Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 4

Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 4

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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. Be sure to read past interviews: part one, part two, part three.

Kristin Butcher
Leigh-Anne Kehler
Nadia L. Hohn
Heather Smith

 

Kristin Butcher

Kristin Butcher is a Canadian writer and reviewer of young adult and juvenile fiction. She was born in Winnipeg, but moved to Victoria, BC, at the age of 5. Her first novel, The Runaways, was published in 1997 and went on to be a regional Silver Birch Award winner. Since then she has published 25 other books, including two biographies for primary readers and 10 titles in the successful Soundings and  She has twice toured for the Canadian Children’s Book Week and given book talks at libraries and schools. Butcher is also an artist and illustrator.

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

I don’t think many authors and illustrators start out aspiring to be authors and illustrators. I think we are simply attracted to words or art, because those things move us. The more we learn and practise, the more adept we become. I never believed I could be a professional writer; that wasn’t my goal. I wrote stories for myself, because it was fun and challenging, and whether or not I had ever been published, I would still be writing. Do what you love, and the rest will fall into place.

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

Because I was a teacher for so many years, I am very much looking forward to working with young people again. It is so much fun to share my passion for books with my readers. However, I’m a little nervous that they will find flaws in my stories. There was a great deal of research involved in both the books I am presenting, and though I did my best to get the details right, you just never know.

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

I am a procrastinator. I get a lot done, and I have never missed a deadline or kept people waiting, but I almost always leave things to the last minute.

How did you get started in children’s books?

When I was teaching, I made a point of reading the books my students were reading, and I remember saying to myself, “I can do this.” So I did. I wrote a book for my grade six class, and I included every one of the students’ names in the story. At my daughter’s suggestion, I sent the manuscript to a publisher, and the rest—as they say—is history.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

I didn’t have a favourite book as a child. I read anything I could get my hands on, and though I’m sure all of them spurred me to read more, nothing stands out in my mind as extra-special. However, when I was in grade 4 and home sick from school, I had absolutely nothing to read, so my father bought me a book of Greek Myths by Edith Hamilton, and a whole new world opened up to me. I’ve loved Greek Mythology ever since.

 

Find out more about Kristin Butcher at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Leigh-Anne Kehler


As a performing storyteller, Leigh-Anne has appeared nationally and internationally at renowned festivals including the Toronto International Storytelling Festival, The Yukon International Storytelling Festival, the Winnipeg International Peace Storytelling Festival, The Winnipeg Folk Festival and Children’s Festival and the Regina Children’s Festival. She has also toured schools in Japan, Thailand, Norway and Denmark. She began her career telling stories to her animals on a lively farm in southern Manitoba and has studied and performed in several professional theatrical productions.

With financial assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Manitoba Arts Council she developed and is currently touring “The Final Hour”, the story of her father’s unique palliative experience to medical staff in cities across Canada. She’s also toured “Baby Blues, Voices on the Wind”, and “Fire Women” as solo productions throughout Manitoba. “Fire Women” and “The Final Hour” appeared at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, June 2016, as part of the invitation spoken word and storytelling program.

Leigh-Anne believes that stories knit us together with understanding and empathy and will guide us into a future filled with wisdom and kindness.

 

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

My advice for young, aspiring creators is to be sure to include loads of adventure in your life. Get outside and play. Nature is a wonderful place to let your imagination soar!

How did you get started in storytelling?

I began storytelling at the tender age of four years old, telling stories to my many farm animals in our barn. I chose to become a professional storyteller at the age of twenty-four. It was then that I decided to move to Japan and begin my journeys around Asia, gathering world cultural tales from local tellers. My favourite memories from that time involve learning Japanese folktales from children as their mother’s translated their son’s and daughter’s storytelling, often while we sat around campfire or spent a day at the Japanese sea.

What was your favourite story as a child? Why?

My earliest memory of a favourite book was the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. When I graduated to chapter books, the Anne of Green Gable’s series and the Little House on the Prairie series became favourites because the female characters were so interesting and brave. I identified with them and felt the author let me into their secret thoughts, wishes and dreams.

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

One random fact about me that might surprise people is that I love to have mayonnaise on French fries.

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

The inspiration for the stories I tell come from memories of growing up with my brothers on Twin Pines farm. Those stories will be available on iTunes, summer of 2019 and are titled The Adventures of Braveface, Licorice Boy and Little Leigh. My other inspiration comes from world travels and the cultural tales I’ve picked up along the way. As a professional playwright, I’m inspired by connections to my own memories/experiences and broader themes that touch on what it means to be human as defined by the struggles and triumphs that bring us together.

How can teachers use storytelling in the classroom?

Storytelling can be used in the classroom every day! Read the book, then put it down and do a re-tell. Or read the chapter and do the same. Don’t be afraid of making “mistakes”. I always say. “The story is what the storyteller tells!” So you can’t be “wrong”, just go for it!

