Author Q & A: Jane Whittingham


Jane
Whittingham is a picture book author, children’s librarian, book blogger and mom who lives with her family in British Columbia.
 
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What is the book you most clearly remember from when you were a child?
I’m going to cheat a little, because I simply can’t choose one standout book from a childhood surrounded by books. I grew up on a steady diet of classic modern British children’s literature thanks to my English-born parents, and The Wind in the Willows, Beatrix Potter’s stories and the tales of Paddington Bear and Winnie the Pooh still hold such dear places in my heart.
 

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
No. But I did get a chance to meet one of my favourite childhood authors, the great Kit Pearson. There’s a saying that you shouldn’t meet your idols, lest reality not live up to expectation, but Ms. Pearson was as kind and gracious as could be, and I was thrilled to get my childhood copy of The Sky is Falling signed. 
 

How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
If you want to write, read! I’m a self-taught writer, and I hone my craft by reading lots and lots and LOTS of picture books! Reading extensively in my chosen genre lets me work out which writing styles, elements, themes and formats appeal to me and which don’t, and helps me learn more about myself as an author, and as a reader. The more you read, the better a writer you can become. It’s also a great excuse to read lots of fun books!

What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
Watching movies! My partner and I have weekly movie nights, and we’re currently working our way through the silent movie era, which means a lot of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films. We make stovetop popcorn, dim the lights, and settle in for an evening of escape through film.

Who is your favourite author now?
I’m going to be indecisive again because I can’t pick just one favourite author, but there’s a bit of a running joke among my story time audiences that I must be friends with English author/illustrator Jane Cabrera because of how often I include her books in my programs (I’m not, I just really like her books!).  Mo Willems, Mac Barnett, Atinuke, Mem Fox, Anna Dewdney, Eric Litwin, and John Klassen are some other favourites.  I could write an entire list of kidlit authors I love! 

Do you have a new book coming out soon?
I have two picture books coming out in 2022 (the publishing machine moves slowly), so stay tuned for more details! 

What are you writing these days?
Picture books, picture books, always picture books. I literally have about a dozen different manuscripts in various stages of development tucked away on my laptop.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I write whenever I can find the time. I have both a day job and a small child, so finding the time and energy to write can be a bit of a challenge, but I try to be kind to myself and not get too discouraged when I haven’t written for a while. Slow and steady wins the race, at least when it comes to my writing career!

 

How do you like editing and revising?
I hate it! I treat editing like a necessary evil. I’m such a nit-picky writer, I can chip away at a story for eons, and I find it really difficult to know when a manuscript is truly finished. Even worse, I tend to edit as I write, which is a terrible habit for an author – as everyone will tell you, it’s much more efficient to get a story down on paper first, and then start tinkering away with it. If you stop to edit after every sentence, you’ll likely burn yourself out before you’ve even finished a single draft! Thankfully I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great editors who have helped me grow as a writer and as a confident editor, and my distaste for editing has lessened over time.

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I can touch my nose with my tongue!

What’s the one questions (and the answer) that you wish I had asked?
Jane, how do you deal with rejection?
Ice cream. Sweet, delicious, comforting ice cream. And a good sense of humour.

Thanks, Jane.

 

Find out more about Jane and her books:

Website: www.raincitylibrarian.ca
Twitter: @janewhittinghamauthor
Publisher: https://pajamapress.ca/author/whittingham_jane/


Next up: (and the last interview in this series)
Laura Stegman

 


Author Q & A: Cathey Nickell

Cathey Nickell is children’s author and school speaker based in Houston, Texas. She is the author of Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car and Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn.

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What was your favourite book when you were a child?
A book I most clearly remember from my childhood is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. I loved everything about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle… her upside-down house, her dog Wag, her cat Lightfoot, and the hump on her back that was full of magic. I dreamed of getting to someday help her search for the buried treasure left by her late husband. Her “cures” were hilarious, and I still remember them so well.

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
I don’t think I ever wrote a fan letter to an author. If I had gotten the nerve up, I wish I would have written E.B. White to talk to him about Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. They were such beautiful books that I read over and over as a child. I would have asked him how he was able to write animals in such a way that they felt like real people… like a best friend.

How did you learn to write for children?
I learned to write in college as a journalism major. I started off working as a newspaper reporter, which honed my research skills. Years later, I joined SCBWI, went to writers’ conferences, and read several books about how to write picture books and novels. One writer I follow and recommend is K.M. Weiland, and I really enjoyed her book, Outlining Your Novel. One of the websites that has helped me the most in picture book writing has been Tara Lazar’s Writing For Kids (While Raising Them) blog. Tara is so generous with her knowledge and just generally fun to follow.

What is your favourite activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
A favorite hobby that my husband, Kevin, and I enjoy is traveling. We love going to new places, snow skiing, hiking, and exploring unique restaurants. We also attend many musicals and plays here in Houston, Texas.
 
Who is your favourite kids’ author now?
My current favorite author is John Green, and I’ve read (and re-read!) every book he has written. He writes young adult books,  a genre I enjoy. A favorite kid-lit author/illustrator is Peter Reynolds.
 
Do you have a new book coming out soon?

 I don’t have a new book coming out, but I launched a picture book this past August 2019. Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn is my most recent children’s book. My first was Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car in 2016.

