How did you get started in children’s books?
I did my MA in Children’s Literature at UBC, where we got to study all things children’s books! It’s a great program that includes the opportunity to take some children’s writing courses. That’s where I wrote my first novel, A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius, which was originally my thesis project.
What (or who) inspires your writing or art?
I use a lot of my own childhood experiences as jumping off points for my stories, because I was a kid who had really big feelings that stayed with me long after things had occurred. I also find inspiration from the stories and jokes of my family too.
I also work with kids at the Writers’ Exchange in Vancouver, as well as teaching for the Creative Writing for Children society, and they help me enormously in staying connected to what is important and engaging to kids today.
What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
I adored so many books, so to choose just one is near impossible. I devoured The Babysitters’ Club series, especially on long road trips. But my two favourite books were The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. The Dark is Rising has such an amazing use of weather as a plot device, and I still love reading it every winter when it gets cold and snowy. And The Neverending Story sounds like my dream: a book that continues forever AND you get to eventually be the hero in the story? What future author wouldn’t adore that?!
How can teachers use your books in the classroom?
There are downloadable PDFs on the Scholastic Canada website to help garner some ideas for activities and discussions surrounding each book. These are great, and offer up a wide range of possibilities, from writing plays to drawing doodles like Robbie does in the books. There are also opportunities to interact with the book’s characters, by having the students write emails to Arthur Bean and actually send them to his email address in the book to get responses!
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
School presentations is my favourite part of being a writer. I love talking to students about the challenges I had as a kid writing, and connecting with them on the frustrations that come with being creative sometimes. It can seem so easy, but I think it’s great for them to hear that authors struggled too! I’m also looking forward to getting to see all these different places, from areas of Toronto I’ve never been in, to small towns with great ice cream!