By Erin Thomas | September 25, 2012
Today my friend Sue and I had a random meeting with Maggie Stiefvater! We were at Mabel’s Fables, one of our favourite children’s bookstores in Toronto, planning to look at books and then go for lunch together. On the way up the stairs, we noticed a beautiful new book poster on the wall — it had a raven on it.
It took me a moment to realize it was for a new Maggie Stiefvater book — I hadn’t realized she had one coming out. I love her books. I turned to Sue. “Do you think they’ll have it?”
Upstairs, we found a schmancy cardboard display stand filled with copies of her new book, The Raven Boys, each one sporting a ‘Staff Picks’ sticker. We each grabbed one and started reading the cover flap (after admiring the cover — it really is gorgeous. Kind of spooky and painted-looking).
A woman who works at Mabel’s came by and said how much she had loved the book. Scorpio Races is still her favourite Maggie Stiefvater book, but she really enjoyed the new one, too. I’ve been a Maggie fan since Shiver, so I was sold right then and there. Then, she casually mentioned that Maggie would be stopping by in about twenty minutes to sign copies.
Seriously? Maggie’s American — she lives in Virginia, I think she said. Not exactly a local author!
Sue and I very happily retired to a corner to gossip and wait for Maggie Stiefvater to appear. I had to work at disguising my fan-girly glee; I’m pushing forty, after all.
Maggie was lovely. It’s always nice when an author you admire is as friendly in person as you hope they will be. We each got a book signed (The Raven Boys for me, Scorpio Races for Sue), and took a photo with Maggie. It wasn’t her usual crowd of zillions; it wasn’t an official event, so there weren’t a lot of people there. Just us and the people from Mabel’s.
I felt very, very lucky to have the chance to meet her like that.
The Mabel’s staff, apparently, told Maggie when she arrived that she had two ‘lady-fans’ waiting upstairs. A polite way of saying that Sue and I are on the old side compared to the usual YA demographic. Works for us!
We talked a little bit about writing. Not much; I felt a bit self conscious about the whole thing, to be honest. She talked about world-building with Sue, and how important it is to know more about the world than appears in the book. For her, though, the story is defined by the characters. She isn’t planning a sequel to Scorpio Races, although she’d love to spend some more time in that world, because those characters are where they need to be for now.
That’s the story, so far, that’s closest to her heart. The one with the most of her in it. Which was interesting to hear, because that seems to be the one that resonates most with readers, as well. Something to think about, there.
I did manage to ask her what she likes to read — strong characters and a bit of magic, apparently. Not so much high fantasy anymore, although she used to read it. She loved The Night Circus. (Me too.)
Sue and I didn’t want to take up too much of her time; we went downstairs and then headed out for lunch. But I’ve been feeling bouncy all day, because authors are my movie stars and rock stars, all rolled into one. I’m grateful that both Maggie and the Mabel’s staff were so friendly and gracious, and that Sue and I had the chance to visit with her.
My daughter nodded solemnly and summed it up very nicely when I picked her up from school and told her about it. “It’s as if (name of Daughter’s friend) met Justin Bieber, right?”
Yes. That’s it.
That’s it exactly.
By Erin Thomas | September 24, 2012
Two weeks ago, I was in Port Joli, Nova Scotia, for a week-long writing workshop/retreat led by Peter Carver and Kathy Stinson. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m grateful to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Access Copyright Foundation for the opportunity to attend.
To be specific, and accounting for the time differences, two weeks ago I was wearing my rainboots and walking down a woodsy trail near the ocean, carrying a purple bag that held my laptop, a bottle of water, and everything else I could think of that I might need in order to spend three hours writing. (Most especially the beautiful fingerless mitts that my friend Jocelyne made for me–it was cold!)
I made my way to a tiny cabin with one table, one chair, and two sets of bunk beds. Positioning the desk just right, I had a view through the woods to the ocean. And I wrote. The only interruption was when a spider dropped down from above, right in front of my face. I shrieked and shoved the chair backward into the bunk beds. Once I untangled chair from legs from bunk bed, I’m ashamed to say that the spider met a grisly end.
