at Ontario Writers-in-the-Schools Program Overview and on my member page. Please note this important statement on The Writers’ Union of Canada’s website: “We are now accepting applications for the 2015-16 funding year for visits taking place between April 1, 2015 – August 31, 2015. Applications will be processed in late February.” Funding is allocated on a first-come first-served basis, so don’t delay. You can find out more about my presentations on my website under Book Talks. A detailed description of book talk topics follows:
My presentations draw upon my three books in The Women’s Hall of Fame series, Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs, Dazzling Women Designers, and Amazing Women Athletes, plus my activity book Backyard Circus. All presentations encourage active student participation. Each session includes a short Q&A segment. With advanced notice, I can alter specific presentations to suit a broader range of grades.
Kindergarten to Grade 3: Backyard Circus [30 – 45 min]
Imagine the fun of creating your very own backyard circus! Let’s bring on the silly hats and the big shoes and try out some circus stunts to captivate the classroom crowd. I read aloud and act out sections from Backyard Circus, encouraging children to take part. Classroom performers walk the “tightrope,” juggle, dress up, and tell jokes. I stress that practice makes perfect when it comes to polishing skills at the circus — and as a writer. A real crowd-pleaser!
Grades 4 – 6: Dig, Dig, Dig! [50 min]
Using my book Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs, I take students behind the scenes to explore one of the first stages in the writing process: research. Together they compare secondary sources to primary sources and learn the value of conducting interviews to collect factual information about real people. Through a series of interactive exercises, students devise questions and practise interviewing. Looking at advice and tips gathered from successful entrepreneurs, I show how students can use a similar approach in their own goal setting. Persistence and determination pay off.
Grades 7 – 8: Get Real [50 – 60 min]
Can nonfiction writers borrow techniques from fiction to draw readers into a story with panache? You, bet! I demonstrate how to fill in the gaps that can arise in nonfiction narratives, despite meticulous research. The goal is a believable, true-to-life portrait of an individual that may just walk off the page. Then, by drawing examples from my Women’s Hall of Fame books, I encourage students to combine sleuth-like observational skills with memories from personal experiences to create catchy openers. This presentation also explores the importance of honesty and integrity in writing about real people’s lives.
High School: Girl Power [50 – 60 min]
Images from the media, messages from peers, parents, and others may make you feel like you have to act in certain ways. This presentation, which is geared for female students, shatters stereotypes and encourages young women to explore their interests, find their passion, and go for it. With an open, inclusive outlook, girls can aspire to holding top executive positions, breaking records in sports, and pursuing diverse fields in math, science, and design. Citing real-life examples from my Women’s Hall of Fame books, I share inspiring quotes and advice from successful women.
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Coming up this spring, I’m thrilled to have been asked to be one of three local judges evaluating entries for Teenswrite! hosted by the Kingston WritersFest. Entries will arrive in April and I’ll have to submit my choices by mid-May. What a wonderful opportunity to provide support for a local arts and culture initiative. I am looking forward to reading the entries and seeing the creativity of Kingston youths.Read More »
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2014 took place from May 4 to May 10. Here are some reflections from my whirlwind tour in Alberta.
Inside state-of-the-art classrooms and spacious libraries, students listened attentively and volunteered eagerly. “If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?” they asked. Young children peered up at me with delightful grins when I kicked my legs high to the beat of my lollypop drum. Students grasped concepts readily and impressed me with their insightful comments.
My five-day, 17-talk tour began in Airdrie, a fast-growing suburb of Calgary. Next, I flew to Edmonton and drove southwest, where I visited schools in Thorsby and Calmar. Then, after a day of talks in Hinton, I was treated to a spectacular, snow-capped mountain tour—complete with sightings of deer—before venturing back to Edmonton. The University of Alberta hosted an interview and two talks. I finished my tour that afternoon at a nearby school. It was exhausting, but thrilling, and immensely satisfying. I’m very grateful.
At a rural school, I’m told whispers of “the author’s here!” filled the hallway. Teachers dashed out of classrooms to grab cameras to capture students putting on costumes and thinking fast on their feet. During my research-focused talk, when I admitted to having a soft spot for handwritten letters, one girl said, “Ohh, I really love letters, too!” Afterwards, young children hugged me and older kids lined up to chat and ask more questions. Teachers and librarians bought lots of books.
Now back in Ontario, I have many fond, heartwarming memories, and I’m missing that majestic Alberta sky . . . .
I’m grateful to The Children’s Book Centre, TD, Canada Council, my tour coordinator Richard Chase, and all the enthusiastic readers and writers I met along the way.Read More »
I’ve had a very thrilling last few weeks. My application to tour during Canadian Children’s Book Week in May 2014 was accepted! This is truly a high point of my entire career. It is a great honour to be included and I am so excited about travelling out of province to give talks to kids at schools and libraries. You can view the complete list of touring authors here. And, last Friday, I found out where I’ll be going for Book Week — Alberta! I haven’t been to Alberta for over 20 years. I hope I’ll have a great view of the Rocky Mountains. If I’m anywhere near Calgary, it would be great if I could connect with Nicole Robertson, one of the featured entrepreneurs in my book.
