Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


writing for young readers

One of the benefits of writing for young people is getting letters from kids who are enthusiastic readers, and who have very strong opinions about where a story has gone wrong and where they think it should go. I received a packet in the mail yesterday from the grade 6 class at St. Michael's School in Victoria. They had all read I Am A Taxi, and sent me the next chapters they had written in Diego's story. I was really impressed by the quality of their writing, and by their imaginations and their grasp of the situation Diego was having to deal with. We do tend to remember the books we read when we were young - the phrases and the characters become ingrained in our brains - so its a real honour to be a part of kids' lives through books.


I just received what I hope are the final rounds of notes from my editor on the fall book. Shelley Tanaka is the editor on this project, and she is brilliant in her ability to get to the heart of a story, simply and clearly.
This is a non-fiction book, of interviews, and one of the challenges is to bring forward the kids' voices, coupled with the background information that readers will need, without cluttering it up with my opinions and biases. Shelley is great at pushing me out of the way so that the important stories and voices can come through.

One Night At the Call Center

I just finished reading One Night At The Call Center by Chetan Bhagat - a wonderful book giving a glimpse into the lives of some young people working at a telephone call centre in Gurgaon, India, and about the choices we make and the responsibility we have for our own happiness.

Worked a couple of midnight shifts at the shelter over the weekend. Walked to work as the storm swirled over the town. The roads weren't ploughed and the town was silent without cars. I got to spend my shifts with brave women, and came home in the morning to the neighbour kids sledding down the mountains in the yards. It was a good weekend.

The shape of things to come

Not the most original title, certainly, but it does hit the nail on the head for what I want to say for my last (and sadly) very tardy blog entry for my time as the February WIR here on Open Book Toronto. These words come out of my earlier entries where I kicked around the idea of electronic readers. So here goes. Blechta pontificating. This is only my two cents and you're welcome to agree or disagree as you see fit. I'm only stating what I think.

Binti's Journey

Two weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Theatre Direct's performance of Binti's Journey, the play they created out of my novel, The Heaven Shop. I was completely blown away by the performances and by the adaption by Marcia Johnson. The performers are Lisa Codrington, Sefton Jackson, Jajube Mandiela, and Dienye Waboso, and they couldn't have been more perfect as they inhabited different characters from the book. There is one more public performance of the play coming up, on March 8, at 2:30 pm, at the Taragon Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave, 416-531-1872. They've been performing it for school crowds, and plan to bring it back again next fall.

International Women's Day

A big storm passed through Ontario yesterday. I was scheduled to speak in Oakville at their International Women's Day event, and as I was chipping the ice off my car, I had one of those grumpy internal dialogues - "Why did I agree to go to Oakville? I don't want to be driving today! Why don't I just stay home - after all, it's just another International Women's Day event!"

back home

Got home from Fairbanks yesterday. Flew to Alaska via Las Vegas, which was a little strange, but the high comedy came when I had to change planes - and terminals - there. To go from one terminal to another in Vegas you have to go outside and catch a bus. There wasn't much time between flights, so I had to dash like mad, wearing full winter woolies and big clompy Canadian snowboots, past folks in shorts and sandals. Missed the connections on the way there and spent a night on the floor of the Anchorage airport, awakened by a security guard who said I was close to being considered a security risk.

Hello from Alaska

I'm writing this from Fairbanks, Alaska, where I've been speaking at a conference for Alaskan Librarians. It's been great meeting these folks and learning from their experiences. As one librarian said to me yesterday, "Sometimes we are the most dangerous people in the village, since we are ways people can get information."

And as my time here draws to a close...

Nearly a month has gone by and I'm actually getting a bit nostalgic here about Open Book Toronto. It's either that or the slice of pizza I had for lunch.

It was pretty daunting starting out. I mean, in this case, what is a writer-in-residence supposed to do? Maybe I should have talked more about how I write, or my philosophy of writing, but that can get pretty boring, pretty quickly. Sometimes I doubt I know what I'm doing, so how can I pontificate about "how it's done?" That would be pretty bogus.

Maybe I should have talked about how I develop characters. Okay. It's not too late for that.

Finding Home

Most of us have known him only as a writer of police procedurals. As a matter of fact, Eric Wright is one of the grand old men of Canadian crime fiction. Lately, though, he's taken to producing novels that are definitely not cut from the cloth of police and criminals, but based on seemingly more mundane things. Finding Home, his 2007 book for Cormorant, does have a bit of mystery in its plot to be certain, but this is more of a sidebar to the structure of the book.

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