Letters From the Great War onstage at Soulpepper

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One of my first true loves is theatre, and I feel privileged to be working on  Letters From the Great War, a new Remembrance Day piece for Soulpepper Theatre Company. Conceived by musician, Roaring Girl Records label-owner, Sawdust City Music Festival founder and all-around human force Miranda Mulholland, this commemorative piece features songs from or about WW1 interspersed with live readings of actual letters sent during the war.

It is a humbling and harrowing experience to hear these letters read aloud. The naked longing for home and horrific conditions of the trenches are heart-wrenching, but the moments of humour, hope, and quirks of personality are really what shine. The letters are written by soldiers, nurses, mothers and sweethearts, renowned artists and literary figures- such as L.M. Montgomery and Frederick Varley– and everyday people with no historic claim to fame other than the incredible service they provided for their country during the war. Paired with an inspired list of songs, I believe Letters From the Great War is a moving and appropriate commemoration of The Great War, and one that I am very proud to be part of.

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For What? is a painting by artist F.H. Varley, an artist for the Canadian War Records Department. Select letters written by Varley are included in Letters From the Great War

I have powerful memories of the Remembrance Day assemblies I participated in at school. The combination of video, song, and the laying of the wreaths was a very effective way to reflect on the wars and acknowledge the loss and sacrifice of so many. In some ways, Letters From the Great War feels like a grown-up Remembrance Day assembly, featuring some of the very best talent Canada has to offer, and an intimate space for people to reflect, connect and remember,

Letters From the Great War is on-stage at Soulpepper November 10 & 11, 2018.

Students Rap Their Way Through IF I HAD A GRYPHON

Of all the delightful and unexpected things that have happened to me as an author, this video featuring students from Madoc Drive Public School in Brampton, ON rapping their way through my picture book IF I HAD A GRYPHON is truly special. This was part of a music class lead by Miss Yoo and involved a production application called Soundation that allows students to layer and mix sounds to create a new beat.

What a fantastic project and an inspiring teacher! The world needs more Miss Yoo! Read more about the project here.

Summer 2018 Events

It’s been a busy spring and I’m still riding high off The Winnowing winning the 2018 Red Maple Award! What a day that was! I met so many readers at The Festival of Trees celebrations in Toronto, Durham, Peel, and Niagara. Thank you to everyone who told me their thoughts about The Winnowing and gave me book recommendations for what to read next. Another big thank you to all the readers and voters, I can’t express just how excited I was (and still am) to receive this honour!

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Thanks to Lorna Schultz Nicholson for capturing this photo from the stage in Toronto seconds after the award was announced!

Usually summer is a time for me to recharge, start writing, and do important writerly things like go to the cottage and hang out at Centre Island in Toronto, but I have a few summer/early fall events coming up that I wanted to share.

SAWDUST CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL– August 5th, Gull Lake Rotary Park, Gravenhurst

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This is a fantastic music festival held in and around a range of venues in Gravenhurst, Ontario, once upon a time known as ‘Sawdust City,’ because of the mill that employed a significant portion of the town’s population. You can catch amazing performers in an intimate setting or see one of two main stage shows at the Opera house (one of the top 10 acoustic buildings in Canada) and on Sunday, August 5th  I’m taking part in kids’ day at Gull Lake Rotary Park. I will be reading If I Had a Gryphon and running some activities for kids. In addition to storytime there will be face-painting, balloon animals, food trucks, all right next to the public beach and leading up to Music on the Barge that evening.

Sunday afternoon at the park is free, but for tickets to any of the other performances & general info click  here

MILTON PUBLIC LIBRARY Writing Presentation -Monday, August 27th 6:30-7:30, MPL Central Branch 

This is the 15th year of the library’s kids’ writing contest and I am thrilled to attend the final celebration and give a chat about writing and publishing. This event is free.

TELLING TALES FESTIVAL   Sunday, September 16th, Westfield Heritage Village 

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I am thrilled to be returning to one of my favourite literary festivals, Telling Tales! Check out a fantastic line-up of children’s authors, illustrators, and performers for all ages. I will be making 2 appearances:

The Winnowing, 2pm, Teen Zone/Summer Stage

Children’s Writers Panel, 3pm, Mountsberg Church

 

TELLING TALES FESTIVAL: TEEN TALES  Sunday, September 23rd, 2-4pm, HPL

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This year the fantastic children’s book festival Telling Tales is adding a teen day. This event will take place on Sunday, September 23rd from 2-4pm at the central branch. This event is also free.

The Winnowing, 2:00-2:30pm, Hamilton Room, HPL Central Branch

More to come!

Spring 2018 Events: Gananoque, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Montreal & more

Hurry up, spring! I’m sick of my winter boots and ready to hit the road, preferably a road that is not covered in snow.

1000 Islands Writers Festival, Gananoque, April 27-30

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As a Queens’ alum, I have fond memories of picturesque Gananoque and the Thousand Islands Playhouse. Looking forward to returning for events with CanLit faves Kelley Armstrong & Heather Smith!

