Get To Know the 2019 Touring Creators Part 1

Get To Know the 2019 Touring Creators Part 1

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It’s the week before Book Week and we’re getting to know the 28 touring authors, illustrators and storytellers better before they travel to 175 communities across Canada.

Do you have a touring creator coming to your community? Get to know them beforehand with these interviews.

Marty Chan
Kallie George
Rachel Dustan Muller
Beverley Brenna

 

Marty Chan


Marty Chan loves to write. Before he became a kids’ author, he worked in theatre, radio, and television. Now his passion is inspiring the next generation of lifelong readers and writers. Using a combination of storytelling, improv, humour, and stage magic, he shares his love of words with audiences young and old. Marty’s first young adult novel, The Mystery of the Frozen Brains, is a hit with young readers across Canada. Another three books in the Marty Chan Mystery Series followed, including The Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, which won the 2007 Diamond Willow Award. Marty lives and works in Edmonton with his wife, Michelle. When he’s not writing, Marty dabbles in his other passions: learning stage magic and playing video games.

 

Do you have any advice for any young, aspiring creators out there?

Write your first draft like you’re a secret agent who has to get a message to your boss before the enemy catches you. Then revise, revise, revise and revise some more.

For the touring creators, Book Week involves a lot of traveling. What one book and one other item are your travel essentials?

For this trip, I plan to bring a book on cartooning so that I can learn how to draw, and I will have my Rubik’s Cube so I can practise solving it. I hope to be able to solve it in 45 seconds.

What are you most excited for about Book Week? Is there anything you’re nervous about?

I prepared some really fun Asian folktales that combine storytelling and stage magic. I can’t wait to try it out on some of the younger audiences. I’m petrified that my GPS will give me the wrong directions and I’ll end up driving into Lake Ontario. I guess I’d better pack my swim trunks.

What is one random fact about yourself that might surprise people?

I once worked as a mascot for an entertainment company. My most embarrassing moment was when I had to dress up as boxing kangaroo and let celebrities “beat” me up. Ms. Edmonton, a beauty pageant contestant walloped me so hard, she spun my fake head to the side and knocked my glasses off inside the suit. To this day, I can’t look at a mascot without cringing.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Teachers can use my books as read-alouds to catch the interest of reluctant readers. The humour in the books works well for boys, and the cliffhangers keep the kids on the edge of their seats. I also like to play around with figures of speech in my books, so teachers can make a game out of spotting metaphors and similes in the books.

 

Find out more about Marty Chan at his official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Kallie George


Kallie George is an author, speaker and instructor of creative writing workshops. She has a master’s degree in children’s literature from the University of British Columbia. She has worked in the publishing industry and been a picture book editor for a number of years. She has written many acclaimed, award-winning books for young readers including the chapter book series, The Heartwood Hotel and The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, and her latest, a middle grade series, Wings of Olympus. Her picture books include, Duck, Duck, Dinosaur, Secrets I Know, The Lost Gift, and The Doll Hospital. Her early readers include the Tiny Tales series, and Anne Arrives, inspired by Anne of Green Gables. When she is not writing or editing, she’s teaching creative writing workshops through Emily Carr University and CWC (Creative Writing for Children). She lives in Vancouver BC, with her husband and her brand-new son.

Do you have any advice for any young, aspiring creators out there?

Read a lot and write a lot! Embrace life and all its experiences—experiences are fuel for stories. Don’t give up. Keep learning and improving on your work. If you enjoy what you do that is the most important.

For the touring creators, Book Week involves a lot of traveling. What one book and one other item are your travel essentials?

This tour, I’m traveling with my one-year-old son (luckily my parents are coming along too, to help out!). So probably a copy of Time for Bed by Mem Fox, and maybe his diaper bag!!! Hehe!! But truthfully, for me, I’ve been wanting to read Pages & Co by Madeline Harper and I always bring my giant enchanted egg with me to show kids and teachers.

What are you most excited for about Book Week? Is there anything you’re nervous about?

I’m SO excited to meet all the students and librarians and teachers. I’m also thrilled to be visiting PEI. I’ve been very lucky to write some picture books and early chapter books that are inspired by L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, but I’ve never visited PEI yet, and it’s a dream come true. As Anne would say, “Isn’t it splendid! It just makes me feel glad to be alive!”

In terms of being nervous, I think the flight with a 1 year old will be a little trying!

What is one random fact about yourself that might surprise people?

It’s hard to choose one, so here are three: I’m building a house on the Sunshine Coast, in BC, with a library that has a secret bookshelf. I love to swing dance. I taught myself how to wink so that I don’t move any face muscles at all—it’s really creepy!

How did you get started in children’s books?

I did my Masters of Children’s Literature at UBC. During that, I worked at two small publishing houses as a picture book editor. I learned so much by working in the industry. All the while, I continued writing.

