Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 2

Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 2

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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. Read part one here.

Alison Acheson
Lee Edward Fodi
Jacqueline Guest
Helaine Becker

 

Alison Acheson

Alison lives in the East Side of Vancouver, in a little house with a wood stove (which is good for writing on rainy days). She shares the house with her youngest son, who likes to sing—her in-house Sinatra—and she likes to listen to all types of music, and dance, and she plays the saxophone for fun.

Her tenth book—a picture book, titled A Little House in a Big Place—will be released by Kids Can Press in spring 2019. She has published nine books for young people, from picture books to work for teens, and all ages between; fiction as well as a non-fiction piece for Pearson Educational working with mental health for grades 4-6. She has taught in the UBC Creative Writing program off and on since 1998.

The germ for A Little House was borne during her trip to Ontario for…yes, Book Week 2012, when she travelled by train between Toronto and the amazing little town of St. Mary’s, an early evening jaunt with golden setting sun and long shadows. So Book Week has a special place in her heart, representing a time of sharing and regeneration.

 

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

WRITE. Write a little bit every day. Keep a journal. Write stories, poems, comics, anything. Do NOT worry about publishing. And READ. Pay attention to words, how they sound and how they make you feel. Pay attention to the world all around you. See big things and notice small things. Think about stories, how they are all around us. Story-telling is more important than spelling.

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

I am most excited to see Montreal and the townships, and the young people who live there. My grandfather was born in Quebec and I’ve never been. I am more hopeful than nervous; I am hopeful that my presentations either make you laugh or thoughtful about something. And if they do both, then I will be happy about my work!

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

My eyebrows grow right across my face if I let them go crazy; when I was young, a brownie in my girl-guide group used to make fun of them, and call me Bushy Tree. 🙂

What (or who) inspires your writing or art? 

This changes! But I did begin to write because I so LOVED to read as a kid, that it made sense to me that the only thing that could be more fun would be to write. Then, when my children were born, they inspired me, and they still do. But mostly I write because of the need to try to make some sense of life and of questions I have. And writing really helps me with that.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

Heidi. I loved how the story made me feel…all the details about sleeping in a loft and hearing the wind in trees outside the window, and hanging out with goats all day, and the city of Frankfurt… Even just typing the title makes me remember my mom reading it to me: I remember how sleepy she’d get, how her eyes used to go all funny, and her voice would sound thick, and drift off…and I would say, “Mom! Hey Mom!” and she’d twitch and try to sit up, and find her place in the story. We would sit on chairs facing each other, with a big blanket over our laps, and our feet would meet on a heat  duct…no wonder she’d fall asleep! It was way too cozy.

 

Find out more about Alison Acheson at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Lee Edward Födi


Lee Edward Födi is an author, illustrator, and specialized arts educator—or, as he likes to think of himself, a daydreaming expert.

He is the author and illustrator of the five-book series, The Chronicles of Kendra Kandlestar, which include The Box of Whispers, The Door to Unger, The Shard from Greeve, The Crack in Kazah, and The Search for Arazeen.

His new series, Zoone, is being published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, starting with The Secret of Zoone in March 2019.

Lee is an engaging public speaker, specializing in presentations and workshops for children of all ages. He has taught programs in Canada, the United States, England, South Korea, and Thailand. He’s worked as a writer/artist-in-residence at numerous schools, including leading art therapy sessions for at-risk teens.

 

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

My main piece of advice is “be patient.” When I was younger, I rushed to start writing the moment I had an idea for a story. Inevitably, though, I would get stuck before long and make the (incorrect) assumption that my idea was not very good.

As I matured, I learned that I was starting the writing process a little bit too early. What I actually needed to do was to spend more time developing my ideas and making sure they were rich and detailed (in other words, I needed to do some detailed brainstorming).

I think this is particularly important in writing fantasy, since you also have to imagine the world (or in the case of my latest book, The Secret of Zoone, worldS) in which the story is set.

When I set out to write Zoone, I took the approach of sitting down and developing settings and characters before really worrying about the plot of the story. Once I had my “playing field” set, then I could just scamper around on it and ponder the events that could happen there.

To put this another way, I guess I used to think that I needed just one good idea to write a book. Now, I realize that I don’t need ONE good idea—I need MANY good ideas. So, as soon as I get an idea for a new book, I just write it down in my brainstorming journal and start “building” around it, adding extra ideas and thoughts. That way, when it comes time to sit down and write, I’m hopefully avoiding that “feeling stuck” moment because I’ve got a stronger foundation on which to stand.

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

Whenever I travel anywhere, the one essential book that comes with me is my brainstorming journal! This is the book where I scribble any and all ideas that occur to me. I never know when inspiration is going to strike, and I have learned enough by now to record it when it does! As for one other essential item? Well, that’s easy when I’m on a tour such as TD Book Week. Throat tea! It’s important to keep the pipes hydrated.

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

Cleaning the chicken coop made me a better author.

I grew up on a farm, and every Saturday morning I had to clean the chicken coop (sometimes, we had up to 100 chickens!). I have a younger brother, but he convinced my parents that he was allergic to chicken feathers, so I had to do this odoriferous job all by myself.

I survived it by daydreaming—a lot. (Trust me, when you’re shovelling chicken poop, the last thing you want to think about is what you’re doing!) I would often imagine that I could find a secret door hidden in the coop that would allow me to escape to a whole other world (preferably one without chickens).