(One of the other workshop participants, a wonderful woman from northern Saskatchewan, tells me that spiders should never be killed. They spin the webs that keep away nightmares. I don’t tend to have a lot of those, though, so clearly I’m not sensitive to the spiritual vibrations of spiders.)
Spiders aside, it was a morning of focused writing time in a beautiful setting. And although I tried to write in a different location each day, the other mornings followed the same pattern. The afternoons were spent critiquing one another’s work and learning about writing. After that, we had “play time” until dinner, which generally meant wandering the beach and looking for rocks, or even splashing into the ocean. The food was great, the company was wonderful, and the week was productive and inspiring.
And then I came home.
Don’t get me wrong — I was ready to be here again. I missed my husband and my daughter. But I picked a rushed day to come home to (volunteering with the Terry Fox run, then helping with my daughter’s play rehearsal all afternoon), and the week that followed was start-up week for most of my daughters extracurriculars. Which are many.
It’s a different pace. My thoughts are scattered all over the place, trying to keep track of who needs to be where, at what time, with what. Emails and promises and responsibilities. That’s what writing retreats are for, I guess. Focus.
So I haven’t got focus on my side right now. But I did get a lot of work done during that week away, and part of that work involved making some pretty detailed revision notes. I’m happy that I have them to work from, now. It was wonderful to have that space and that time. And here in the real world again, I feel like I’ve finally got my feet back under me, so I can use what I learned at the retreat and move forward on my manuscript in a more ordinary way.
So there’s no ocean view here, but I can see the garage roof, and the house across the street. And it’s a lot warmer — although I still have my Jocelyne-mitts here, just because they make me smile. There’s a little more than an hour left before I pick my daughter up for lunch. And my revision notes tell me that it’s time to take a look at the Chris-and-Tyler scenes in my manuscript, so that’s my plan for the day.
It was great to be at the retreat. But it’s good to be home, too.
By Erin Thomas | September 4, 2012
It isn’t a book launch. It isn’t a contract. It isn’t even done yet — this is just one draft, out of many. Next week I’ll be heading to Nova Scotia with several other writers (thank you to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Access Copyright Foundation for the opportunity!), and will have the book critiqued. My husband has already read it, and pointed out a few continuity errors — a hazard of juggling so many different revisions. And just yesterday, my daughter pointed out gleefully that in one spot, I have the wrong character name down so it looks as if a character who couldn’t possibly be in that scene is wandering around a cabin with Tyler.
But every now and then in the writing, you reach a point that feels like a milestone. This was a milestone for me. I’ve even sent this draft to my agent for her feedback — she saw an early draft a couple of years ago, but I spared her all of the iterations in between.
The thing is, I’m pretty good at tearing things apart. I will question even the most basic premise of a story I’ve written, and start from scratch over and over again. It doesn’t always feel like progress, although, as one wise writer pointed out the other week, with each draft and rewrite I’m learning more about the craft. At least, I hope that’s the case.
It takes a lot more time to build a story up again and reconnect all the severed plotlines. And sometimes I can just tell I’m on the wrong track, and that I haven’t laid down all the right pieces to lead to a good ending. Then I scrap it and start again. I’ve done that many times with this book.
This version feels closer. It needs work, but that’s okay. I think I might actually have the shape of the story right this time. At the very least, I’ve written a cohesive draft that leads to an ending that I don’t hate. That I even kind of think has potential. This draft was worth sharing, where so many others over the past couple of years haven’t been.
My daughter is reading it. She picks it up willingly and asks me questions about what’s coming (which, of course, I don’t answer). Sometimes she reads lines aloud, laughing, which is something she usually only does with her favourite books. I feel honoured beyond all imagining when that happens. And, holding my own with every insecure writer on the planet, I get fretful in the silences in between.