What are you writing these days?
These days, I’m writing a middle grade novel. I finished the last line of the story this past week and am now doing the edits. I plan to start querying this manuscript out soon to agents. Fingers crossed!

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I typically write whenever I feel like it, but due to the pandemic, I’ve been writing every single day. I decided to make good use of the down-time and set a goal to finish the manuscript of my middle grade novel. Goal achieved! Now that I’ve gotten into the habit of writing every day, I hope it is a pattern that I won’t stop.

How do you like editing and revising?
The editing and revising process is a fun part of the book-creating process. I don’t mind it, and I sometimes like it even better than the initial “cold” writing.

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I can say the Pledge of Allegiance in Latin! I took Latin in high school, and my teacher made us recite the pledge as a group every single morning. It stuck, and I can still say it to this day. It’s quite dramatic sounding.

What question do you wish I had asked… and the answer?
I wish you had asked me if I listen to music while I write. The answer would be: Yes! I have a playlist mix on my iPod that’s filled mostly with old 80s music. It’s just quiet noise in the background, but it makes me happy.

Thanks, Cathey!

Find out more about Cathey and her books:

Where to buy Cathey’s books: https://www.catheynickell.com/books/

Next up: Jane Whittingham 


By popular demand… and because my default is ‘Yes’ rather than ‘No’

I am now offering one-hour one-on-one Zoom sessions of instruction and discussion on a number of writing-related topics.

I’ve enjoyed presenting a series on online presentations over the past two months, and look forward to working with individual writers over the summer, and perhaps even into the fall.

More information here. Or email me for details, or to ask for a session on any particular subject.

 

 

 

 


Author Q & A: Naomi Danis

(Photo Credit. Joan Roth)

NAOMI DANIS is the author of recent picture books My Best Friend, Sometimes; While Grandpa Naps; and I Hate Everyone. She lives in Forest Hills NY.

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 What is the book you most clearly remember from when you were a child? 
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. It was long, and I remember feeling consoled that it would go on for a while, that these moments of family togetherness with the book would last. My dad would read to me and my sisters after dinner. We would lie in a row on a rug on the floor with our heads on a bolster taken down from a couch. I still hear the up and down intonation of my dad’s voice when I read aloud to myself my own stories-in-progress.
 
Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
As an adult I wrote a fan letter to author Susie Morgenstern after reading her middle-grade novel Secret Letters from 0 to 10. I read it in French. Its themes of silence, abandonment, loss, reconnection and love touched me deeply at a difficult time in my family’s life. I looked for the author online emailed  her, told her a little about myself, and asked her  questions. Nine hours later I got an email back from her. We still exchange emails 20 years later. Writing a fan letter can be a lovely and surprising way to make a new friend.
 
How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
Reading and writing. And more reading and writing.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White made a strong impression on me. Also I’ve worked at Lilith magazine for the last thirty years and I have all along loved seeing how editing makes writing more clear and precise.
 
What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
Gardening. Cooking and baking for friends and family in the days when they could come over for a meal, and looking forward to doing that again one day.
 
Who are your favourite authors now?
This month? Amor Towles, because his A Gentleman in Moscow spoke to me during this pandemic about privilege, confinement, escape and compromise. I was so inspired I’m even considering  reading War and Peace now, though I am a very slow reader.
       But mostly I read middle grade and YA novels. Recent favorites include Merci Suarez Changes Gear by Meg Medina, Anne Blankman’s The Blackbird Girls, a middle grade memoir Free Lunch by Rex Ogle and the YA novel Color Me In by Natasha Diaz. A favorite picture book my grandsons ask me to read to them every time they visit is Rukhsana Khan’s Big Red Lollipop illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
 
BestfriendDo you have a new book coming out soon?
My Best Friend, Sometimes illustrated by Cinta Arribas came out in May from Pow Kids Books. It’s Cinta and my second book together, following I Hate Everyone. Forthcoming from Child’s Play International is a very young picture about watching cars go by.
 
What are you writing these days?
More picture books, I often have as many as a dozen I am tinkering with at the same time.
 
Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I try to write regularly, but often fail.
 
How do you like editing and revising?
 I love editing and revising.  Most of my writing is re-writing.
 
Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I  keep two compost heaps, one on each side of my front stoop, somewhat camouflaged in leaves, torn strips of newspaper and  pulled weeds. And I can sing a Chinese national anthem, ironically learned long ago from a college roommate from Hong Kong, and the Belgian national anthem, learned long ago from my mother.

Thank You, Naomi!

Learn More about Naomi.


Next up: Cathey Nickell

 

 


Author Q&A: Tanya Kyi Lloyd

TANYA KYI LLOYD is the author of more than 25 books for children and young adults. Her most recent works are Me and Banksy (Penguin Random House) and Under Pressure (Kids Can Press). Tanya lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children.

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What was your favourite book when you were a child?
I loved A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. And I still love it today!

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author?
I’m not sure I realized that was possible. I grew up in a small town and while my house was full of books, most of them were classics or hand-me-downs. It wasn’t until high school that I realized authors lived and worked in the real world.

How did you learn to write for children?
After university, I got a job doing graphic design at Whitecap Books, a publishing house in North Vancouver. At the time, they were looking for someone to write a book about famous Canadian Girls. I must have walked by the publisher’s office at just the right moment… The book was Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World, and writing it showed me how much fun children’s books could be to research and create.