Tickets & details here 

Canadian Children’s Book Week, Manitoba, May 7-12

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This fantastic program administered by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (are you a member? WHY NOT?) sends authors and illustrators to provinces/territories that are not their own. I’m looking forward to visiting schools and libraries across Manitoba. Public events include:

Mon, May 7th, 9:30-10:30am Neepawa Public Library

Tues, May 8th, 1-2pm Pinawa Public Library 

Wednesday, May 9th, South Central Regional Library readings

Thurs, May 10th, Jake Epp Library, 1:30-2:30

Also thrilled that I will be able to attend the McNally Robinson Writing Contest Gala on Thurs, May 10th, 7pm- Grant Park 

Forest of Reading Celebrations

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Looking forward to meeting Red Maple readers at various celebrations for this year’s program.

  • Niagara May 4th
  • Toronto May 15th
  • Durham May 17th
  • Peel May 18th

CANSCAIP Mini Prairie Horizons, Saskatoon, May 26

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If you’re in the prairies and interested in writing for kids, I will be part of a stellar line-up of speakers for this one day mini-conference. My session is called 13 Going on 30: What age group are you writing for? In this presentation I will explore age and audience categorizations, restrictions, and expectations.

Tickets & info here 

Montreal YA Fest, Montreal, May 27

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More details to come, but I’ll be joining a fantastic line-up of YA authors at Montreal’s very first dedicated YA festival on Sunday, May 27th.

Hope to see you soon!

 

McNally Robinson Writing Contest for Kids

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One of the ways I started honing my writing skills was by entering contests, and so I am thrilled to be the guest judge of the McNally Robinson kids’ writing contest, open to grade 5 & 6 students in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

This year the theme is “I have always wanted to….” go into space, be a back-up dancer, live with elephants, go back into the past or forward into the future. Think of something you really want to do, and then write a story about how you would do it and what it might be like. This is a great prompt, and one I have used myself! For example, I have always wanted to live on a summer resort and so I wrote about it in Summer Days, Starry Nights. I have always wanted to write an episode of my favourite TV show The X-Files, and so The Winnowing was born! See? Fun!

Writing submissions should be between 500 and 1000 words, and may be fiction or non-fiction. Please note that this contest is only open to grade 5 & 6 students in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Entries will be accepted in-store or via email until Friday, March 23, 11:00pm. 

Winnipeg: writingcontest.grant@gmail.com

Saskatoon: writingcontest.saskatoon@gmail. com

For more information, visit the Kids desk in your nearest McNally Robinson bookstore, or call: Winnipeg 204-475-0492 / Saskatoon 955-1477.

Best of luck to all the entrants!

2017: The Year in Review

What a year it’s been! I feel so fortunate to have had such amazing experiences. In March, I had the pleasure of being part of the Rainforest of Reading, an annual children’s book festival in Grenada, Saint Lucia, Montserrat and Nevis run by OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation. The festival is the largest literacy initiative undertaken in a region still reeling from infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Ivan (2006) and Hurricane Tomas (2010) and the economic impact of a global recession. It was an honour to work side by side with this charity. It was especially moving to be in St Lucia on the day that poet laureate Derek Walcott died and hear from teachers and writers who have been influenced by his work. Also, I got to spend all my time with Jael Richardson, a true Force For Good in the world

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As a Blue Spruce nominee I visited many schools across Ontario presenting If I Had a Gryphon and was invited to take part in both the Toronto and Sault Sainte-Marie Festival of Trees celebrations. I met so many engaged readers in addition to teachers, librarians, and parents who work tirelessly to bring Canadian books to Canadian children. If you are worried about books or the state of literacy in this country, this program is a good reminder that The Kids Are Alright!

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Also in the spring, this Anglophile visited England for the first time. I had such fun traipsing through historical sites by day and seeing incredible theatre by night. Highlights include the Roman baths, late night cocktails at Evans & Peel Detective Agency, catching my friends Harrow Fair on their first UK tour, high tea at The Savoy, and every Potterhead’s pilgrimage to King’s Cross Station.

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September brought the publication of my sixth book, The Winnowing. This is my first foray into science-fiction and an unabashed love letter to the X-Files. It was also an excuse to get the skirt of my dreams made. Thanks to Kingi at Peach Berserk for making my sartorial dreams come true!

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And I couldn’t have been more grateful to see The Winnowing on the 2018 Red Maple Fiction Award list. The Forest of Reading program grows by leaps and bounds every year and I was thrilled to be included among this year’s stellar nominees. I can’t wait to visit schools to talk about conspiracy theories, The X-Files and The Winnowing in early winter 2018!

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As for 2018? I am looking forward to my trip to Manitoba for Canadian Children’s Book Week, one of many wonderful programs facilitated by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (are you a member? You should be! More info here). I also have some book news to share, but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.

Much love and best to you & yours in 2018!

Giveaway: The Winnowing Book Club Kit

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The only thing better than reading books is talking about books! That’s why I’m a big fan of lit circles, book clubs, and reading groups. I’m putting together a Winnowing themed book club kit including:

  • One copy of The Winnowing
  • The Winnowing stickers
  • The Winnowing bookmarks
  • Official The Winnowing Discussion Guide
  • Discussion Fuel (aka candy)
  • One of my favourite books (a different ‘mystery’ book will be sent with each prize pack)

This book club kit is perfect for students participating in 2018 Forest of Reading Red Maple program (The Winnowing is a nominee) or for any reading group (ages 10+) that loves mysteries, science fiction, and a good old-fashioned discussion. This contest is open to Canadian residents only. Three winners will be selected at random to receive the physical prize pack and one grand prize winner will also win a Skype visit with me.

To enter,  click this link and you will be directed to the contest page with instructions.

Good luck!