Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Kim Firmston

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Kim Firmston is a real life mutant - though one without any cool powers. When she is not writing or cursing obvious villain mistakes, she warps young minds in her Reality is Optional Kid's Writing Club and DramAntics Youth Theatre Camp. Kim has written and produced many plays, had a few short stories make it into print, and published four novels, with a new one coming out in the spring. Kim encourages play, be it in her classes or on her interactive websites. She has also been known to build diabolical devices out of cardboard and old chip bags with prominent DO NOT PUSH buttons.

Kim's teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

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The Dirty Dozen, with Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is Open Book's November 2013 Writer in Residence. In her answers to the Dirty Dozen interview, Kim tells us about the craziest thing she's ever done, her nickname, her big dream and more.

  1. If you couldn’t make money in the writing business, what else would you be doing?


By Kim Firmston

From the publisher's website:

Ethan is trying his hardest to get some attention from his family, but his dad's focus is always directed towards troubled stepsister Haley. When a dark secret threatens to destroy his family life, Ethan turns to his hacking skills to figure out who to believe: his father or Haley. He must also deal with the fact that he has spent his life striving to be just like his dad, someone he may not really know — or want to be — at all.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

All Is Revealed

This is my last blog as Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto. That's kind of sad. So as I exit the stage I thought I'd give all of you a chance to get to know me better. So I ask for questions and I got them, some more coherent than others. I will do my utmost to answer them all. So here we go with a peek into the mind of Kim Firmston (hold on tight, it's going to be a bumpy ride). Oh, and don't mind the Do Not Push buttons. If you leave them alone all will be well. If you touch them - well, let's just say, you've been warned. . .

Introducing a Young Writer - Jessie Tollestrup

I first met Jessie Tollestrup at WordsWorth. She had put on a red hat that lay on the table, scattered among the other costumes, and I must say she looked fabulous. She's a soft spoken nineteen year old who will blow your mind the minute she hits the stage. She writes her own music, composes lyrics, and is an awesome prose and poetry writer. She hails from the prairies and you can see that influence in her eyes which seem to see things far in the distance. You will see Jessie Tollestrup soon. You will hear her on the radio. You will watch as she becomes something so big that the prairies themselves will seem tiny by comparison. But right now, she plays gigs in Vancouver and busks to make ends meet.

I introduce young writer Jessie Tollestrup:

Ask a Question

Hello Open Book Toronto!

Well, it's been a blast blogging for you for the past month. Only two days left in my time here and I've been thinking. I've interviewed so many great writers over the past month, I thought I would share a little bit about myself for a change. So here's the deal: on the my last day as Writer in Residence (Saturday November 30th) I will answer all the questions anyone has ever asked me about writing, teaching, and mentoring. AND if you out there on the interweb have questions too - ask away. Just send them into here or use the CONTACT KIM area of my website. Simple.

Two Young Writers and One Reason

So I've spent the past month introducing all of you avid Open Book Toronto readers to some up and coming young writers. But why? I mean, who knows if any of these kids are going to make it in the harsh world of writing? Well, one has to start somewhere and really anyone can interview someone once they have become established. My aim is to catch the genesis, the spark, the glowing ember before the big bang. That's harder. I want to show the world who is next on the writing front. Will I get it right every time? Probably not, but what fun is safe? Besides, maybe just validating young writers makes the probability become a reality.

Changing the Rules

I remember one Girl Guide camp I went to as a leader. It was district camp with a good fifty girls in attendance. One afternoon the girls were given an activity which involved answering questions about the Queen of England in exchange for ribbons they could display proudly on their camp hats. The answers to the questions were in articles displayed on posters around the building. The questions were in a separate room. The girls had to pick a question, memorize it, and find the answer before going to claim their ribbon.

Introducing a Young Writer - Mary Innes

Mary Innes is a girl who is just, just starting her life as a writer. She is still in high school and has a long road ahead of her. But talent! Man, this girl's got it. Her writing is stunning and disturbing. She can weave words like someone twice her age. And she's clever. Frighteningly clever. So let me introduce you to her:

Presenting young writer - Mary Innes.

KF: How old are you?

MI: Physically or mentally? Physically I am sixteen, but mentally I can be anywhere from about four to thirty depending on the situation.