What is your favourite activity that has nothing to do with writing?
Picnics! Preferably on a grassy spot near the beach.

Who is your favourite kids’ author now?
That’s a hard one. I admire so many writers. Rebecca Stead is one of my favourite, because she gets the emotional tone of her books so perfect. Rachelle Delaney constantly makes me laugh. I secretly wish I were half as cool as Heather Smith. The list continues…

TK1Do you have a new book coming out soon?
This is Your Brain on Stereotypes (Kids Can Press) comes out in Fall 2020. It’s all about how our brain sorts and categorizes, somethings without our conscious knowledge. I learned SO much while writing it, and I can’t wait for its release!

What are you writing these days?
I just finished the editing changes on a picture book called Our Green City, to be released by Kids Can Press in 2022. (So long to wait!) It’s my first real picture book, and I’ve never had so much fun working on a project. It makes me happy every time I open the manuscript.

Can you share one strange, weird, or wonderful thing about you?
I’m very good at finding things. In our house, “nothing’s lost until Mommy can’t find it.” But I’m thinking of denying people my finding abilities, so they stop losing things so darned often!

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I try to write for a couple hours every morning. Life sometimes gets in the way, but I do my best.

How do you like editing and revising?
I actually enjoy the editing process. I think of editors as people who are trying to make me sound smarter than I really am.

What question do you wish I had asked?
Do you have a writing group?
I have the best writing group ever: Stacey Matson, Rachelle Delaney, Kallie George, Lori Sherritt-Fleming, Kay Weisman, Sara Gillingham, and Holman Wang. They are wise and funny and I’m sure I would get nothing written without them.

Thanks so much, Tanya 
 
Find out more about Tanya and her work.

Next up: Cathey Nickell 


Some days this is what writing looks like – a pome

 

Some days this is what writing looks like
by L J P

Some days it’s a bloody grind
like shoving a heavy load uphill
without knowing what the view will be like
from the top.

It can be a slow slog, a stagger, a plod
With the occasional moment of free flight
lightening the load
especially when there’s someone to lend
a steady hand, a kind word
or a good shove from behind.

The only way to do it is
step by step bird by bird
one word, phrase, line, scene,
page, chapter, section,
after        the        other
accepting that you might not know
what it will look like when it’s done
but with any luck
if you still give a fuck
it will turn out
okay.

And if all else fails
and the dog’s dinner before you
is something even the dog won’t eat

take a break
take a hike
call a friend, turn the page
wash a floor, iron a shirt

or write a pome.

It can’t hurt.

Revising-cartoon


Author Q & A: Mark David Smith


Mark
Smith teaches children by day, and writes for them by night. He lives in Port Coquitlam, BC with his lovely wife, adorable children, and obnoxious cats.
 He is the author of Caravaggio, Signed in Blood.

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What is the book you most clearly remember from when you were a child?
Gordon Korman’s Bruno and Boots books were hilarious—they always created the kind of mischief I wished I had the guts to try. As an alternative, CS Lewis’s sci-fi Perelandra always stood out for me as creepy, weird and fascinating.

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
I never wrote them as a kid, but I’ve written a few now as an adult. My highlight moment came when Ken Follett retweeted me.

How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
I like how you use the past tense, as if that learning is over! Ha! I really benefitted from a book on editing called The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman. I lent it out once and then was terrified I wouldn’t get it back. From now on, friends, get your own copy!

What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
I really like power tools, especially my pneumatic nailing gun. Unlike writing or teaching, construction yields immediate results. I’ve never been good at delayed gratification!

Who is your favourite kids’ author now?
Well, I’m very partial to Mo Willems’s pigeon, and Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series is something I can’t get enough of. For older kids, all things Kenneth Oppel will do!

Do you have a new book coming out soon?
Soon is a relative term in the world of writing. I’ll say, “Yes.” By yes, I mean sort of: I have a picture book coming in the fall of 2021, and then in Spring of 2022 the first of a series of beginning chapter book mysteries, both with OwlKids Books.

What are you writing these days?
I’ve just finished editing a YA historical novel that I’m beginning to shop around, and I’m going back into a few stories I’ve had rejected that I would really like to retool. If a story is rejected but I can’t shake it from my mind, that’s a good indication there’s something there. I just haven’t quite found it yet.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
Who ever feels like it? It’s a compulsion, really. Everybody needs a vice, and I don’t smoke. But I teach full time, and have three school-aged kids, so this compulsion is managed in fits and starts. My regular is somewhat irregular.

Caravaggio_coverspineback_4_Layout 1How do you like editing and revising?
Like exercise: it feels great when it’s done. But that sounds cynical. The truth is I find it satisfying to take a clunky sentence and streamline it so that it zips, or sings, or dances, or whatever metaphor means “it sounds good.”

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
That’s tough. Everyone knows what’s strange about a person except that person. Aren’t I completely, 100% normal? (Don’t ask my children. They’re biased.) I know my wife used to hate the fact that I insisted we not dig into the popcorn before the movie started, but she has broken me of this. Now, what’s weird? I really like brushing the dead fur off of my cats—sometimes I get so much it looks like I’m holding a second pet. I could also pull clover from the grass for hours if I’m allowed. Are the two practices are related?

What is the answer to the one question you wished I had asked?
Chocolate. It probably doesn’t matter what the question is. In fact, I’m thinking I should revise all my previous answers now.

