Tag Archives: local writers

School Visits and Author Talks

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:

Presentation Information:

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.

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Book Review: Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust


Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust

Leanne Lieberman; $12.95 paper, 978-1-4598-0109-7, 227 pp., Orca Publishers, 2013 (ages 13+)

Lauren Yonofsky Hates the HolocaustKingston-based YA author, Leanne Lieberman offers an edgy, issue-oriented story, set in present-day Vancouver. Sixteen-year-old Lauren, whose father is a Holocaust historian, struggles with the usual teenage angst over boys, cliques, parental expectations, religion, little brothers, and frizzy hair. Basketball is a way to play one-on-one with her crush Jesse Summers, a popular boy at school, who has—as Lauren’s friend Brooke puts it— “radiant facial structure.” But just as romance begins to blossom, racism stops Lauren cold when she sees Jesse wearing a Nazi armband. Lauren knows its a game, but she feels sick to her stomach by what she’s seen. Should she tell an adult? Is it right to rat on her crush? Why is this game so wrong?

Lieberman captures the emotionally charged world of teens in this story that—like many teen dramas—features cliques. Text messages and shortforms (e.g., WTF, OMG) are integrated into the narrative. The demands of school, homework, and family obligations all dominate in Lauren’s life. While she works through tough issues and is a good student, Lauren’s not always a model of good behaviour. For instance, by page 7, she’s uttered the f-word. Later, she and her friends share some Vodka, stolen from her parents’ liquor cabinet. Some of her friends smoke at parties to look cool. Social dynamics and relationships with friends are central to Lauren’s life, but there’s a lot going on; she’s working through some profound questions.

True to the genre, the events that unravel result in personal growth and revelation. By the story’s end, Lauren has matured. She makes peace with Jesse and with her Jewish roots. The elements of Judaism will be familiar to some readers and will introduce others to new terms, including rabbi, synagogue, Rosh Hashana, Yiddish, the Book of Life, the Torah, Hebrew school, bar mitzvah, and anti-Semitism. This is an energetic and thought-provoking novel that will garner deep respect and compassion among readers for the Jews who endured terrible wrongs in the past. Most importantly, the book shows why this reverence holds fast today.

~ Jill Bryant

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I Love Book Talks!

I Love Book Talks!

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.

Game Time!

Game Time!

Book Display at TCS

Book Display

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Happy Literacy Week

Happy Literacy Week

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 4

The cover from the book Read to Your Bunny is one of my favourites.

art by Mari

Art by Mari

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Book Talks – Information for Schools About Subsidies

Book Talks – Information for Schools About Subsidies

Hey, teachers!

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.

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49th Shelf: The 100-Mile Book Diet

49th Shelf: The 100-Mile Book Diet

Eat locally. Read locally. I like it.

I have to say, I think this is the coolest thing. We’ve all been hearing about the importance of shopping locally and supporting local farmers for several years now. Then, the 100-Mile Diet evolves with families, chefs, and restauranteurs seeking fresh, local ingredients for their dinner tables. And now this new twist: the 100-Mile BOOK Diet. (If anyone knows why it is “miles” not “kilometres,” please let me know.) It’s curious because the 100-mile diet was started by two Canadians, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon.

At a past Young Kingston meeting (that’s my local children and young adult authors’ group) we were talking about the importance of the communities being supportive of local writers. As writers, we all agreed it is enriching to feel that your community is reading books by local authors, attending book launches, inviting authors (and paying them) to speak at public venues, and so on. Interacting with readers is so inspiring for writers. Seeing the joy on the face of a young reader warms my heart. Finding out from your local bookstore that your books are selling is even better. It shows that consumers are “voting with their wallets” and really, truly showing that they value what you do.

Unfortunately, things don’t always play out in this way. My kids bring home American and British bestsellers frequently. Those are the books they hear the most about from their friends, in the media, etc. Those are the books with the biggest buzz.

