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!

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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!

The Winnowing Blog Tour

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I get it. The Winnowing seems like a hard left turn for me. My previous novels are coming-of-age stories about ordinary kids dealing with family and relationship-based drama. What is this slightly dystopian, conspiracy-driven thriller?! Where did it come from? In a series of Winspiration Guest posts I will attempt to answer this question.

Thank you to the bloggers who make the time to read the book and let me take over their space for a day, I truly appreciate it and all you do for books. Here’s the schedule:

Sept 5: Gushing about The Giver over at Padfoot’s Library

Sept 6: How a garage sale find changed my life at Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup

Sept 7: All things X-Files at  Mostly YA Lit 

Sept 8: Q&A with the great Helen Kubiw at CanLit for Little Canadians 

Sept 12: The trouble with genre at Me on Books 

Sept 14: On Gene Roddenberry’s legacy at Confessions of a Book Addict 

Sept 18: How Into The Dream & William Sleator inspired me over at Lost in a Great Book 

Sept 20: Art imitates life, or how a new running habit ended up in The Winnowing at Lost at Midnight 

Sept 22: Q&A about earth-based science fiction & my fave X-Files episodes at Women Right About Comics 

The Winnowing Book Launch

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Fall is just around the corner which means sweater weather, pumpkin pie, and The Winnowing! I’ve been busy working on some guest posts for The Winnowing blog tour and booking events for the fall. Full details coming soon, but for now here is everything you need to know about the Toronto book launch!

When: Tuesday, August 29th 6:30pm

Where: Supermarket Bar & Restaurant, 268 Augusta Avenue, Toronto, ON. Kensington Market

This is a public event, kids and friends welcome!

Books will be sold by beloved Toronto institution and indie bookseller Bakka-Phoenix.

Trivia master and kid lit author Evan Munday will be hosting a round of trivia around 8pm. He will be focusing on related topics (children’s books, 1980s pop culture, science fiction, etc). There will be prizes, so bring your brainiest pals!

New Book Alert: THE WINNOWING

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I am thrilled to share the news that my next middle grade novel The Winnowing will be published by Scholastic Canada this fall. Here is the official description:

Marivic Stone lives in a small world, and that’s fine with her. Home is with her beloved grandfather in a small town that just happens to be famous for a medical discovery that saved humankind — though not without significant repercussions. Marivic loves her best friend, Saren, and the two of them promise to stick together, through thick and thin, and especially through the uncertain winnowing procedure, a now inevitable — but dangerous — part of adolescence.

But when tragedy separates the two friends, Marivic is thrust into a world of conspiracy, rebellion and revolution. For the first time in her life, Marivic is forced to think and act big. If she is going to right a decade of wrongs, she will need to trust her own frightening new abilities, even when it means turning her back on everything, and everyone, she’s known and loved. A gripping exploration of growing up, love and loss, The Winnowing is a page-turning adventure that will have readers rooting for their new hero, Marivic Stone, as they unravel the horror and intrigue of a world at once familiar but with a chilling strangeness lurking beneath the everyday.

This will be my fifth novel for kids and veers into new territory for me. Specifically sci-fi and speculative fiction territory. Surprised? Let me take you back a few years. . .

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On Friday nights in grade seven you could find me in the basement, in the dark, watching the X-Files. Conspiracy theories? Loved them. Alternate histories? Couldn’t get enough. Ghosts? Into it. Aliens? Obviously. My obsession culminated in a friend and I traveling to Mississauga to attend an X-Files convention. We listened to panels and bought merch and wore FBI badges made in Microsoft Paint— hers said Mulder, mine said Scully—but the highlight was a pitch session, at which I got up in front of a conference room full of much older “X-Philes” and a panel of screenwriters to pitch my idea for an episode.

At first glance, The Winnowing might seem at odds with my previous work. But at its core this is a “Vikki VanSickle book.” What do I mean by that? Essentially I’m exploring my perennial themes—relationships, puberty, coming of age—set in a world that could have been. I’m interested in what ordinary people do in extraordinary situations.