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

I love to read. Also, my husband takes me on the most epic hikes. Most of my ideas are sparked during conversations while I’m hiking or when I’m talking with my husband or my friends.

For example: both Heartwood Hotel and Wings of Olympus were dreamed up on hikes. Heartwood was during a hike in BC, when I was complaining (because I was tired and sore) and my husband, in an effort to distract me, pointed out a tree he thought would be a good hotel for animals. Wings of Olympus was sparked when my husband and I traversed Mount Olympus in Greece and got caught in a Zeus-like thunderstorm!

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

Oooo, I didn’t just have one, I had so many. I loved (and STILL love) Narnia, Wizard of Oz, Matilda, Little Women—a lot of the classics. When I was younger, I loved Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. Also, an obscure book called A Mouse Family Album by Pamela Sampson.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

There are lots of ways—and I’ve actually created a few teacher guides for my books! These are all available here:

https://www.kalliegeorge.com/teacher-guides

 

Find out more about Kallie George at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Rachel Dunstan Muller


Rachel is a children’s author, as well as an oral storyteller. Her four trade-published juvenile novels include: When the Curtain Rises (translated into Swedish and Norwegian), Ten Thumb Sam, The Solstice Cup and Squeeze. To share her passion for the spoken and written word, Rachel leads writing and storytelling workshops for children and adults. You can learn more about her work at www.racheldunstanmuller.com.

When she’s not reading, writing or storytelling, Rachel likes to explore the wild spaces around her Vancouver Island home on foot or by canoe. From her own fir-tree covered yard, she and her family have watched owls, eagles, bats, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, deer and a young bear.

 

Do you have any advice for any young, aspiring creators out there?

Keep a notebook and jot down any story ideas you get as they come to you. Always be on the lookout for new ideas. They can come from books, from conversations, from nature, from art, from interesting objects, from photographs, from music or songs – in other words, from just about anywhere. The more ideas you collect, the more material you’ll have to work with when you finally sit down to compose a story.

For the touring creators, Book Week involves a lot of traveling. What one book and one other item are your travel essentials?

Book Week is still a few weeks away as I write this, so I’m not sure which book I’ll be bringing. It will likely be “The Children of Odin” by Padraic Colum since I’m preparing to participate in a day-long epic telling of the Norse myths. As for travel essentials, I’m all set as long as I have a good pair of minimalist shoes (ultra-comfortable shoes that can take on any terrain), a water bottle, and, yes, my smart phone.

How did you get started in storytelling?

I saw an article in a paper for an oral storytelling gathering in a neighboring community. I had a newborn daughter at the time and didn’t get out much in the evening, but I just knew I had to attend the next event. By the end of that event, I knew I’d found my tribe. It was a few years before I worked up the courage to tell a story to an audience myself, but since then I haven’t looked back.

What are you most excited for about Book Week? Is there anything you’re nervous about?

I am thrilled to be travelling to and meeting people from Quebec’s Lower North Shore, an area of the country I likely wouldn’t get the opportunity to visit if it wasn’t for this tour. I’m both excited and a little nervous about the number of small planes I’ll be boarding over the course of the week. Mostly excited!

What (or who) inspires the stories you create and tell?

Everything inspires me! I am always in idea-collection mode – literally from the moment I wake up. Because I write most of my own material, and because I want to keep that material flowing, I am very intentional about nourishing my imagination. I feed it with art, music, fiction and non-fiction, storytelling and theatre, walks in the forest or through new neighbourhoods, visits to museums or antique stores – any experience that will add new images to my brain or stimulate new ideas.

 

Find out more about Rachel Dunstan Muller at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Beverley Brenna


Bev is an energetic writer and storyteller who champions children’s reading, writing, and self-confidence. She truly believes that Stories Can Change the World! Many of Bev’s published children’s books illuminate family stories with contemporary themes, warmth and humor. Bev’s series of young adult novels about a teen with autism, beginning with Wild Orchid, has earned many awards including a Printz Honor book award and a shortlisting for the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award, as well as an international Dolly Gray Award. Wild Orchid is currently listed on CBC’s 100 Young Adult Books That Make You Proud To Be Canadian and Bev has recently completed an adaptation of the novel for the stage. Bev’s diverse collection of young adult short stories, Something to Hang On To, is often studied in high schools across the country.

 

Do you have any advice for any young, aspiring creators out there?

Enjoy the process! Delight in trying your project one way, and then another way, until you’re satisfied with it. Rather than thinking of changes to the final product as “mistakes you’re fixing” think of these changes as evidence of growth. Just as a person is impacted by the world and demonstrates change over time, so can storytelling change, and perspectives for other pieces of art. Be good to yourself and your craft. Be energized by the forward movement. Feel the breeze on your cheek and be glad you are doing something in the world, with the world, and for the world.