Thanks, Mark!

Find out more



Next up: Tanya Lloyd Kyi

If you or a writer you know one would like to be profiled on my blog, please contact me.


Author Q & A: Barbara Renner

US author Barbara Renner has written eight picture books that all contain facts about wildlife and include QR Codes so the animal calls can be heard.

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What is the book you most clearly remember from when you were a child?
I liked to read mysteries, so the books I remember reading as a young girl are the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. I still have my original collection.

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
No, I don’t recall writing a fan letter to an author. If so, it probably would have been to Carolyn Keene. I wanted to be Nancy Drew.

How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
The creative writing class in high school and a writing class at Arizona State University were very influential in forming my love for writing. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of webinars. I would recommend books by Ann Whitford Paul and articles by Harold Underdown to learn about the craft of writing picture books.

What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
Walking, hiking, gardening, playing golf, and anything outdoors are the activities I enjoy the most. I also love to travel – anywhere and everywhere.

Who is your favourite author right now?
Just one? To name a few, my favorite authors are Kate DiCamillo, Jane Yolen, Lisa Genova and Erma Bombeck

Do you have a new book coming out soon?
The second book in my Trumpeter Swan series, Summer! Time to Search for Food, will be available this summer. I’m also working on a book about my dog, Larry’s Words of Wisdom. It will be ready by the end of the year.

What are you writing these days?
I’m working on two informational fiction picture books. One book is about two female painted turtles who intuitively feel it’s time to leave their lake and find soft, sandy soil. They encounter several dangerous obstacles, one of which is crossing a busy road. The other book is about a roadrunner who wants to compete in a flying contest with his raptor friends. I also write a weekly blog on my website and am making the final revisions to the Larry’s Words of Wisdom book.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
Since I’ve had so much free time lately, I’ve been writing almost every day.

How do you like editing and revising?
Unfortunately, I tend to edit as I write, which is why I haven’t tackled writing a novel . . . yet. After my critique partners give me feedback on my picture book manuscripts, I let them cure for a while, and then I’m ready to revise. Actually, it’s quite exciting to see how the story will change.

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I tend to be a little OCD. My spices are alphabetized, and my desk is either in terrible disarray or well organized with papers in folders and trays.

What’s the answer to the one question you wished I had asked?
What are your plans for the near future?
My friend and I are taking a river cruise up the Rhine River in April 2021, and I want to travel to either Scotland or the Scandinavian countries with my adult children next summer.

Thanks, Barbara

Find out more about Barbara Renner
     Check her website
     Find her books through www.indiebound.org.


Next up: Mark David Smith

If you, or a writer you know, would like to be interviewed, please contact me.

 

 

 

 


Author Q & A : Lee Edward Födi


LEE EDWARD 
FÖDI
is an author, illustrator, and specialized arts educator—or, as he likes to think of himself, a daydreaming expert. He lives a creative life in Vancouver, BC, with his wife, Marcie and son, Hiro.

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What is the book you most clearly remember from when you were a child?
I remember The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which our teacher read to us in school—and all of the Oz books. I loved the wonderful art-deco design and illustrations.

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so,  who to, and did they write back?
As someone who teaches creative writing to tweens and teens, I help my students write fan letters all the time. I’m very passionate about this because, when I was a kid, I don’t think I realized that I could possibly connect with an author that way!

How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
As a kid, I learned to write from reading. These days, I think it’s still the number-one way I learn to write. I read a lot of books for the age-level (middle-grade) and genre (fantasy-adventure) that I write for. I do also read books about writing; the number-one book I love about creativity is Steal Like an Artist (and the two follow-up books, Show Your Work and Keep Going) by Austin Kleon.

What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
I feel like writing oozes into every crack of my life. I do a lot of drawing and prop-building, but those are all inevitably connected either directly or non-directly to my books. I am a big believer in cross-creativity; all things are connected. Even when I’m riding my bike, it’s good thinking time. I work out a lot of story or plot questions while walking or pedaling.

Who is your favourite author right now?
I have many authors I admire. Terry Pratchett is my all-time favorite, but others include Tony DiTerlizzi, Kate Dicamillo, and Linda Sue Park.

LEF3Do you have a new book coming out soon?
My latest book, The Guardians of Zoone, just came out in March and I have a brand-new title coming out in the Fall of 2021 with HarperCollins. I can’t say the title yet, but it’s about a girl who is failing wizard school.

What are you writing these days?
I’m currently in rewrites for the wizard school book I mentioned above and a spare corner of my brain is working on another, unconnected story about a girl who works for a delivery service in a fantasy world.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I’m writing pretty much every day—whether it’s sitting at my computer, doodling in my sketchbook, building a dragon egg, or staring off into space.

How do you like editing and revising?
Whenever I get an editorial letter from my editor, I have this moment of dread because I know she’s going to really, really push my story—and that means a lot of work. But after I’ve absorbed all the changes, ideas, and suggestions she has provided me with, I’m generally feeling left excited and invigorated to dive back into that world. So, I guess you could say I ultimately like it. Emotional stuff is easier for me—figuring out how characters react and respond. It’s piecing and arranging plot points that I find the most challenging. It’s like putting together a puzzle!