When I was done this and my other chores, I’d often escape into my room to write and draw. My dad would always tell me to go play outside—but, hey, there were chickens out there!

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

Since my latest book is about the nexus of the multiverse, where a thousand doors lead to a thousand worlds, I will say that doors really inspire me. Whenever I travel, I collect doors—which is to say I photograph them, and all the different minute details of them: hinges, doorknockers, keyholes, letter slots—you name it!

Many of the doors that are featured in The Secret of Zoone were inspired by doors I have encountered in real life. By the way, as I visit schools on the TD Book Week tour, I will be working with audiences to engage in creative brainstorming exercises in which we imagine our own enchanted doorways!

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

I write fantasy books, but I feel like they have a lot of strong messages in them that allow teachers to approach and discuss important themes. In addition, I think my latest book, The Secret of Zoone, provides a lot of opportunities for teachers to lead students in creative projects, such as writing stories, building fantasy worlds, and developing interesting characters. I have prepared a lot of activities, complete with worksheet packages in my Zoone teacher guide:
https://leefodi.com//downloads/TeacherGuide_Secret_of_Zoone.pdf

Also, I like to think my books make great read-alouds. It’s all the different characters with their vivid personalities and distinct voices!

 

Find out more about Lee Edward Födi through his website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Jacqueline Guest

Jacqueline Guest began writing professionally in Grade 5 when she was paid twenty-five cents by her brother to write his Language Arts essay. She now has twenty novels with topics ranging from missing dinosaur fossils to mysterious meteorites. While doing research for her books she has stood on an iceberg, flown a kite in a hurricane, hitched a ride on an elephant and dodged hungry lions!

In 2017, Jacqueline was awarded the Order of Canada for her work in celebrating Literacy.

Jacqueline and her computer live in a log cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

 

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

The very best thing you can do to become a writer is to be a READER! Good books are filled with great sentence structure, super character development and juicy words waiting for you to add to your own Writer’s Tool Box.

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

I am truly excited to meet the readers, writers and enthusiastic kids of Labrador!

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

I had the honour of being awarded the Order of Canada for writing books for young readers everywhere. The strange thing was that because of timing, I received the actual Order of Canada in a ceremony performed by the Right Honourable David Johnston and had dinner to celebrate receiving the award with Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette! Both were Governor Generals at the time of the event.

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

I am constantly inspired by young readers and writers everywhere! You are the future of Canada and I know from speaking with you, that it will be a bright future!

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

I had only two books when I was young: A Child’s Book of Bible Verse and Alice in Wonderland. One taught me right from wrong which was important and the other showed me the magic that is waiting between the pages of a book. Hard to choose between these two wonderful books, but I will tell you this: I still identify with Alice!

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Many of my historical fiction novels are curriculum based, such as Belle of Batoche and Ghost Messages, and have extensive Teacher’s Guides available for free. Plus, when a teacher uses one of my books as a novel study, there is a free SKYPE or FaceTime visit with the author included! This leads to very critical reading as the students get to try to stump the author!

 

Find out more about Jacqueline Guest through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


Helaine Becker

Helaine Becker is the bestselling author of more than 80 books for children and young adults, including the “enduring Canadian Christmas classic” A Porcupine in a Pine Tree and the international bestseller Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. She’s a multi-time winner of the Silver Birch Award and a two-time winner of the Lane Anderson Award for science writing for children. She has had three non-fiction titles recognized by the Junior Library Guild, a Bank Street Best of the Year and a Sydney Taylor Notable Book under her belt.

 

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

Everyone will tell you to read a lot, and that’s true. But I’d also suggest that would-be creators get some business skills. You have to sell your work, right? And if you know how the publishing business works, and how to promote your work effectively, you will be much more likely to succeed. So take some business courses, and get a job working in retail. Understand how money works, and how your dreams depend on it.

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

What do you mean, one book? I never go anywhere without a stack of books. I live in panic I might find myself without something to read. And I prefer print – no e-readers for me, since I spend all day staring at screens. So my suitcases tend to be very heavy. I also never travel without Sparkle the Spaniel. I got the puppet when I wrote my first book. It had a poem about, yes, Sparkle the Spaniel, in it. I used the puppet when I presented to schools. I quickly discovered that he was also very comfy to hang out with. He now no longer presents, but he still comes along on all my trips. Sparkle has literally been all over the world!

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

I am a certified pyrotechnician. That means I am licensed to set up and set off fireworks shows. You really don’t want me to do that, though, because I am also a certified klutz.

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

Anything and everything. I keep my eyes and ears open and am always looking for fascinating facts or thrilling stories. A curious mind is a big plus! I now focus on writing books that help make the world a better place, either by helping kids learn about science, or about women who did amazing things, or that help kids cope with stress. And books that will make you laugh – the world always needs more laughs.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

Again, what’s with this “one book” thing? I had dozens of favourite books, different books at different times in my life. The cool thing about books is there are so many of them! And there are books that are perfect for you at every step of your life! But then you change, and there are even more books that now suit you. Also – when you go back to books you read when you were younger, the books have changed to meet you where you are now….In general, the books I loved best as a kid were books that featured regular kids getting involved somehow in magic. Seven Day Magic by Edward Eager, The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, and Bedknob and Broomstick also by Mary Norton, all fit into this category. These are still my favourite kinds of books to escape with!

 

Find out more about Helaine Becker through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


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