Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Sharon Jennings

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On Writing, with Sharon Jennings

Sharon Jennings talks to Open Book about bringing the story of Charlotte Teeple to life with the illustrated children's book, A Chanukah Noel (Second Story Press, 2010). She and Gillian Newland, who illustrated A Chanukah Noel, will launch their book together at 6 p.m. today, November 29th, at Mabel's Fables Bookstore. Visit our Events Page for details.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book A Chanukah Noel.

Sharon Jennings:

The story is based on the childhood of Charlotte Teeple, Director of the Canadian Children's Book Centre. How did you come across her story, and why did you decide that it needed to be told?

OB:

How did you come across Charlotte Teeple's story, and why did you decide that it needed to be told?

SJ:

Charlotte told me this story several years ago and I knew it would make a great children’s book. I begged her to write it, offering to help, but as she is in the business, she claimed she knew how hard it is to write a kid’s book. I waited and waited and when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I wrote it myself and presented it to her as my gift. We worked on it a bit to correct details that I had forgotten, and then sent it off to Second Story Press.

OB:

Do you have experience with negotiating potentially conflicting traditions and celebrations, as the girl in A Chanukah Noel needs to figure out how to do?

SJ:

Not me! I saw this story from a child’s point of view!

OB:

Did you work together closely with Gillian Newland, your illustrator, in the writing of A Chanukah Noel, or did each of you work on your own part independently?

SJ:

Authors and illustrators rarely work together on a book. Too often the author will try to “direct traffic” and the end result is a frustrated illustrator who isn’t allowed to use her own imagination. Picture books have two storylines — words and art — and they layer up together to create a wonderful creation.

OB:

What was the experience of collaborating on this project like? Did you come to understand the story differently after you saw it through another artist's perspective?

SJ:

I had no idea what the art would look like! Charlotte Teeple had envisioned something very whimsical and imaginary. But the realistic art Gillian created sets such a wonderful mood — I can feel the snow in the air!

OB:

Why have you decided to direct your creative attention towards children?

SJ:

I love writing (and reading) and always worked in publishing and editing. When I had my three children, I found myself dabbling with stories for kids and knew that that is my voice. I have never forgotten how important reading was to me as a child and I love to think that I can give other kids the same experience of living in a story.

OB:

Do you foresee working with Gillian again on another illustrated children's book? What's next for you?

SJ:

Gillian did the fabulous cover for my first novel — Home Free (also published by Second Story Press), so we have been linked before. I love her art and would certainly welcome another co-effort!


Sharon Jennings has written over 60 books for young people — there is nothing she likes to do more than write. Her books have received many nominations and awards, including a Governor General’s Award nomination and a TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award nomination for Home Free (Second Story Press). She has taught writing for young people to adults and toured the country visiting schools and libraries to talk to young readers about her books. Sharon continues to write and edit from her home in Toronto. Sharon Jennings is available for school and library visits. Visit her at her website at www.sharonjennings.ca.

Gillian Newland is an artist living and working in Toronto. She has illustrated a variety of publications ranging from magazine editorial to children’s books. Gillian enjoys eating at restaurants and travelling (especially at the same time). She finds most of her inspiration to draw outside of her studio and she can be found as such, perhaps sketching customers at Starbucks or the animals at the zoo.

For more information about A Chanukah Noel please visit the Second Story Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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