Touring In: British Columbia (Interior)

Craft: Author

Genre: Beginning Readers, Early Chapter Books, Junior Fiction, YA Fiction, Teen Fiction

Ideal Audience Size: 50 (for presentations); 15 (for workshops)

Maximum Audience Size: 75 (for presentations); 25 (for workshops)

Grades: Grades 4-12

Special Equipment: LCD projector or SmartBoard for PowerPoint presentation. When possible, a flip-chart and a small display table would be useful.


Shortlisted for the 2014 Hackmatack Award

Presentation Information

The Story Behind The Cover
Picture all those many novels on library shelves and in bookstores.  How did those stories begin?  What steps did the authors take to finally get all the way to “the end”?

Using her more recent novels as examples, including Road Signs That Say West (Pajama Press 2017), Sylvia Gunnery explains how stories develop from the first spark of an idea, through the writing process (especially the revision stages), then the cover designs, and finally the publication of a book ready for readers.  A PowerPoint of visuals complements this lively and informative presentation with lots of room for students to comment, ask questions, and share their own experiences.

Recommended for Grades 4 – 12.

 Just Write!
In this introductory writing workshop, students will create their own fictional characters and experiment with ways to get them talking and walking across the page.  The strategies Sylvia Gunnery shares have been developed over her many years as an author and as a teacher of writing.  Each activity takes students deeper into their own stories and encourages individual writer’s voice.  By the end of this workshop, they will have a strong sense of who their characters are and where their stories are going.  Follow-up lessons can be provided.

Recommended for Grades 4 – 12.


Book List

Road Signs That Say West
Pajama Press, 2017)

Game Face
(Lorimer, 2013)

Emily For Real
(Pajama Press, 2012)


Personal Best
(Lorimer, 2005 and 2011)

Out of Bounds
(Lorimer, 2004 and 2011)

The Writing Circle
Pembroke Publishers, 2007



Sylvia Gunnery has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil.  But even before that, she made up stories and told them to her older sister across the darkened bedroom they shared in their home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In grade 4, her best friend Donna bought one of her stories for a bag of chips–her very first sale!

Many years later, she began to take herself more seriously as a writer and attended summer workshops at the Banff Centre under the instruction of W.O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and others.  Since then, she has published over 20 books for teens and younger readers, including her newest YA novel Road Signs That Say West (Pajama Press 2017).  Two books in her Lorimer Sports series, Out of Bounds and Game Face, were nominated for the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award.

A recipient of a Prime Minister’s Teaching Award, Sylvia shares her successful classroom strategies in The Writing Circle (Pembroke Publishers 2007).  She has also created Revision Plus (Curriculum Plus 2008),  a student resource that encourages young writers to think critically about their draft writing and to make meaningful changes.

Through writers-in-the-schools programs, festivals, and conferences,  Sylvia gives readings and does workshops with young writers and with educators across Canada. She was honoured with a legacy membership by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia in 2016 and has served several terms as the Atlantic representative for The Writers’ Union of Canada.

 Sylvia lives at Crescent Beach on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.



Game Face

  • Shortlisted for the 2014 Hackmatack Award

Out of Bounds

  • Shortlisted for the 2005 Hackmatack Award

Menace and Mischief

  • Winner of the 2000 Lila Stirling Award (Canadian Authors Association)



“Sylvia’s personal skills allow her to connect with young people, interact on a knowledgeable level and engender a lively dialogue on writing, revision and literature. She uses her own writing experiences, relating how she conceives an idea and follows through. Her energetic and dynamic personality creates a truly wonderful hands-on experience for everyone – students and teachers alike.”

—Mary Eva, high school ELA teacher, Montreal, Quebec

“The students are still talking about your visit. Sometimes it can be very difficult for presenters to engage our students but you did a wonderful job. I really hope they continue to embrace their voice and put pen to paper.”

—Freddy Phillips, grade 7-9 teacher, Sheshatshiu Innu School, Sheshatshiu, Labrabor

“Over the past number of years, Sylvia Gunnery has been collaborating with Forest Heights Community School on writing workshops for grade 10 students with academic challenges.  She brings credibility to workshops as our students know she spent many years in the classroom as a teacher of writing.  During the workshops, she writes with the students and admits to the struggles she has in editing her work to make it better.  Students witness first-hand what writing is like and are more willing to engage in the writing process themselves.”

—Bob Hazelton, high school ELA teacher, Chester Basin, Nova Scotia

“I just wanted to share with you the fantastic experience that the students at West Northfield Elementary had with Sylvia Gunnery!  Her presentation was engaging, informative and ENTERTAINING! Wow, she is a fountain of incredible ideas. Absolutely incredible.”

—Sheila Walters, literacy teacher, West Northfield, Nova Scotia

“Sylvia Gunnery has been instrumental as an advisor and mentor for WRITING ON FIRE, a creative writing program enabling youth to work with professional writers to develop their own writing and build a support network for the future.   Her passion for youth writers never fails to inspire, encouraging and challenging them to find their own voices.”

—Norene Smiley, co-ordinator WRITING ON FIRE, Pugwash, Nova Scotia

“Sylvia’s knowledge of the craft of writing and her ability to develop and facilitate sessions that meet the needs of a variety of skill levels were instrumental in making the workshop series a resounding success. She created a respectful, safe environment for attendees to develop their writing skills. Sylvia was encouraging, intuitive, and professional. The feedback we received from participants in regards to her instruction was extremely positive.”

—Veronica Purcell, co-ordinator, Mahone Bay Fiction Writing Summer Series 2015, Nova Scotia