Okay what this really means is, “Nobody will likely love your work the way you do. Keep falling in love with it, but at the same time aspire to improvement. This is a hard balance—to love and seek change at the same time. Be strong and positive. You can do it!”

What this also means is, “At times we will look back on our past work, work that we have finished, and think it wasn’t good enough. But that was then. This is now. Learn from what you have done and keep moving ahead. And when the work isn’t good enough, remember that this is just the way it is. You and the work are two separate things, each with its own beating heart. You, yourself, are always someone to be loved, no matter how happy you or other people are (or are not) with the work you are doing.”

What is one random fact about yourself that might surprise people?

I am tremendously shy and I also love being around people. This is a strange combination and it means that I’m constantly in a push-pull kind of state. I push away from a crowd at the same time I’m pulling towards it. One thing that helped me overcome some of my shyness is acting training, taken as part of my B.Ed. degree. The fact that I would stop breathing when faced with a group of people was, I thought, going to be a detriment to becoming a teacher. And the drama program gave me lots of strategies to help. But I do think that this kind of push-pull is conducive to being a writer. I jump forward into groups of people and gather snippets of dialogue and real-world action and then gallop backwards into my solitary office to ponder and compose.

Here is an internet picture from Dr. Dolittle of an animal called a “Push Me Pull You.” That must be my spirit animal.

How did you get started in children’s books?

I discovered a real love and admiration for children’s books when I took a children’s literature class as part of my B.Ed. degree at university. The books we were reading really blew my mind—they were fascinating, highly serious but at the same time incredibly funny, and written beautifully. Different from many adult books, they were full of hope, and this I find is still true of much of the best children’s literature. E. B. White, author of the beloved Charlotte’s Web, once said that the writer’s duty is “to lift people up, not lower them down.” And I think many children’s writers have heard that call.

When I read a good children’s book, it makes me think. It makes me think about things in a different and more progressive way. It makes me think about myself and the world around me. It makes me want to be a better person, and sometimes it even shows me how to do that: by being kinder to others; by stopping to listen to nature; by taking the time to hear someone whose voice hasn’t been heard very often. Reading a good children’s book makes me want to be a better writer, too, and I am grateful for the many spectacular authors who have shone brightly against the world’s many shadows.

Every now and then, I go and re-read my copies of best-loved books, including but not limited to: Cassidy’s A Boy Named Queen; Porter’s The Crazy Man; Gilmore’s A Screaming Kind of Day; Lionni’s Frederick; Yolen’s Owl Moon; Johnston’s A Thousand Nights; Patterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins; Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, Di Camillo’s The Tiger Rising, Zindel’s The Pigman, and L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  And then I pick up my pen again!

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

I had many favourite books, some that my mother read to me, others that my teachers read to me, and still others that I read (and re-read) on my own. In grade five, my favorite book was called Planet of Death, and it was about a space expedition of adult explorers who went into space and succumbed to forces of evil. I devoured that book at least a dozen times that year, and I’m still trying to figure out what spell it cast on me. Here is what I’ve decided:

  • maybe kids like re-reading because you can put it on autopilot and just enjoy the ride (What do you think?);
  • maybe kids like reading about adults in an adult world instead of always reading about kids their age (What do you think?);
  • maybe kids like reading about subjects like death because nobody ever talks about it and it’s going to happen sooner or later (What do you think?); and
  • maybe I was just a weird kid (????)

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

I’d be delighted to hear that teachers are reading aloud my books to their students. Reading aloud to my own students (and sons) (and husband) has always brought us closer together through a relationship with a book that feels safe and interesting. It’s not easy to talk about nothing. It’s very easy to talk about a shared experience, and reading together offers a rich, mutual framework for discovery—discovery about the topics in the book, but also discovery about each other.

Perhaps teachers might read a chapter or two, and invite students to read the next chapter in partners or chorally. Perhaps the reading task is shared equally as the teacher reads one chapter and then students independently (silently) read the next chapter, stopping to summarize and predict what might happen next in their reading journals. Perhaps sections of the book could be recorded for students who have trouble keeping up with the independent reading but will actively process an audio book. Please do not ask students to engage in unrehearsed round-robin oral reading—this is stressful for many readers (myself included) and if you do this with your students I will be sad.

On my author website once you click on the covers of most of my titles, there are free teachers’ guides created to support your work in education. Check them out to see if there are any activities that your students will like. More important than these activities, however, is offering space for students to freely respond to what you are reading together. What do they like about it? What do they dislike? What connections can they make to themselves, others, and the world they live in? How does this book remind them of other things they’ve read? What new information have they discovered in the text or illustrations? These kinds of personal response questions are instrumental to why we read, and students should be able to engage in this kind of thinking (and reading) every day, at school and at home!

 

Find out more about Beverley Brenna at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


Check bookweek.ca each day this week for more interviews!