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I don’t know if this is wonderful thing, but my students are obsessed with the fact that I hate ketchup. There have been MANY stories written about me facing ketchup, or being poisoned by ketchup (I’m not sure why they think it will poison me), or being drowned in ketchup. In any case, I encourage these stories—when students decide to pick on me in stories, it at least gives them something to write about and it distracts them from picking on each other!

What’s the answer to the one question you wished I had asked? : What is the favourite book you’ve written
The answer: It’s usually the book I’m currently writing or the one that I’m about to write . . . I love the phase of writing a book, when everything is still possible, and all this potential exists. Once the book is printed and released, it has left my creative sphere and then I can no longer play with it!

Thanks, Lee!

Learn more about Lee and his books:
Check out Lee’s website

His books published by Harper Collins
His books published by Simply Read

Lee’s books
The Guardians of Zoone, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2020
The Secret of Zoone, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2019

Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, Simply Read Books, 2015
Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah, Simply Read Books, 2014
Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve, Simply Read Books, 2014
Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger, Simply Read Books, 2013
Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, Simply Read Books, 2013


Next up: Barbara Renner

If you or a children’s author you know would like to be featured, email me for information. 

 


Author Q&A: K.A. Wiggins

 

K.A. Wiggins is a BC writer who writes speculative fiction exploring society, environmental crisis, and identity through intricate, dreamlike tales of monsters and magic.

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Is there a book you most clearly remember from when you were a child?
When I was 5, I spotted a copy of The Hobbit during a move and nagged to read it for two years until I was “old enough.” But I also read The Chronicles of Narnia (all 7!) 3 times a year from age 7-12, so it’s maybe a tie.

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
No way, too scary! I prefer watching from a distance and occasionally liking a Tweet or something.

How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
I’ve read so many books, I think all the words just kind of sunk in.
I tell the kids in my writing workshops it’s the kind of work where you mostly learn by doing. But for those who like research too, the incredible blog at https://kriswrites.com/(also adapted into several books) is my number one recommendation for both aspiring and pro writers. It has both writing and business-for-authors content.

What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
I love making music, particularly in a band. Rock star would have been my second choice of career—but thankfully writing is more quarantine friendly.

 Who is your favourite author right now?
Louise Penny is utterly brilliant, but in kidlit specifically? Brenna Yovanoff is a perennial fave and I cannot wait for Christelle Dabos’s next book to be translated.

Do you have a new book coming out soon?
I do (finally!)

It’s so new the cover hasn’t even dropped yet, But Black the Tides, book 2 in a YA series set in a post-climate-crisis Vancouver with bonus monsters from folklore & legend, is set for a September release
( . . . and might be bumped up even sooner if all the behind-the-scenes pieces fall into place!)

What are you writing these days?
I’ve been doing a lot of creepy (or in one case, gross-out hilarious) short fiction for magazines and anthologies between novels, but my next release has a doozy of a cliffhanger so I’d better get on writing the sequel or my readers will be hunting me down.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I write when I can find the time, and when I have a project to finish, but not on a daily schedule (I believe in taking breaks, or at least weekends!)

How do you like editing and revising?
NOT a fan of editing and revising, but occasionally it’s inevitable.

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I LOVE public speaking—which is super weird to those who know me, and also to all the normal folks who have nightmares about it! The bigger the crowd the better (small groups are stressful!)

Somehow, I’m both a flaming introvert who can happily spend weeks indoors working and also a natural performer and teacher at the same time?

What’s the answer to the one question you wished I had asked?
What’s your number one tip for new and aspiring authors?
I get this all the time in live speaking situations and never manage to spit the right answer out (it’s hard to think and talk at the same time, okay?).

      So here it is: Go create things, go share things, and then move on to the next thing. I 100% struggle with this too, but done is much better than perfect, you learn by trying and FINISHING things, and you build an audience and a career by getting your words OUT into the world. Good luck!

 Read more about the author


Next up: Lee Edward Fodi


Author Q&A: Laura Langston

 

LAURA LANGSTON’s published books include more than twenty for preschoolers, school aged kids and teens. She lives on Vancouver Island, BC.

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What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was one of my favorites.

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to, and did they write back?
I never did. As a child, authors were exalted and unapproachable. In fact, when I told my mother I wanted to be a writer, she encouraged me to find a job that normal people could do. Since I’m not normal, I became a writer anyway.

How did you learn to write for children? And what books or websites helped you learn what you need to know?
I learned by reading and writing.
It’s hard to recommend just one. Some book suggestions: On Writing by Stephen King; A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.

What is your favourite activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading.
Gardening and cooking. They are inextricably linked in my life. Followed closely by travel to places with beautiful gardens and fabulous cuisines.

Who is your favourite kids’ author now?
I have many favorite authors, depending on my mood, what’s going on in my life at the time, etc. I particularly love Michael Morpurgo and I’m just about to start reading Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver.

LL3 (5)Do you have a new book coming out soon? 
My latest YA, No Right Thing was just released by Crwth Press. It’s a character-driven novel about a young woman who learns that one good deed can have unpredictable and far-reaching consequences. It’s my first title with Crwth and they were fabulous to work with.

What are you writing these days?
I tend to juggle multiple projects. I’m currently halfway through a draft of a middle grade novel about a girl who is a hypersensitive; I’m brainstorming my next YA; and I’m working on an adult novel under my Laura Tobias name.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I write regularly, except when I don’t. 😊 I tend to write five days a week, a throwback to my routine when my kids lived at home.