For now, I feel proud to have wrestled the story to this stage. That feeling might change next week, when the feedback starts to roll in. I might even tear the story apart again, although I hope not. I hope that I’ve reached the point where I can finally edit the story I’ve got, rather than doing drastic rewrites connected only by a title. But if it’s necessary, that’s what I’ll do.
Even if I’m finally on the right track, the editing process won’t all be peaches. There will be that stage where I discover that my story is the worst drivel ever to have graced a computer screen, and that I should probably get a job in a toothpick factory. And at some point, my manuscript will be such a mess of deleted sections and new chunks and scribbled comments and sticky notes that it will be hard to remember that there was this moment, in early September, when it looked like a real story. When I was happy with it, and thought it was worth working with.
But I’ll try. Because in any climb, you have to stop now and then to admire the view and feel happy about what you’re doing, even if there’s half a mountain still ahead of you. This blog post, maybe, is me taking a picture. For later, when I need it.
So right now: my draft is finished. I have a story that you can read from beginning to end, and it mostly makes sense. And some cool things happen, and there’s an ending. (That part’s key. Endings are hard.) It feels good to have gotten to this point.
Maybe there should be cake!
By Erin Thomas | August 27, 2012
The other day I had lunch with an old friend. Talk turned, as it usually does sooner or later, to books. My friend isn’t a bookavore; she reads for pleasure, but doesn’t often have the time for it. When she does find a book she loves, she reads it compulsively, unable to put it down.
It had been a long time since that had happened, but, she told me sheepishly, there was a book that grabbed her like that just recently.
I asked her what it was. It was the ‘sheepishly’ that interested me; my friend is usually very forthright, and never the type to look away.
“It’s not exactly high literature or anything,” she said, playing with her fork. “It was Fifty Shades of Grey.”
This book caused quite a stir in my little Twitterverse a few months ago, largely due to its fanfic origins. I waited to hear what she had to say about it. What made her love the book so much?
It wasn’t the sex on every other page. She rolled her eyes about that one, and said it got to be a little much, after a while. No, it wasn’t the sex, although that seems to be what the book is famous for. It was the characters.
I’ve never read the book, although I’ve read a lot of different opinions about it online. None of them said anything about outstanding character development. But nothing I’d come across was from a real reader, someone who picked up the book out of pure curiosity and enjoyment, not with a writing-related agenda. And do you know what? I liked what my friend had to say.
She connected with the female main character. She identified with her. My friend knows what it’s like to feel insecure and not good enough (don’t we all?), and to wonder what someone she finds attractive could possibly see in her. And as that character grew in confidence and strength, my friend took that journey with her. The character started to accept herself, and to accept that she could be ‘good enough’ — and my friend decided that maybe she could, too.
Reading the book made her feel good about herself.
My friend is intelligent, capable and driven. She’s an entrepreneur. She has friends and family who love and value her. She’s a kind, responsible person who is always there for the people who need her. We’re both creeping up on forty in a few years, but I think she looks pretty darned incredible. Her husband has been crazy-mad in love with her since high school, when they met — I know because I was there!
I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s no reason why this smart, attractive, accomplished woman should ever doubt for a second that she’s not miles beyond ‘good enough.’ But sometime she does; we all do. Heck, I write for kids — it’s entirely too easy for me to slip back into that insecure twelve-year-old skin. Maybe because I never entirely crawled out of it.
So if this book, if any book, gives her what she needs to go on a character journey and realize her own self worth, that’s brilliant. On the strength of that alone, I would never begrudge E.L. James a single cent of the kazillions of dollars this book has brought in, whatever people might be saying about its fanfic origins. And besides, I love any book that gets people reading. Any book.
Am I going to read it? Probably not. But I’m glad my friend did, if the vicarious character journey helped her to see herself the way others see her — as someone special. Someone fabulous. If any book does that for any person, the author can be proud.