 

Find out more about Leigh-Anne Kehler through the Book Week website here.


 

Nadia L. Hohn

Nadia L. Hohn is a dynamic “story lady” who has presented to audiences in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Trinidad.  From the age of six years old, Nadia L Hohn began writing stories, drawing, and making books. Her first two books, Music and in the Sankofa Series were published by Rubicon Publishing in 2015. Her award-winning first picture book, Malaika’s Costume was published in 2016 and its sequel Malaika’s Winter Carnival 2017 by Groundwood Books.  Nadia is also the author of Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter, an early reader published by Harper Collins published in December 2018.  A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett-Coverley Found Her Voice, non-fiction picture book about the performer, playwright, author, and Jamaican cultural ambassador, Louise Bennett-Coverley otherwise known as Miss Lou, will be published in 2019 (Owlkids). 

Nadia is currently working on two young adult novels, a play, the next Malaika… book, and others.  She lives in Toronto she teaches, reads a ton, and crafts stories. She also loves to write (songs, blogs, journals, stories), play piano, cook vegan dishes, travel, study arts and cultures of the African diaspora especially Caribbean folk music, Orff music education, and run.  

 

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

Yes, I do have advice for young and aspiring creators out there. My advice is to keep on writing and do not be afraid to share it. Enter contests. Read your stories to friends and family. Share your stories and words. Also, read widely in various genres and as much as you can.  Also, re-read your favourite authors and figure out why you like their books so much.

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

The Bible and my journal are among my travel essentials. Since I also read on my Kindle and do a lot of electronic audiobooks on my laptop, my reading is always with me. Currently on my Kindle is Garvey and Garveyism by Amy Jacques Garvey  and on my audiobook is 12 Years a Slave.

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

I am excited about visiting a region of Canada where I have never been. I have visited 9 provinces but I have not spent a lot of time in Calgary or southern Alberta (only passing through on a Greyhound bus before). I am looking forward to experiencing my second “out of province” literary festival. I am especially excited about meeting my new audience and the young people who will be in attendance. I want to see the Rocky mountains.

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

I speak English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Swahili in that order of fluency… which ranges from fluency to a few words. Also, I am an aspiring illustrator.

How did you get started in children’s books?

I have been writing picture books my since I was a child. So getting started meant writing a lot as a child. Then, in 2009, I had an idea for a story which led me to enrolling in the Writing for Children 1 class at George Brown College. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the end of 2010, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything I could possibly do to write books and get them published. In 2011, I attended a children’s book publishing workshop at A Different Booklist bookstore where I met my first editor the late Sheila Barry (then at Kids Can Press, just before she went to work at Groundwood Books).

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

The children who I know would love to read my stories are who inspires me to write more diverse stories. I am an aspiring illustrator and I think what inspires me in that discipline is the beauty of art and how it makes me feel to look at and create it. I also, often, am inspired to my write my stories by what I picture in my head.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

I had a few. I used to love the Little House books. I have re-read them as an adult and realize that they negatively refer to and stereotype First Nations/Indigenous and Black people. So I won’t give them credence. Diverse representation is important to me— one that validates and affirms all children. As a child, I recalled reading a lot of non-fiction about different countries and children who live in them. I was a geography nerd. I read a few novels and picture books but I really preferred those with people and characters that looked like me especially about Black history.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Teachers can visit my website and click on the section called Teachers. There they will find a number of activities and even a few lesson plans about my books.

 

Find out more about Nadia L. Hohn through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


Heather Smith

Originally from Newfoundland, Heather Smith now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Heather is the author of The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, which was named one of the Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of 2017. Her middle grade novel, Ebb & Flow, has received starred reviews from both Quill & Quire and School Library Journal and was shortlisted for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award. When Heather is not writing books she can be found eating toast and watching documentaries that most people would find boring. Her east coast roots inspire much of her writing.

 

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

Don’t give up.

Keep your chin up through rejection.

Remember that projects that don’t go anywhere are practice.

Listen to feedback with an open heart.

Love what you do even when you hate it.

Celebrate the small successes.

Have fun.

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

On this tour I will be finishing Tom Wilson’s Beautiful Scars — and hoping his incredible storytelling skills rub off on me as I present my own stories to hundreds of students. My other travel essential? Dark chocolate. 85 % cacao.

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

My favourite character of all time is Willy Wonka because he is deliciously flawed.

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

Music inspires my writing. It immerses me in another world and helps me capture the mood or tone of a particular work. Recently, the song Lean On Me, (sung and reinterpreted by Richie Havens) helped me to write a particularly touching scene. I played it over and over again until the scene was just right.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

A book that was very special to me as a child was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. As a reluctant reader it was one of the few books that caught my attention. It opened me up to the world of contemporary realistic fiction, which is the genre I write today.

 

Find out more about Heather Smith through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


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