KF: When did you start writing?

A Review of Nix Minus One by Jill Maclean

I bought Nix Minus One by Jill Maclean, published by Pajama Press, on a whim. I’d heard a good review of it on the CBC children’s book panel right before summer started and thought it would be a great read. Then I opened it. It was poetry. That was the end of the book for me. I don’t read poetry. I don’t get most of it. So I shut the book. A month passed and I was bored. I needed something to read so I thought I might give it a try. I mean, why not. If nothing else I could use it as a pillow while I lounged in the back yard.

A Great Day - Teaching and Dr. Who

Today two exciting things are happening in my life, well one has already happened and one is about to. They are:

Dr. Who's 50th anniversary episode is airing. I am a huge fan of the show. I've been watching it since I was very young. Also, the first episode aired on my birthday. Granted - I wasn't born until a few years later. Still, me and the show, we have a connection.

And second: I got to teach writing to some wonderful young immigrants. I've just finished my last class in a project put together by the Calgary Public Library and YMAP - which is out of the YMCA. It's a project which pairs four groups of immigrant youth (one from each quadrant of the city) with a team of writers with the goal of helping the kids write their immigrant story.

Maxine Bennett – Writer and Teacher

Twenty three year old Maxine Bennett is at the beginning of her career. She has a great knowledge of both writing and theatre and loves to share that knowledge with those younger than her. She has a passion to teach and has done this through her work as an interpreter at Dinosaur Provincial Park. Maxine is boundless in her energy when working with young writers. She is truly a mentor to those around her. I’m sure one day, her name will be mentioned as the reason notable writers got started in the craft.

I present, an interview with Maxine Bennett – writer and teacher.

KF: Why did you decide to start teaching?

A Review of Eldritch Manor by Kim Thompson

Eldritch Manor by Kim Thompson, and published by Dundurn Press, has a rather unassuming cover, plain yellow with a black ink picture of a fairy that could have easily come out of any sixties Field Guide to Fairies book. And I know, because I own one. The thing is, that’s what intrigued me. Given the cover, I thought the treatment of fairies and other mythical creatures would be true and accurate. I was right.

Top Ten Writing Games for Kids

I love teaching kids writing and the way I like teaching is through games. Games, as I’ve said before, are the no fail way to get across almost any idea. In fact, there hasn’t been many concepts I’ve come across that I haven’t been able to make into some kind of game. And yes, even older teens like playing games.

So here are my top ten writing games to play with kids.

Introducing a Young Writer - Jay Lewis

I first met Jay Lewis at WordsWorth youth creative writing residency. I was struck by her confidence and poise. This was a girl who knew where she was heading and was bound and determined to get there no matter what stood in her way. Later, when I posted a message on Facebook about looking for an artist to create the cover of my upcoming self-published book, Boiled Cat, Jay offered her services. She was seventeen, and after looking at her art, took her up on her offer. I love the cover of Boiled Cat. It’s awesome and makes me break out in a big grin every time I see it.

A Review of Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce

Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce, published by Dundurn press, is a great YA, sci-fi book. I haven’t read one of those for quite a while so it was nice to get back in the groove.

Lisa Murphy Lamb on WordsWorth

Remember how I said there were some amazing writing places for kids in Canada? Well here’s another. WordsWorth is a fantastic writing camp for kids which I have had the honour of teaching at for the past five years. I’ve always had a blast every year I’ve been there. The kids do too and many of my young writing friends attend the camp year after year. WordsWorth is a writing camp based out of Calgary, Alberta, and it’s a magical place. To learn more about it, and share it with you, I pinned down Lisa Murphy Lamb, WordsWorth’s director, for a chat.

What is WordsWorth?

Gail Sobat on YouthWrite

There are some pretty amazing places for kids to learn writing in Canada. One of them is called YouthWrite. It’s based out of Edmonton and run by Gail Sobat. Gail was one of the first people to hire me as a youth writing teacher outside of my community. She has a great sense of fun and loves to impart the knowledge of writing and creating to young people by bringing in some pretty amazing writers and artists to work with them. Recently I pinned Gail down for a virtual interview about her program.

What is YouthWrite?