So no, I probably won’t rush out and add it to my teetering to-read pile. But when I see someone else reading it, I’m going to smile, and hope they get as much out of it as my friend did. And someday, I hope to write a book that takes someone else on a journey like that — the right book for the right person at the right time.
And maybe, just maybe, this helps me understand the whole Twilight thing a bit better…
By Erin Thomas | August 17, 2012
My eight-year-old daughter, Sarah, is a ferocious reader. I think that’s normally ‘voracious,’ but given the way she snarls when interrupted, ‘ferocious’ is more of a fit. And I’m glad of it — I love that she loves to read.
She’s also my best, pickiest test audience. If a scene is boring, she has no hesitation about letting me know it. Of course, she’ll try to spare my feelings. It’ll go something like this: we’re curled up together on the couch and I’m reading my chapter to her. She puts her hand on mine and very gently asks, “Mommy? Is it okay if you read me something else?”
Or, we get to the end of the chapter and she asks me to explain what happened and what parts are important, because the scene wasn’t holding her attention. I don’t feel so bad, though, because sometimes this happens with other people’s books, too, even the shiny published ones with nice award stickers on the front.
So you see, she is an avid reader, but a discerning one.
I’m in the planning stages for a couple of books right now. One, though it’s for reluctant readers, is targeted at kids Sarah’s age and a bit older. And I’m going to write it for her.
It’s something I’ve seen other writers talk about — how their ideal audience, the one they have in mind when making editorial decisions, is just one person. Because trying to write something that will please everyone is counter-intuitive; we all know that’s impossible. But writing something for a specific person, when you know what they like and what makes them laugh, what keeps them turning pages and coming back for more, that’s easier. And the beautiful thing about it is, in writing for that one person, you can actually create something that will appeal to a lot more people.
So in planning this story, I’m asking myself what Sarah would want to read. The kids have to solve their own problems, of course. That’s a given. And the main character probably needs to be a girl this time, or at least there needs to be a girl in it that plays a major role. No lessons or spelled-out morals; she hates it when books do that. So those are reasonable guidelines, but they’re very general.
Where I think this approach will really make a difference, though, is when I’m building the character — what sort of person would Sarah want to read about? How will that person think/talk/act/move? And when I’m in scenes, letting characters make decisions — which decisions will lead to the more interesting story? And what’s the best thing, the funniest or most shocking or most thought-provoking thing that the character could say?
I’ve written for “kids” before, but I’ve never tried writing a particular book with one particular child in mind. So I hope that this works out. At the very least, I’ll have written a story my daughter enjoys, I hope. Even if I have to re-draft for the publisher, that’s worth the experiment, right there!
By Erin Thomas | June 22, 2012
At the Niagara conference, one of the concepts that came up over and over again was the idea of a great character. Someone with spunk, someone readers want to spend time with. Someone strong enough and interesting enough to sustain a whole book, or even a series.
And then, last week, I heard about this girl: Martha Payne, a nine-year-old girl in western Scotland, who started a blog called Never Seconds, about the food at her school. She would take pictures of her school lunches and post them. Kids from around the world started taking pictures of their school lunches, and sending them to her for her blog.
And then the school council tried to shut her down. You can read about it in this Wired article.
It seems to have worked out in Martha’s favour. The school backed down and is letting her bring her camera to school again. There was enough public outcry (even Neil Gaiman, whose Twitterverse clout has brought down servers around the world, Tweeted about it) to ensure that Martha will be able to keep her blog going. So this story has happy ending, except, of course, that if it were really a story we’d insist that the main character solved her own problem. I’m not sure to what extent she was involved, or how that all played out.
I keep thinking about this little girl, though. She’s not much older than my daughter. She’s articulate, and she had a great idea. Her blog got people interested; it engaged them. And according to the Wired article, she tried to use the attention from her blog to do some good in the world by encouraging her followers to contribute to a charity that funds schools in Africa. Now that’s inspiring.