I recently attended the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards Celebration in Toronto. It was my first time at that event, but I don’t think it will be my last. Wow. It was so much fun to meet so many super stars in the Canadian publishing scene. Speaking of which, all you aspiring authors and illustrators should check out The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Resources for Authors and Illustrators.
I just finished reading Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. I’ve finished a draft of my one-act play and am attempting to rewrite it as a novel. This is proving to be very challenging, but I think it’s a good exercise.
I’ll post more news about TD Canadian Children’s Book Week as I learn more.
Bye for now!Read More »
Spring and fall are the choice times to schedule school book talks. The weather is more predictable for longer commutes, which means fewer snow days and cancellations. By this time of the school year — June — students are longing for summer. Classes take on a more celebratory tone with outdoor poetry lessons, strolls around the neighbourhood, and large-scale art projects, such as painting murals for graduation ceremonies. Fall marks the start of the school year and is a-buzz with enthusiasm, planning, and bountiful ideas for an exciting year ahead. Whatever the season, you can bet an author in your region will be happy to accept a booking to speak to students about the writing process, the challenges and successes of the writing life, and how they got into this rewarding but tumultuous biz in the first place. Subsidies are available under various schemes, as are customized talks tailored to your needs, so don’t hesitate to inquire.
I had the great pleasure of presenting book talks to two eastern Ontario schools last week. Focusing on my book Dazzling Women Designers I showed kids how strong role models can help shake up stereotypes and open up a wide range of career choices for everyone, regardless of whether they are female or male. We have so much to learn from successful, kind-hearted, hard-working people who give back to their communities in admirable ways.
Some highlights of the talk included playing the “pink hat game” with the kids — a game that gave students a chance to examine designed objects and consider their qualities. We talked about what makes a winning design and the importance of function in design. Objects can’t just look good; they have to work well, too, to get the thumbs up. We focused on three designers: Jane Jacobs, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, and Ritu Kumar. Environment-friendly design characterized the first two, while the third is instrumental in helping rural communities achieve sustainability by restoring their livelihoods. (Oh, and yes, there are links to the Science & Technology curriculum.) Students in grades 3 to 8, or 4 to 7, were keen to participate, handle real designed objects, answer questions, and offer their own ideas. By the end of the presentation, students had a deeper understanding of how design impacts our world. The talks wrapped up with questions posed by the students and teachers, mainly dealing with the publishing process.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to the principals and teachers for inviting me to speak to their students. It was a wonderful opportunity. Children — with their positive attitude, joy, and exuberance — are a great inspiration to us adults in so many beautiful ways. I take my (pink) hat off to children, and say: Kids rule!!!!
Keep reading, keep writing, and keep celebrating the rich community of readers and writers all around.
Until next time,
PS: As noted in my last blog post, Second Story Press has set the pub date for Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs ($10.95) at September 16th. I expect to have a cover image to share with you soon. Also, the amazing Nicole Robertson, media specialist, will be issuing a press release detailing her involvement in this project as one of the ten entrepreneurs featured. The “2013 Kids’ Preview” article by Dory Cerny, Laura Godfrey, and Stuart Woods in the June issue of Quill & Quire includes a mention of Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs in the Non-Fiction section, which was lovely to see. You can see it on the Quill blog by clicking here. (Note: Yikes! There is a cover image shown there, but it is not final!)
PPSS: Young Kingston’s June 15th event in Picton, Ontario at Books & Company has been cancelled; other plans are in the works.Read More »
With Family Literacy Day falling on January 27th this year, families across Canada have been celebrating with much hoopla. Elementary schools make a weekly event of this special day, promoting reading and books, and often hosting in-school contests, including dressing up like a favourite book character — fun! Curl up with a book for 15 or 20 minutes a day. You know you won’t regret it. I’d like to remind readers to check out the 49th Shelf’s Read Local: The 100 Mile Book Diet. By supporting authors in your own community, you will make writers smile, and smile, and smile.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a great place to visit (virtually or in person) to learn more about books for children and young adults. I also love promoting the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Program every year. Some schools and libraries have Forest of Reading groups and purchase sets of books. The books listed are always of very high calabre, so it’s also handy for making a shopping list. The Toronto Public Library has created its own list of the One Hundred Best Canadian Books for Children. Which books do you recognize? Which other titles would you add? I think I’ve read 25 of the 100, so I have some catching up to do.
And now — drum roll — the inspiration for today’s blog is a composition written by an eloquent elementary student. Her piece, below, expresses beautifully the joys that reading brings to our lives. Thank you to Isobel for inspiring us all to turn to delicious, delectable books much more often.
Why I Love to Read
This is why I love to read. I love to read because if you feel sad, mad, or annoyed, when you start to read a good book, you forget all your feelings. It’s like looking through a window. In books like Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, or The Lord of the Rings, you fall through that window, and you can see orcs, wizards, hobbits and dwarves, and elves yelling in battle all around you. It is a feeling you do not get from watching a movie.
