Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Both Sides, Now: An Interview with Vikki VanSickle

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Both Sides, Now: An Interview with Vikki VanSickle

Vikki VanSickle and I have a few things in common; from our alliterative names and a love of all things kidlit, to the fact that, in addition to writing books, we also work in publishing. It's not always an easy balance, but Vikki handles it with style and grace. And it's shaping up to be a particularly big year for her; her fourth novel, Summer Days, Starry Nights, is a finalist for the Ontario Library Association's Red Maple Award, and she has both a digital non-fiction short and a picture book on the horizon. We chatted a bit about what it's like working on both sides of the desk.

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Which came first, your first publishing credit or your first publishing job?

It depends what you consider a publishing job. My first book WORDS THAT START WITH B (2010) came out before I started at HarperCollins (2011), but I was the manager at The Flying Dragon Bookshop from 2007 to June 2011. I consider my bookstore job to be my first publishing job. I credit so much of what I know about books and publishing to my years working at the store. It was a great place to learn about books, readers, and the industry.

How do you find working in publishing affects your writing?

Working in publishing doesn't affect my writing, but it does affect how I work with my publishers as a writer. Before I started working in publishing I thought of it as a mystical, unknowable process, not unlike alchemy or fortune telling. Now that I've seen (and worked) behind the curtain I am even more thankful for the wonderful publishing teams I've been fortunate enough to work with. I have a greater understanding of the scope of publishing and the hard work various people put into the success of a book. Working in publishing has also made me aware of the importance of social media and self-promotion. You never know when you're going to meet your next reader.

How do you balance your time between working and writing?

I've always written while working full time, so it's a balance act I am very familiar with. I like to write first thing in the morning before going to work and I allow myself leisurely stretches of time to write on the weekends. I try to write at least three days a week. Generally my productivity comes in fits and spurts and I can never seem to write longer than two hours at time.

What's the best part about your job? Have you had a high point in your working life?

There is a lot of overlap in the things I love about my job at Penguin Random House (where I am currently the marketing and publicity manager for the young readers' program on the Penguin side of things) and the things I love about being a writer. I work with passionate, intelligent and wildly funny people who constantly inspire me to do the best that I can. I also get to work with children and see firsthand the difference books make in their lives and that never ceases to be rewarding.

How about a high point in your writing life?

I have a list about a mile long of the wonderful things that have happened to me in my writing career, but one of the most recent highs was being nominated for the 2015 Red Maple Award alongside some of my favourite Canadian authors. Having been to the Forest of Trees celebration at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto as a publicist for the past four years and witnessed the mania first hand, it is extremely exciting to attend as an author.

What advice would you give to someone interested in working in publishing?

Work in a book store, go to book events, talk to book people and read. Read, read, read.

How about advice to aspiring authors?

Read everything, write about something that matters to you, set yourself deadlines, and then do your research before approaching an agent or a publisher. Learn to get comfortable with patience, the most elusive of virtues. Anything that's worth having is worth waiting for.

Vikki VanSickle is a devoted and well-respected member of the Canadian children’s book industry. She is the author of the acclaimed Clarissa books, including WORDS THAT START WITH B (CBA Libris Awards Children’s Book of the Year Finalist), LOVE IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD (Indigo Kids Best Book of 2011), and DAYS THAT END IN Y (Best Books for Kids and Teens selection). Frequently referred to as “Canada’s Judy Blume,” Vikki’s most recent middle grade novel, SUMMER DAYS, STARRY NIGHTS, has been called “Summer reading at its best” and is a finalist for the 2015 Red Maple award. After obtaining an MA in Children’s Literature from UBC, Vikki’s career began in bookselling at The Flying Dragon Bookshop, which earned her the 2011 CBA Young Bookseller of the Year award. She is a popular children’s lit blogger and is frequently called upon to speak about kids’ books for radio panels, conferences, and as Lainey Gossip’s YA mentor! Currently she balances writing with her duties as the Marketing and Publicity Manager for Young Readers at Penguin Canada.

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.

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