Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Horsing Around

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Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Annick Press office, choosing photos for my book about horses that will be published in 2015 (title still to be determined). I wrote about horses in Why Do Horses Have Manes? but this new book uses the focus of horses to look at important events in world history. Kids can read about famous steeds ranging from Bucephalus (Alexander the Great’s horse) to Sea Biscuit (the Great Depression’s amazing race horse — go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... to watch him beat War Admiral). The manuscript also includes the story of the Pony Express, pit ponies (the little horses that helped workers mine coal and minerals) and North America’s mustangs.

As well, I was delighted to discover the tale of Sybil Ludington, who rode her horse, Star, to warn American patriots during the American Revolutionary War. Never heard of her? At just 16 years old, she rode about twice as far as the much-more-famous Paul Revere, all alone and over much more dangerous territory. She kept going through a dark and stormy night (Revere had a clear evening) and made it home again the next morning without being caught by the British — unlike Paul Revere.

The photos we need for the book include a Przewalski’s horse (did you know this is pronounced shu-VAL-skees?), the forgotten Black jockeys of American horse racing (at the first Kentucky Derby, almost all of the riders were African-Americans, but a few decades later they were blocked from participating), ancient saddles (elaborate and uncomfortable), horses in armour, a poster for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show (he had been a Pony Express rider) and many, many more.

I love photo meetings — they’re when I finally start to get a sense of the book becoming a reality and how it’s going to look. And I get to work with a great group of incredibly creative people. As a writer it’s fun to feel part of a team, all gathered together to make my words look as fascinating and involving as possible.

This is the fourth book I’ve had the pleasure of working on with photo researcher Sandra Booth, and she always amazes me with the creativeness of her photo searches and how cheerfully she agrees to look again for a "better black mustang" or a “chunkier looking pony.” Sandra also has the difficult job of reining us in when the rest of choose too many budget-busting photos — and again, she does it so pleasantly!

Even at our first meeting, before seeing any photos, the wonderful designer Sheryl Shapiro had ideas for the look of the book. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be another fabulous looking one! I’m amazed at all the things Sheryl considers when choosing photos for a book. “Will this photo make a kid stop and want to really look at it,” she asked at one point. That sure made us all stop and think. “There are getting to be a lot of battle scenes in the book,” she observed later. She was right and that doesn’t really fit with the feel of the book, so we chose something else.

Managing editor Katie Hearn represented Annick’s needs and views. But she didn’t hesitate to weigh in on her favourite images, which often made us all reconsider. The book’s editor, Chandra Wohleber, wasn’t at the meeting but was very present in every perfectly edited phrase and beautifully placed comma. Thank you, Chandra!

Here are a few quotes from yesterday’s meeting:
“Does that thrill anyone’s heart?”

“That’s a pretty chunky looking pony.”

“To #e!! with Paul [Revere]!” (Can you tell we all feel history has given Sybil Ludington a raw deal?)

“I love him — he’s so smug!” (this was in reference to a sauntering Clydesdale, NOT Paul Revere!)

The other books I’ve worked on with Sandra and Sheryl are Royal Murder, Bones Never Lie and Secrets Underground. Just before my meeting yesterday, we were given advance copies of the last one. It’s so exciting to finally see the book you’ve been working on for months, and it was great to be able to celebrate with the creative team all together.

And what is Secrets Underground. all about? Stay tuned!

And Another Thing …
Painter Emily Carr was born 142 years ago today. Just a few weeks ago, her painting The Crazy Stair sold for $3.39 million, which is the most ever paid at auction for one of her paintings. It’s also the highest figure ever paid for a work by a female Canadian artist, as well as the fourth-most valuable piece sold at Canadian art auctions.

Some people are still surprised to discover that not only was Carr a writer, but her book Klee Wyck (it means Laughing One and was the name given to her by Native people on British Columbia’s west coast) won a Governor General’s Literary Award.

And if you’re feeling too old to write your first book or paint a masterpiece, think again: no one really noticed Carr’s art until she was 57!

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

2 comments

I seem to vaguely remember those quotes! Great entry! I love working on your books. They are always interesting. You are too kind as usual.

I take great hope from the story about Carr!

Hey -- check google today! It's honouring Emily Carr too!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page