Books in shop windows are like ice cream beckoning to you to take a taste. Some people are reluctant to start new books and others jump right in. Books are like chocolate — some with cherries inside, and some with toads inside. Reading is a time to relax.
by Isobel, grade 4Read More »
Here’s a great way to give back to your community by hiring an author to visit your school! The Writers’ Union of Canada will subsidize author visits, which makes this a win-win situation for your school and local authors. Yes, I would love to visit your school. Visit my Book Talk page to learn more about my talks. See also my page on The Writers’ Union of Canada website.
There is funding available for reading programs, beginning March 31, 2013.
The Writers’ Union of Canada pays the author a $250 honorarium per full (solo) reading or a $125 honorarium per half (joint) reading. Also available is up to $300 in travel expenses per reading. The host school must provide the author’s accommodation (if necessary) and meals.
See guidelines listed here.
OAC Writers-in-the-Schools Program
Every Ontario elementary and secondary school is eligible for one funded reading from April 1 to March 31.
For more information click here.
Note: Requests for funding must come from the school. Funding is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.Read More »
I was reading the December 2012 issue of Quill & Quire and saw a quote by Howard White that resonated with me. In responding to a question about the future of Canadian publishing, he says, “…we need to keep the faith.” Then he raises the glass of water analogy: “I think one of the most damaging things that’s happening to publishing right now — and to writing — is that people are looking at the empty half of the glass.” I’m going to keep this analogy in mind over the next while and consciously try to talk more positively about the book biz. Why not?! A prolific children’s writer recently stressed the importance of celebrating the good things: a new book contract, a cheque from Access Copyright (yay! Just got this!), a royalty cheque that is bigger than expected, a request to speak at a writers’ festival, a glowing comment from a reader, a booking at a local school for a book talk. These are not events that happen every day, or even every month — but when they do happen, take note, smell those roses and take the time to do something special to celebrate the success.
I’d like to raise my half-FULL glass of water to all the Canadian publishers, editors, authors, designers, publicists, and marketing staff who create the beautiful landscape that is Canadian literature. Thank you for all the hard work you do to give readers so many rich experiences with painstakingly crafted content. And for the rest of you, my advice of the day is: hug your children, read books, and buy some made-in-Canada books for the fast-approaching holiday season.
Psst! My personal celebration this week is that I’ve completed drafts for four out of ten profiles for my upcoming Women’s Hall of Fame book. It will be the last book in this important series. The release day is early fall 2013. Hurray!!!!!!
Other news is that the National Reading Campaign has some great Twitter-based contests for kids and adults. Check it out. And, in case you’re wondering, I’m not on Twitter. I don’t know if I should add the word “yet” to that sentence.
Until next time…Read More »
I could barely contain my excitement about participating in the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival 2012. Some may vouch, in fact, that I did not contain my excitement, but rather it bubbled forth at every opportunity for self-expression. The festival goers were numerous and engaged. The weather was perfect. We, the authors, enjoyed delicious meals in beautiful settings in the scenic hamlet of Eden Mills. There was a wonderful literary vibe in the early autumn air.
Highlights included meeting and chatting with authors Helaine Becker, Lizann Flatt, Susan Hughes, Deb Loughead, and Donna Morrissey. I also was pleased as punch to shake hands with Alistair MacLeod and to extend gratitude to Leon Rooke, the festival’s founder and former resident of Eden Mills. It was lovely to reconnect with fellow Second Story author and illustrator Janet Wilson, illustrator Linda Hendry, and to meet Susan Glickman who is also a Second Story author (the Lunch Bunch series). And, of course, I loved seeing all the familiar faces in the village and getting caught up with friends.
I left with a huge grin on my face and lots of inspiration to write, write…
WRITE!Read More »
In the lead up to the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival this coming weekend, I’ve been sorting through old files and unearthed some interesting bits of nostalgia. The featured image on the left shows an old clip from The Toronto Star. Pictured in the bottom right, listening to novelist Eric McCormack read from, I think, The Paradise Motel, are university students Sylvia Petrik (now Mollison), Ian Mollison, and me. This is 23 years ago at the very first Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. Yes, I can proudly say, “I was there!” And, yes, way back when, I was a huge fan of Canadian literature (still am) and loved going to readings (still do). Eric McCormack was also my favourite English professor at the University of Waterloo, too. I never tired of hearing his Scottish “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen” refrain at 8:30 a.m. classes where he taught us about Beowulf and Milton.
The picture below right is from another Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, sometime in the 1990s. I was goofing around with high-school friends after the afternoon’s festivities had wrapped up. We’d just seen Margaret Atwood up on that rustic and beautiful handmade stage about an hour before. My friends and I took turns playing the author at the podium. So, yeah, that’s me, in role, and being so much the author-wanna-be…long after the events had wrapped up.
So, it’s very sweet, poignant, and just darn amazing, that after all these years here I am on the list of children’s author presenters. I feel so honoured and so excited. This is really going to be a treat!
And, of course, Eden Mills was my home for several years. Lots of memories!Read More »