She has spunk: she saw a bad situation and tried to do something about it. Other people responded to her in a positive way, if the global response to her blog says anything. She obviously has a good heart, since she wanted to use the blog’s popularity to raise money for charity, not for herself. And she was up against a more powerful force: a nine-year-old girl versus the combined powers of the school board? Really?
It seems to me that, as I work my way through another manuscript revision and try to inch closer and closer to my character, I could do a lot worse than be inspired by Martha Payne. No, my character isn’t going to start a food blog. But I’m going to look for the spark in him that would inspire others. I’m going to find what’s best about him, and bring it out. And I’m probably going to pit him against forces that are more powerful than he is, and see how he deals with that.
And in the real world, I’m going to continue to be very, very happy that there are kids like Martha Payne out there. It gives me faith in the future.
By Erin Thomas | June 13, 2012
This past weekend was the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Niagara Falls, Canada. It was a horizon-expanding experience. Presenters included Kathleen Duey, Lesley Livingston, Nancy Conescu of Penguin U.S. (Dial Books for Young Readers), Tracey Adams of Adams Literary, and Emma Dryden of Dryden Books.
I take a lot of writing courses, and read a lot of books on writing. But at this conference, not only did I meet wonderful people, I learned to think about writing in a new way. I can see, sort of, what I need to do to grow as a writer. It’s going to mean taking risks, and maybe even trying things that (gasp!) didn’t come from a how-to book.
I feel good about the skills that I have. And excited about the things I’m going to try.
Okay, enough gushing. Here’s what will be more helpful: some ideas from the conference.
From Lesley Livingston, who spoke on writing a series: Make sure the world of your novel is a big enough sandbox that you’ll want to play in it for a while. Know your setting, beyond the borders of your story. Pay attention to even minor characters, and know that they all have quirks and desire and backstories. Know what those are, even if they never appear in your book.
To my way of thinking, even if I don’t write a series, this approach will make for a better standalone novel.
From Kathleen Duey, who gave the keynote talk and a seminar on world-building: place comes from character. If you start with character, and ask your character questions, and answer those in an honest way, your place will grow out of that. How was the place they grew up in, or their early childhood home, different from where they are now? Why did they leave one for the other? Now you have two settings and a feeling about each. What experiences shaped your character? Where did those experiences take place?
One of the most wonderful things she said was that she doesn’t believe anyone can become a writer, and learn to think about people the way a writer must, without doing some good in the world.
From Nancy Conescu, who discussed her role as an editor and what makes work stand out: Voice is what makes you care about the writing, what gets you invested. It’s your connection with the characters. Characters need to feel authentic. They need to be strong and special; they need to have spunk. There needs to be a reason for the reader to care about them. The best series books are those that come about as a result of readers wanting to spend more time with the character, rather than being artificially planned as a series from the beginning.
It was great to find out that editors become as invested in their books as writers do. The books are their babies, too, and they care about them.
There was more. Tracey Adams shared examples of queries that had worked and explained what was good about them. Emma Dryden spoke about the changing face of publishing and the ‘digital landscape.’ She encouraged us not to take notes, because things are changing so quickly! But she reassured us that whatever the medium, the point of story hasn’t changed.
And Jackie Pynaert, one of the conference organizers, gave us hope and encouraged us all to keep trying with her talk about ‘when pigs fly.’ She even brought along a statue of a pig with wings. Tiny wings. Her pig’s wings are still growing, she explained.
Mine, too. And I’m loving every minute of it.
If you’re interested in writing for children, the SCBWI Niagara conference (May 3-5 next year) needs to be on your calendar. It’s a small conference, with lots of chances to interact with everyone. It’s held in Niagara Falls, in a haunted monastery! (A haunted monastery that serves great food, by the way.) And it’s magic.
I hope to see you there.
By Erin Thomas | May 28, 2012
One of the perks of having my daughter go to school on a modified calendar is more breaks through the year. It’s good for us as a family. Sometimes not so productive for me as a writer, though, so with Sarah just getting back to school now after a week off, I’m still clearing the cobwebs from the writing bits of my brain.