How do you like editing and revising?
I adore editing and revising. It’s probably my favorite part of the writing process. I love to see the story grow and change.

Can you share one weird or wonderful thing about you?
I once travelled to Russia with a group of Swedes. I speak neither Russian nor Swedish.

What question do you wish I had asked…
What’s your secret talent?

I may not know Russian or Swedish, but I am fluent in dog speak.

Thanks, Laura.

Check Laura’s website.
Take at look at the Cwrth Press website

(Next up: Lee Edward Fodi) 

 


Author Q&A : Who will be first? Oh look! It’s me.


I am running some brief  author interviews here –
how often and how many will depend on how many authors
respond to my request.

If you would like to be included, contact me for a list of questions.

I am going to answer them myself first, to give you an idea of what we’ll be talking about.


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What is the book you most clearly remember from when you were a child?
The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier and Laughing Time by William Jay Smith

Did you ever write a fan letter to an author? If so, who to? And did they write back?
I wrote to the British author Malcom Saville when I was about nine. He wrote back. I know it was him because I checked the signature with a wet finger… these were the days when people wrote with pen and ink.

How did you learn to write? What is one writing book or website you’d recommend to anyone else wanting to learn?
I learned most by reading. But the three how-to writing books I would rescue from a fire first are How Fiction Works by James Wood, Writing Personal Poetry by Sheila Bender and Imaginative Fiction by Janet Burroway

What is your favourite hobby or activity that has nothing to do with writing or reading?
I sketch and do photography. (Who knows. One day I might even be able to use my sketches and photos in my work.)

Who is your favourite kids’ author now?
That’s not a fair question. What if I forget some? Okay, Just for now. Frank Cottrell Boyce. Polly Horvath. Linda Bailey. Tim Wynne-Jones…

Do you have a new book coming out soon?
My kids nonfiction book about homelessness should be out in the next year or two. But nothing is certain right now as so much is changing in publishing and everywhere else.

What are you writing these days?
A picture book set in India called The Cranes and the Motorcycle,  a midgrade novel The Midnight Carousel and a UK historical novel about the Children’s Strikes of 1911 called Spare the Rod.

Do you write regularly, or just when you feel like it?
I write when I feel like it, which is pretty regularly. Probably on six out of seven days a week I put in four to five hours writing, now that I am ‘properly’ retired.

How do you like editing and revising?
Love it. But it can be as scary and exciting as a roller-coaster ride. (Actually, it’s better than that – I’ve only been on one once and plan never to do it again.) Editing and revising work can be just as creative as writing the first draft. You never know what might show up.

Can you share one strange, weird or wonderful thing about you?
I’m going to be lazy, and send you here to find out.

 

What’s the answer to the one questions we have not asked.
What’s the favourite book that you have written?
That’s like asking someone who is their favourite child… (Probably The Paper House. Or maybe The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw. Or Silver Rain…) Actually, it might be A Star in the Water. That’s the sequel to my first book Meeting Miss 405. It did not get published, but I made a few limited edition copies that I give away at schools and libraries as prizes. I think I have three copies left.

Star

Cheers for now.

Where to learn more about me and my books:
Right here on my website.
At my publisher’s website
On my Facebook page.


I happily include links to author websites, publisher pages, etc. But I do not include links to Amazon. If you choose to sell through or buy books from them that is your choice, of course. But because of the company’s appalling working conditions and  the way they undermine local independent bookstores, I don’t support them in any way. However, I do understand that for some self-published authors, AZ offers a platform for selling their work.


Writers’ ZOOM Room

I miss my students, classes and classrooms.
I miss teaching.
I miss all that I learn from every writer who crosses my path.

So I am going to do what so many people are doing these days with limited options for personal interaction.
I am going to test run a couple of writing presentations online.

The first presentation on TUESDAY JUNE 2 at 2 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time) is FREE to the first dozen people who sign up. (I know some ZOOM sessions welcome many more participants, but I am going to keep the group small until I can figure out how to make this work in a way that benefits everyone).

 The 75-minute session ‘Reverse Outlining – a novel approach to revision’ is designed mainly for people writing novels – for readers of all ages. But it might also work for anyone writing memoirs. I have presented this in a number of physical venues over the years, and participants seem to have found it useful.

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It came about because while I am not an outliner – which in some circles makes me a ‘pantser’ – I do like systems that help me figure out what I have done and what I still need to do. It’s a process I have used on a number of my own projects, including my last book Three Good Things.

If this first presentation goes well, on alternate weeks following I hope to offer:

  • How to Breathe Life into the Germ of an Idea
    We all get great ideas. This presentation will help you mine your own imagination – and others’ – for ways to bring them to life. 
  • The View from Here: The pleasures and perils of point of view
    Establishing – and maintaining – an effective point of view can make or break a story.
  • Story Craft – considering plot and theme and (almost) everything else
    Story is at the heart of all fiction – and most non fiction and memoir. Explore a handful of ways to develop a story that resonates for the reader.

For these – and subsequent presentations I will suggest a ‘voluntary donation’ – payable by eTransfer or by mailing me paper money – of $5 to $20, which I will ask you to send me after the presentation, if you have found it worthwhile. This will go towards the cost of the annual fee for the ZOOM account, and once that is paid off I will donate all other contributions to the Nanaimo Unitarian Shelter.