The Winnowing is a love letter to the X-Files and the worlds and concepts that show opened up for me. But it’s also about the everyday, inescapable conflicts of adolescence: fighting with your best friend, being forced to work with your arch-nemesis, constantly worrying about your appearance and what other people think, and wondering where you fit in the world.

Oh, and that X-Files pitch session I entered back in 1995? I won.

The Winnowing will be available in fall 2017 from Scholastic Canada. I would be absolutely tickled if you would pre-order a copy at your local indie, Indigo, Amazon, or wherever you buy books. More details to come!

What I Read in 2016: Picture Books

I value my picture book collection the way that Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler values her files: deeply, though you wouldn’t know it by my lack of an ordered cataloging or shelving system. Here are some of the books published in 2016 that made it onto my shelves this year.

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Panda Pants  is a dialogue between a young panda and his father. The little Panda is set on a pair of pants. The father is unconvinced. The silliness is tempered by a dead-pan delivery and a touch of philosophy. Like Zen Shorts, if conceived by the Comedy Network.

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My Friend Maggie is another fantastic offering from Hannah E. Harrison. All of her books have the emotional realism of Kevin Henkes’ work and her illustrations GLOW. This book isn’t just kid-friendly, it strikes a deep, deep chord. I’m not a crier, but this book makes me tear up every darn time.

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Miss Moon lives in a beautiful, well-mannered world of dogs and dresses and boating parties that I would also love to live in. In Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess, Janet Hill’s collection of life lessons are accompanied by her distinctive oil-paintings and would be a great gift for dog lovers, graduates, or people with a taste for whimsy.

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Sara O’Leary is grand master of the list poem. In A Family is a Family is a Family she lists a wide range of families, accompanied by Qin Leng’s delicate illustrations of the small pleasures of domestic life.

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Jo Ellen Bogart’s quietly magnificent The White Cat and the Monk is an ode to work, peace, and stillness. Even non-cat lovers will admit that there is something delightful in a monk comparing his daily routine to that of his cat’s. Illustrator Sydney Smith does a great job getting into the head of a cat and demonstrates why his work keeps turning up on award lists.

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Lion Lessons is begging to be turned into a piece of theatre. A boy studies to be a lion with an actual lion. Simple, funny, genius. Jon Agee’s books are on my auto-buy list.

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Just when you thought there were no new ways to tell a first day of school story, Adam Rex comes along with the perspective of a new school building in School’s First Day of School. Christian Robinson’s bright, retro art helps make this brand new book feel like an old favourite.

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My favourite debut of the year is Ooko, by author-illustrator Esme Shapiro. Foxes abound in children’s books, but never has a fox been so sweetly delusional before. A quirky friendship story with a twist. Bonus human leg hair!

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Julia Sarda’s colour palette of rich jewel-tones and Goth-meets-Art Deco sensibility is an unexpected but brilliant pairing with Kyo Maclear’s fable about a list-making family. Maclear tends to be paired with airier, more whimsical illustrators, but The Liszts is proof that her canny text works just as well with a darker, earthier art style.

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In Scribble, child-whisperer Ruth Ohi imbues simple shapes (circle, square, and triangle) with matching personalities who are thrown for a loop (shape pun!) when scribble arrives. The book works on two levels, as both a story about learning to accept other’s differences and also as an ode to imagination.

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There will always be a desire for counting books and Lucy Ruth Cummin’s A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals adds an element of mystery and dark humour to this tried and true formula. In a post-Klassen/hat eat hat world you may think you know the twist…but DO you?

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Thanks to Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick I have always been drawn to topiaries (yes, even after The Shining). The Night Gardener features some pretty fantastic creations and captures a sense of wonder and possibility in a spare text accompanied by old-timey, sepia-toned illustrations.