Luckily, I was at a writerly event yesterday that gave me lots of advice to share here. I was invited to speak to the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County as part of a panel on Young Adult writing. Other panelists included Cheryl Rainfield, Bill Swan, Tom Earle and Karleen Bradford. Can you blame me for taking notes while the others shared their stories?
Here are some of my favourite parts.
Cheryl Rainfield shared a definition she likes, that a published author is just a writer who hasn’t given up. Her GG-nominated novel, Scars, had a ten-year journey to publication. Many publishers and agents were scared off by the darker aspects of the book, but Cheryl kept trying. Her persistence paid off. Now she’s inspired by the readers who write to her, telling her how the book has changed their lives and made them feel less alone.
Bill Swan advised the new writers in the group that once you have a manuscript accepted by a publisher, that’s just the beginning. Lorimer accepted his first manuscript and wanted just two things changed: one was the tense the novel was written in, one was the gender of the main character. It took a lot of research, a complete rewrite and a lot of edits before the book was ready for publication.
Bill’s in my writing group, and he’s the source of one of my favourite similes about writing and editing. He says a novel is like a house of cards: You’ve built it up so very carefully, and then someone comes along and says it would be a lot better if just one card were removed. Except that one card is at the bottom, in the middle. It makes me smile because I’ve knocked down many a house of cards, including my current work-in-progress. But the thing to do is rebuild and make it stronger.
Karleen Bradford shared a story about a student asking her if, as a writer, she was easily squashed. “Yes,” she said. “All writers are.” She remembered a teacher, when Karleen was 13 years old, tearing apart one of her stories. It made her feel she wasn’t good enough to be writing; she didn’t write fiction again for nearly twenty years. Hearing this made me feel grateful for my writing group and for the classes I’ve attended where the critique offered has been constructive rather than discouraging.
Karleen talked about her growth as a writer, and suggested that short stories can be the best training ground–writing a story in a confined space requires you to hone your craft. And, like Cheryl, she advised all aspiring writers to be stubborn.
Tom Earle grew up around boats and hockey. “If it’s hard, you skate on it. If it’s wet, you put a boat in it.” He identifies himself as a teacher more than a writer, but following the advice to write what you know, he wrote a book about hockey players. More than that, he wrote a book just for the sake of writing it. He was watching a Leafs game when one player was knocked out in a fight. Seeing that stayed with him. He started thinking about what would happen if a hockey player were killed during a fight. What would it be like to live with that? What would happen? He scribbled his novel in stapled composition notebooks, the same kind his students use, and then forgot about it until he came across one of the notebooks again and decided there was something in there worth pursuing. He wrote a story for himself, and it got published.
It’s harder for me to remember what I talked about. I had my notes (on colour-coded index cards, of course), but I didn’t take notes while I was talking. I think the main thing I wanted to get across was the importance of community in writing, and how belonging to groups like CANSCAIP and the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (or Simcoe County, or anywhere) can make a difference. How having a small critique group of writers you trust can keep you on track and help you improve.
I also wanted to encourage people to write now, rather than waiting. If there’s a story you want to tell, tell it.
I felt honoured to be on that panel. Karleen Bradford is someone whose books I loved when I was a kid. The WCSC people were wonderful and welcoming, and I hope that they enjoyed the talks and learned a lot — I know that I did!
By Erin Thomas | May 21, 2012
Last Friday, I attended the Whitby Forest of Reading celebration with my daughter. Kathy Stinson was one of the invited authors and we had plans to have tea together after the ceremony. I didn’t realize until later that another friend of mine, author Anna Kerz, was also going to be there.
Sarah and I showed up early. Hours early, as it turned out. Ms. Lauren Flattery, teacher-librarian at Cadarackque school and Master of Ceremonies, was gracious enough to allow us to attend, when it became clear that the event wasn’t quite as open-to-the-public as we had hoped. She even invited us to sit with her school. (I think that warrants a thank-you note and some donated copies of my books, don’t you? At the very least.)