Yes. I will be providing handouts – some before and others after the presentation is over.

No. I will not be able to provide follow up critiques or manuscript evaluations.

Yes. I will happily consider suggestions for other presentations and subjects once I know this works for me and those signing up.

Updates on the Writer’s Zoom Room will be posted on my Facebook page. And if it does not work out, I will update you there.

Meanwhile, if you’d like an invite to the first presentation Reverse Outlining, drop me a note and you will hear from me when it’s time to register.


Book Give-Away

Needing a reason to write during these times of isolation and challenge?

I am giving away a copy of my book 101-and more-Writing Exercises to Get You Started and Keep You Going to the first 19 people who contact me.

Email me (with ‘Writing Excercise book’ in the subject line) and I will put a copy in the mailbox asap. To wherever in the world you might be.

When you’ve used it for a while, I’d love it if you’d send a an optional one-line review.

ALSO: nine people – selected at random – will also receive a copy of one of my kids’ books to share in person or virtually with a young reader in your life.

 If you’d like to suggest I send 101 Writing Exercises to a friend or fellow writer instead, I can do that.

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“Were there handouts?”

Writers emerging from classes, courses, workshops and conferences are often asked, “Were there handouts?”

I know that presentations I have attended are always enhanced by something to take home and review. Whether it’s a list of recommended reading, inspiring or useful quotes, informational  tips and strategies, or a list of online resources to follow up on later, they are always helpful.

Many I have hung onto for years, and continue to refer back to.

I have started to post handouts used in current and recent workshops and presentations on the Adult Presentations page of my website here.

Anyone is welcome to use them in any way they like. But when possible, I do ask that you credit them to me and my website.


Deadlines, bloody deadlines

 

Deadlines. Actually, I am a fan of the things. Tell me, “Just send it when you’re ready,” or “Get it to us as soon as possible,” and I will be in a  right royal flap. “What do they mean by ‘ready’? I wonder. “How soon is soon.” “What is possible?”

So give me a date. And whether it’s a writing deadline, grant application, job application or medical test, I will be there.

But what I love even better are deadline extensions. Not the ones I request… I think I have done it once… but those that are granted to me, based on the amount of work the person at the other end is anticipating. And their need for me to hold off on adding my project to their To Do list just yet.

deadlines-crushing-personI like to feel I am being helpful by holding out for a couple of extra weeks.

Which is the case right now.

I took time off work and had scheduled the next ten days down to the last minute. Much of which would be spent on tracking down photos, documenting them, making a spreadsheet of source info, downloading images, and marking up the MS. to indicate where they might go. I also had to do a number of revisions based on the highly useful and insightful notes sent to me by the sensitivity reader, a senior researcher with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness who spent the past three weeks with the manuscript. 

I could have done it. I was fully prepared to hit Send on the whole kit and caboodle on Dec 30 to meet the publisher’s Jan 1 deadline.

But it turns out I now have a couple of extra weeks to play with. Time to dawdle a bit. Plan an unanticipated move that is coming up mid-Jan. Play hooky over the holidays for a few hours. Catch up with a few friends I have overlooked for the past year. Read a book or two.

I can breathe a little easier. 

That for me is the best gift of the season so far .

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL.

 


Step by step

This draft (numbered five, although there have been a number of sub-drafts, too) of my kids’ book on homelessness is nearly done.

But it’s not over yet.

In the next day or so I will be sending it off to a homelessness researcher at York University. She will serve as ‘sensitivity reader’ providing feedback on accuracy, pointing out what I might have ‘got wrong’ in writing about this topic, and I hope letting me know if there’s anything I have not covered that should be there.

I don’t know about how much she knows about writing for this age group. So along with the MS. I will be sending her a few notes about my goal of informing, eliciting empathy and addressing myths around homelessness, without overloading the readers with detail. But at the same time – at the publisher’s request – conveying the situation in the US as well as Canada.

Easey Peasey!

IMG_4084

Photo: L. Peterson The owner of this cart sweeps the downtown streets to help local businesses, and in return is grateful for cash, coffee or a good meal.

While she is reading the book, I will be doing photo and image research. In some cases using images I have received from individuals and agencies. Others sourced from stock photo sites. And a few I have taken myself. These need be logged, and notes placed in the relevant area of the MS to indicate there they might go… about 40 of them!

Once the MS comes back from the sensitivity reader, I will have a couple of weeks to address any issues that she has pointed out, finish compiling the log and notations about images, and submitting it all to the editor by Jan 1.

Then the waiting to hear back about what will need changing, revising, editing, etc. will begin. Always a fraught time. “What if they hate it?”

All in all this nonfiction business is much more complex than writing fiction, in which I just sat around writing ‘whatever came into my head’.

But I have a real commitment and obligation to ‘get this right’. I want the book to be useful, to be accessible, and I hope it will be  a tool to change minds, illuminate an important social topic, and generate empathy in the reader… who I hope will share it with the adults around them, some of whom are sadly lacking the empathy department when faced by something they don’t understand.


What me? Panic?


I’m not really panicking. Honest.

Well, maybe just a bit.

I have just six days to finish a ‘good’ first draft of my non fiction book, so that DB can run through it with his red pencil while I am on my travels.

I am determined NOT to think about the project while I am in Turkey. But I am a bit concerned about how little time there is left before 11 p.m. next Wednesday. My ‘cut-off’ time. (After all, I do need a couple of hours to pack!)