YouthWrite is a camp for kids who love to write…just about anything!©

Who can attend?

Anyone between the ages of 11-19.

My Experiences with Traditional Vs Self-Publishing

This past spring I launched two young adult books, Touch by Lorimer SideStreets and Boiled Cat by CreateSpace. Lorimer is a traditional Canadian publisher who puts out Hi/Lo books for kids and teens. CreateSpace is a print on demand publisher for those interested in putting out their own work. Many people I talked to earlier that year were surprised that I, a published author, was dabbling in the self-publishing market, then they wanted to know which was better.

A Review of A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey

Teddy is a troublesome boy according to the principal of his school as well as his mother’s “meathead” boyfriend, the used car salesman who doesn't get along with Teddy in the least. It’s not hard to see where Teddy’s anger comes from. He’s alone in the world. Abandoned by his father, who he used to be close to, cast off by his mother in preference for her boyfriend, and lobbed into St. Iggy’s, a boys’ school run by Catholic Brothers who use religion as a weapon. Teddy finds a best friend in Tim Cooper, another boy who also has been abandoned by his mother’s poor choices. It seems Teddy and Tim will be all right though as they make plans to run away together. But when Father Prince comes in the night and calls Tim out of bed, everything changes.

An Interview with Lorna Schultz Nicholson, Canadian Children’s Writer

I first met Lorna Schultz Nicholson when I took a course on children’s and YA writing at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. I loved how enthusiastic she was about writing for kids. Lorna Schultz Nicholson works in both fiction and non-fiction, writing for youth and adults, and has helped some pretty big names in hockey tell their stories. She is passionate about getting kids into reading and is very knowledgeable about the youth she writes for. That all said:

I bring you, Lorna Schultz Nicholson.

When did you start writing?

Forward Pass by Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Known for her hockey books such as Holding and Puckster's First Hockey Game, Lorna Schultz Nicholson writes for all ages and in a bunch of genres, however what she is known best for is her hockey books. Now she is expanding her sports writing with the young adult series, Podium Sports Academy, published by Lorimer. Forward Pass is not about a hockey player, but instead about a soccer goalie named Parmita.

Introducing a Young Writer from Long Ago

I’m not sure when Doreen Jones first started writing. Given how this kind of thing goes I would say it was probably around the same time as she was mixing fragrant wild flowers into potions for her friends and dolls. Or maybe it was closer to the time when she got the lizard and the two Australian boarders who shared her home proved to her that lizards ate crickets and not ants eggs as told to her by the shop keeper.

An interview with Sebastien Ringuette

Sebastien Ringuette is a multi-talented artist and writer. His comics and art appears many places some of which are The Aversion Bureau and the interactive website for my novel, Boiled Cat, where he took the minor character of the band’s cat and gave him a story of his own. When I hired Sebastien to do the comics for my website my instructions were – do whatever you want. The comic story that he came up with still makes me double up with laughter and explains a few of the unexplained events in the novel.

He’s young, brilliant, and someone well worth watching as he grows into one of our country’s foremost comic creators. I give you:

My SideStreets Novels and How They Came About

The first novel I ever sold to Lorimer SideStreets was Schizo. It’s about a kid named Dan whose mother is slipping further and further into schizophrenia. In the book Dan tries to maintain a normal life for both himself and his little brother but things aren't going well. I picked the subject matter for Schizo from my past. When I first left home I fell in with a bunch of street kids, one of whom was rumoured to have a schizophrenic mother. He would always show up to hang out late at night after, it was said, he was sure his little brother and mother were safely asleep. I never questioned him about whether these stories were true or not.

Children’s Editors Part Two – Christie Harkin

In yesterday’s blog I told you about how Carrie Gleason moved from Lorimer Publishing to Dundurn. Now I’ll fill you in on the woman who took her place.

Christie Harkin was a publisher and editor for Fitzhenry & Whiteside, recently she’s moved to an editorial position at Lorimer and I don't think they could have picked a more suitable person to fill their ranks. Harkin is a former homeschool mom and high school teacher and she seems to really care about the writers she works with. But don’t let me tell you, see for yourself:

Presenting Christie Harkin

KF: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

CH: I always thought I’d become a teacher. That was my main focus right up until university when I started tutoring.