This was my first time attending a Forest of Reading event. It was wonderful to see so many kids, so excited about books! There were students there from over sixty Durham schools. And the authors in attendance — Kathy Stinson, Anna Kerz, Jan Andrews and David Skuy — all had autograph line-ups that stretched halfway around the arena.
Jan Andrews was the first speaker. She talked about how books and stories give us things to keep alive in our hearts. Her book, When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: Tales of Ti-Jean, had won the Silver Birch Express (reluctant readers) award. She said the reason the award meant so much to her was that most awards are chosen by adults, but this one is chosen by the people who are her readers. We write books because we have something we want to give to the world. In reading the stories of Ti-Jean, readers become part of a legacy of French-Canadian folk tales being passed down generation after generation, all the way back to campfire tales. Jan thanked the students for becoming part of that tradition, and letting her share the stories with them.
Kathy Stinson, whose book Highway of Heroes was nominated for the Silver Birch non-fiction award, said that it was an honour for her to be nominated, but that the real honours belong to the heroes and to their families, and to all those who stand on the bridges as they pass by in order to say, “Thank you for what you did to help make the world a better place.” She was happy to attend the Whitby event because, as she said, Whitby is located right along the Highway of Heroes. Some of the people in the room might have been among those standing on the bridges.
Anna Kerz talked about where ideas come from. Sometimes they’re big and ripe like a tomato, she said, and smack you in the head. Sometimes they’re fine like a cobweb and you have to go looking for them. Writing Better Than Weird was a challenge for her, because she knew that in order to tell Aaron’s story, she’d have to really understand him. And Aaron isn’t the easiest kid in the world to understand. She asked the kids in the room to look for the “Aarons” of the world in their schools and in their classes, and to take the chance to get to know them, and learn their stories.
Better Than Weird was nominated for the Silver Birch fiction award.
David Skuy, author of Silver Birch fiction award winner Undergrounders, said that he likes to write sports books — the kind of thing he liked to read when he was a kid. As much as Undergrounders is a story about a street kid, it’s also a story about a hockey player. It can be tough to read about a homeless kid, but he’s been impressed by the fact that his readers are kids who care about people who are having a hard time in life. And the most important thing about the Forest of Reading awards for him is that it’s a celebration of reading. He told the students in the room that it wasn’t about winning. Whichever book they liked best was the Silver Birch winner for them. That was their book.
It was a fun day for everyone there. Ms. Lauren Flattery had made a Silver Birch hat (visible in the first picture) out of some paper plates and a branch, with tissue-paper leaves and silver mirrors and a tiny red bird hiding in the leaves. It rivalled anything we saw on television from the royal wedding. There was a virtual choir, with kids from different schools singing Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy together through video. There was cool music playing. I know it was cool because Sarah recognized the songs and I didn’t. There was pizza and there was ice cream with those little wooden spoons that look like band-aids, and best of all, there was an arena full of kids all excited about books and reading.
It was a high-energy day. Kathy and Anna came back to my house afterwards for tea, and for me, that was the nicest part. It’s great to see writers treated like rock stars, but let’s face it, most of us aren’t rock stars by nature. It’s always lovely to have the chance to share and celebrate with other writers who are friends, though, and so I’m grateful that Sarah and I were given the chance to attend.
Any day that celebrates writing is a good day in my books. (Groan.)
Happy long weekend!
By Erin Thomas | May 10, 2012
Two hour-long workshops this Saturday — one on editing, one on writing for reluctant readers!
“Edit like you Mean it” workshop will be after the WCDR breakfast meeting this Saturday. We’ll look at tackling the big-picture revisions, and playing with index cards and highlighters and things like that. We’ll cover ways to get all five senses involved in revising, and how to see your manuscript through new eyes. Should be fun.
“Writing for Reluctant Readers” is part of the Port Hope library’s Writer Next Door program. Ted Staunton will be there as well!
Okay… back to my bristol board.
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