I have been on a roller-coaster of doubt and panic over the past many months. Fiction was easy… kind of. I just had to somehow transfer the mess in my head to the page, then fix it up once it was there in front of me in black and while.

For this project, I have read numerous reports, scanned hundreds of news articles, studied websites and blog postings, sent  emails, juggled phone calls, done interviews, researched picture sources… and there will  be more of everything to do between this first draft and the next.

Some days I feel as if I am on top of it all. At other times, I am not even sure how to get to the point where I would be able to send the MS. to my editor.

 I am very afraid that I won’t be able to a) do justice to the very complex issue of homelessness, and to everyone who lives with it every day, or works to help people find a safe home, b) live up to the expectations of my publisher with whom I have published eight books, and c) do justice to my own need for achievement and perfection.

I can’t do this. I can do this. I can’t do this. You will do this. Maybe it would sound better set to music!

I know the best antidote to fear is action. In the same way I have learned that the best response to writers’ block is to actually write

So I am now going to quit moaning, publish this post, and get on with the job in hand. Because the one thing I have learned in the last few months is that if I am busy working, I can’t panic at the same time.

And as I have so many times before, I will follow the admonishment, “Leap, and the net will appear.”

L

flight

 

 

 


Research #7: Why I quit Google Alerts (which seemed a very good idea at the time)

Every morning for the past few months I woke to find links to about 30-50 recent news articles that related in one way or another to homelessness.

If I didn’t get through them all in the morning – bookmarking some, printing out others, and trying to read through all the selected ones at least once – I tried to get through the rest of them in the late evening before bed.

I started and ended my day with lots of hard information – and harder news. And sometimes – surprisingly often – some good news, too.

(And in between, I was juggling the actual work on the book with my job at the shelter. )

Every day, all day was about homelessness.

But it started taking its toll. I dreaded turning on my computer first thing in the a.m. And found I was not sleeping well at night.

So I’ve quit. Not the job. Nor the book… as the deadline inches ever closer. But I have taken back control of what I read, download and absorb. (This on top of other materials and information that comes my way by other means.)

Now I do it on my time. With a break of some sort either before or after. 

I have cancelled the four alerts. Instead, every few days I very intentionally do a Google search, using one of three subject headings. I spend 45-minutes max. scrolling through, picking out the items that either reflect most closely the topic I am writing about or researching right now, or those that grab me because they offer something new I have not yet delved into.

Then I don’t do it again for another few days.

I have taken back control of what I read, download and absorb. And when.

Over the past three months there has been a lot of repetition in what Google Alerts have  thrown up. Homelessness resisters rally. Shelters get closed. Or open. People speak up. Businesses pitch in. Government set priorities. Researchers publish reports. Campers get moved on. Helpers step forward. Homeless people get fed, clothed, provided with medical attention, food, showers when they need it. Or not. People talk. Individuals tell their story. Or state their case. Children show compassion. Bureaucrats agonize or patronize. Funders provide money. Or withdraw it. Neighbours get up in arms. Or take up arms to help. People collect money. Videos get made. And panned or praised. Newspapers publish letters to the Editors…

I can’t get it all. I can’t read and absorb everything, and still have the energy to keep going.

I no longer dread opening my mail. Instead of being burdened by alerts, almost every day I am buoyed up by responses to my queries and requests. Yes. Please use our photos. Certainly, give me a call. Of course, I will connect you with the person you need to speak to. I am happy to forward that piece of information, study or contact info. Or you can find it here. Do let me know if you need anything more. Keep me posted. Keep going…

Google Alerts proved to be really useful, as long as I needed them

But I’m glad to be done with them, for now. So I can get on with my job, my book, and my life.


Working hard vs hardly working


Sometimes it’s just bloody hard work.

But that’s no reason to stop. 

I’d rather do something hard that was important to me, than drift on doing the easy stuff that just does not matter – to me or anyone else.

Even so. Sometimes this project is just bloody hard work. So I recall – once again – Anne Lamott’s story in her wonderful book Bird by Bird. 

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

And I take her father’s advice to heart.

These days, when I sit down to work I don’t tackle the whole thing at once. I pick a topic, a section, just one simple fact I need to research or write about. And I ‘just get on with it,’ as my own mother might have suggested. 

(Building the book will come later, once I’ve had a chance to review all its various parts and figure out the best spot for each one.)

So today I’m reading up on street newspapers. 

There are more than 100 worldwide, I learned from the International Network of Street Papers’ website. The first one documented was in New York in 1989. But others in other cities may well have started earlier.

Street newspapers usually serve three purposes.

  1. The provide a small income for the sellers who buy them from the publisher at cost, and sell them at a small profit.
    (In the case of the Vancouver publication Megaphone, sellers pay 75 cents a copy and sell them for $2.00. Most of them working regular patches somewhere in the city, where their customer get to know them, and they get to know many of their customers.)
  2. They offer a voice for low-income and homeless people who get to contribute writing and artwork that documents and explores their own lives.
  3. The publications themselves serve to share information about homelessness and poverty-related issues, and advocate for change.

So today I read a few pages of research, wrote a few hundred words, contacted three street newspaper publishers and associations for pics, and in the process set one bird free. 

Excuse me now. I’ve got to fly.

birds