Children’s Editors part one – Carrie Gleason

There has been a bit of a shakeup in the Canadian publishing world. Recently two editors have shifted places. Here, in part one, we will learn about one shining personality in the editorial field, Carrie Gleason.

Playing Writing With Kids

Although I do write for children and teens, and that is an amazing pastime which occasionally makes me some money — what I really love to do is write with kids. As I said in my Dirty Dozen, I much prefer kids over adults. Kids are clever. They take risks. They grow.

I run a number of projects where I work directly with kids in a creative atmosphere. One of my biggest endeavors is the Reality Is Optional kids’ writing club, or RIO as we generally call it. RIO is NOT a class, as the kids who attend will tell you loudly if you accidentally call it that. In fact, they proudly proclaim they learn nothing at RIO, which isn't entirely the case. The thing is they do learn, but not from lessons. They learn by playing.

Writing for Kids - an Interview with Arthur Slade

I first found out about Arthur Slade after my friend Lynn Fraser, editor for FreeFall magazine, took a class with him. She was raving - in a good way - about what a talented author and great teacher he was. When I asked what he had written Lynn directed me to the book, Dust, winner of the 2001 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature.

Later I picked up Jolted and read it with my daughter. That was an amazing book. It was so funny and I loved the pig (trust me, the pig is great). My daughter wanted more - so we picked up The Hunchback Assignments featuring Modo, a shape shifting spy. The series was so awesome.

Introducing a Young Writer - Sebastien Wen

Sebastien Wen is a nineteen year old writer and musician. When I met him years ago I knew this would be someone to watch and he has not failed my first intuition. Sebastien has a great philosophy towards writing and is a wonderful mentor for other young writers. Want to see him? He'll be at the poetry slam Nationals starting tomorrow in Montreal along with poets from across Canada. Definitely worth checking out if your are in the area.

So are you ready to meet this young writer? Perfect! Now presenting Sebastien Wen:

KF: When did you start writing?

I Exploded the Soap

I have almost no soap left in the house because I exploded my reserves. Let me explain. I saw this video on line that showed how Ivory soap blows up in the microwave. So I tried it. A few times. My soap never got as big and awesome as the video and, after a bit of research, I found out why. The experiment only works with fresh Ivory soap, not stuff that has been sitting in the bathroom for six months or so. Hmmm. The bars were too big now to use easily, so I chucked them. Now I’m running out of soap and I wish I had some of those gigantic spongy bars of fluff. Oh well, live and learn.

Introducing a Young Writer - Nemo Magnan

Twenty-one year-old Nemo Magnan is already well on her way to achieving her dream of being a full time writer. I met this exceptional young lady while teaching at WordsWorth youth writing residency in my first year and now am very pleased to call her a friend. She’s someone to keep an eye out for. You’ll be seeing a lot of her in the years to come. So let me introduce to you:


KF: When did you start writing?

NM: Six like everyone else. For fun? Sixth grade so twelve-ish.

KF: Who or what influenced your writing?

Teaching Writing Backwards

Last night I was having tea with a couple of my non-writer friends, Jeremy and Barbara, while our children went trick-or-treating. The conversation turned to education. I complained how frustrated I was with how my daughter was being taught writing in school. I believed writing was being taught backward – grammar and spelling first, writing second.

In my early life, as a childcare provider, I spent a lot of time watching young kids explore new things. Take glue for example. Kids pour it out, squish it in their hands, eat it, stick it in their hair, and try to figure out how to work with it. Yes, a lot of glue is wasted, it’s a bit of a mess, but young kids aren't trying to adhere one piece of paper to another, they are discovering glue.


The three main things I focus on in my life are writing for youth, teaching youth writing, and youth writers themselves. With the exception of only a couple of my plays, everything I write is either for youth or in conjunction with youth. I teach at WordsWorth youth writing residency in the summer, as well as DramAntics (a theatre camp for kids), and RIO Word Adventure Camp (where the kids actually plan the camp – as scary as that sounds). During the rest of the year I run Reality Is Optional kids’ writing club or RIO as the kids prefer to call it. In these awesome programs I meet some pretty amazing writers, both seasoned and new.

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.