Let’s go back to the Young Kingston meeting, I mentioned. At one point I said something like, “It’s too bad people don’t see supporting local writers in the same way they do supporting local farmers.” I figured it was a similar issue. Different, yeah, but, when you think about it, not so different. Still, I felt a bit sheepish saying it. Perhaps I was feeling guilty about wanting to ride on the shirt-tails of another group’s band wagon. If you think about it, though, everyone likes to feel that they are valued by their local community. And writers, like farmers, aren’t always valued in a monetary sense, so being valued in the community is all the more important to writers’, and farmers’ well being.


Check out the Read Local: The 100-Mile Book Diet. There is a “Browse by Author” tab that makes searching for specific books and authors easy. There are reviews and quotes and lots of info. I placed four of my books where there is a geographic significance of some sort.  Click the titles to go to the 100-Mile Book Map: Dazzling Women Designers, Amazing Women Athletes, Making Shadow Puppets, and The Wilderness Cookbook. Have fun browsing the books in your area.


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Canadian Children’s Book Week in Kingston, Ontario

Canadian Children’s Book Week in Kingston, Ontario

I know I should have blogged this last week, but better late than never, right?

In celebration of Canadian Children’s Book Week, Young Kingston authors are creating a bit of a buzz in the downtown. Kingstonians walking down Princess Street can admire the window display at Novel Idea, Kingston’s independent bookstore.

Kingston's Novel Idea Bookstore Window During Canadian Children's Book Week

The window features books by several members of Young Kingston, including Y.S. Lee, Ann-Maureen Owens, Mary Alice Downie, Peggy Collins, Leanne Lieberman, Sarah Ti-Mei Tsiang, and me.

Ehem, Ann-Maureen and I can now add “window dresser” to our resumes! It was an interesting challenge figuring out how to best display the wide array of children’s books represented by our group. With stuffed animal characters from one of Peggy’s beautifully illustrated picture books (Tallula’s Atishoo!), a model of a canoe and Martello tower accompanying The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration and Forts of Canada by Ann-Maureen Owens, Victorian maps of London to showcase Y.S. Lee’s Agency series, and hand-crafted megaphone, spinning plate, juggling balls to feature my Backyard Circus book, the overall effect is upbeat, energetic, and fun.

It is such an honour to see my books in the store window. I am forever grateful to the store owner, Oscar, for giving us this opportunity to celebrate local children’s and young adult books. I’m sure all YK members echo this sentiment. I’d also like to extend thanks to the helpful staff at Novel Idea: Cynthia and Natasha.

Books by Young Kingston Members Peggy Collins and Ann-Maureen Owens

I gave a ten-minute talk to pre-schoolers at the Isabel Turner branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library on Saturday, May 5. With mismatched socks, polka dot bow tie, and oversized plaid jacket, I read and performed from Backyard Circus. I also read three poems including two new ones that I wrote just for the occasion: “The Kids’ Table ABC and “Night Fears.” Simultaneously, Peggy Collins read at the Central library in Kingston.

On Sunday, May 6 from 1:00 to 5:00 members of Young Kingston chatted with the public, with each other, and were on hand to sign books to patrons. I dressed up Backyard Circus style — why not? — and the afternoon was a lot of fun.

There are still plenty of signed books in the store, so please pop in this week to pick up some very meaningful and beautiful birthday gifts for children and youths. The selection is truly impressive.

Recognize These Books?!

This Saturday, May 12 at 10:30 a.m. I’ll be giving another ten-minute talk at the Central branch of the KFPL. Since this is the branch my family frequents, it will be extra special having the opportunity to speak there. Thank you to librarians Sarah Balint and Sarah Macdonald for their efforts in organizing these readings.

One more item to note: the Central branch has created a book display and bulletin board featuring Young Kingston writers’ books, biographies, original artwork by Peggy Collins, newsclippings, and book covers. Another display area includes other picture books by Canadian authors and illustrators. Again, thanks to Sarah and Brenda for creating the displays. What a wonderful way to show off the works of talented Canadians. It’s going to be such a fun week!

Young Kingston Display at the Central Library in Kingston, May 8, 2012

Library white board advertising the Saturday readings

Reverse Side of the Young Kingston Biographies -- Designed by Author/Illustrator Peggy Collins


Me at the Isabel Turner branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library

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Young Kingston in the media

Young Kingston in the media

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