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!

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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!

IF I HAD A GRYPHON: EVENTS!

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What’s in the bag? Do you know any young pet detectives who could help me solve a magical mystery?

I’ve been gathering props and breaking out the vocal exercises all in preparation for events and storytimes across Ontario for IF I HAD A GRYPHON. Come join me (and maybe a magical creature or two) on the following dates for stories & activities:

Tuesday, Feb 9th, 10:30am, Chapters Brampton, Storytime & Signing 

Saturday, Feb 13th, 11am, Chapters Ajax, Storytime & Signing 

Sunday, Feb 14th, 11am, Indigo Yonge & Eglinton, Storytime & Signing 

Saturday, Feb 20th, 2-3:30pm, TPL Lillian H Smith Branch, Book Launch  Storytime

Saturday, Feb 27th, 11am, Chapters Guelph, Storytime & Signing 

Sunday, Feb 28th, 2pm, Cardboard Castles, Creemore, ON, Storytime & Signing

Monday, Feb 29th, 6pm, Thornton Public Library, Storytime & Signing

Saturday, March 5th, 11am Chapters Milton, Storytime & Signing

Saturday, March 12th, 10:30-noon, Woodstock Public Library, Storytime & Signing