Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 5

Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 5

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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  and part four.

Naseem Hrab
Jodi Carmichael
Nancy Rose
Ashley Barron

 

Naseem Hrab

Naseem Hrab is a writer, funny (enough) person and maker of ice cream.

She is the author of the funny (enough) picture books Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend and Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings, illustrated by Josh Holinaty (Owlkids). She is also the author of the forthcoming (but not funny) picture book Weekend Dad, illustrated by Frank Viva (Groundwood). When she’s not writing and performing, Naseem works in children’s publishing. She previously worked as the librarian at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and currently works as the Associate Publisher, Creative at Kids Can Press.

Naseem lives in Toronto with her pet fish, Ian.

 

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

Stop thinking and talking about writing stories and start writing stories! Study the books you love! Study the books your hate! Figure out why you love/hate what you love/hate. Then start writing with those things in mind. And be prepared to love/hate whatever you end up writing.

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

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird and double—nay, triple!-the amount of underwear I’ll need. Does that count as one item? You can never be too prepared!

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

I’m a terrible speller. I have trouble memorizing how certain words are spelled and I feel so lucky to live in a time where spellcheck and auto-correct are so readily available!

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

Anyone who is willing to be emotionally vulnerable inspires my writing. Brilliant storytellers inspire my writing. Most of all, some beautiful, weird intangible thing humming along in the back of my mind inspires my writing.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

My favourite book when I was a child was Red is Best by Kathy Stinson and Robin Baird Lewis. I didn’t even like the colour red—I just loved that book!

 

Find out more about Naseem Hrab at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Jodi Carmichael


Award-winning author, Jodi Carmichael is a champion for the underdog and kids who think differently. Through her writing, she hopes to not only foster a love of reading in children and teens, but also to build their empathy for others.

Jodi’s dreams of becoming an author began to come true when she attended her first SCBWI conference in Los Angeles in 2007 and was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award. Her chapter book, Spaghetti Is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessions (2013) won numerous awards including a Gold Mom’s Choice and a Silver Moonbeam in 2013. In 2016 her novel about relationship abuse, Forever Julia (2015) won the Manitoba Book Award; The McNally Robinson Books for Young People Awards – Older Category and received a Bronze Moonbeam Award for Young Adult Fiction – Mature Issues. Family of Spies: Paris (2018) is a fast-paced middle grade historical fiction full of mystery, espionage, and humor and is garnering rave reviews including a Highly Recommended through CM Review.

In 2018, Jodi was honored to be nominated for a Winnipeg Arts Council RBC On The Rise Award for her writing and promotion of literacy to Winnipeg youth. She also visits classrooms, libraries, or entire school assemblies to talk about reading, writing, and editing, hoping to inspire Canadian students to explore their own creativity. When not channeling characters from her books, Jodi can be found strolling Manitoba beaches with her family.

 

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

Yes! Be gentle with yourself as you explore your creative passions and try not to compare yourself to others. Growth comes at different paces for each one of us. It’s important to understand and accept that sometimes you will receive negative feedback and critique on what you feel is your very best work. This will happen for all sorts of reasons beyond the need to develop your skills, as the market for artistic creations is hugely competitive. At times you may be tempted to give up, but you can’t get that final “yes” and be as successful as possible, if you don’t persevere. As the English say, “Keep Calm and Carry On!”

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

Well, I suppose I have to say I’m bringing Family of Spies: Paris with me and I’m hoping to bring an Advanced Reading Copy of Colleen Nelson’s new book Harry Come Home. I was going to bring Natasha Deen’s In the Key of Nira Ghani, but I couldn’t wait to read it!

My other travel essential is my phone, but not because I like to play games late into the night. I use an app called Insight Timer which has loads of sleep meditations that help me get a good night’s sleep.

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

Without a doubt, I’m most excited to meet all the students. The one thing that makes me nervous about the tour is getting lost in my travels between schools. I hate being late, so not being familiar with the area I’m visiting makes me worried I’ll get hopelessly lost. Fingers crossed I either have a volunteer driver or a stellar GPS in a rental car!

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

If I don’t eat at regular times, I space out into a walking zombie. I can’t make decisions, carry on much of a conversation or function in any meaningful way. I’m packing lots of snacks in my suitcase, so my brain will remain fully online!

How did you get started in children’s books?

I owe it all to my mom. She always encouraged my writing, but I didn’t take it seriously until I had children of my own and every night I’d tell my daughters all sorts of wild stories about trolls, fairies, spies—really anything that caught my imagination at that moment. My mom said I should write the stories down, but I told her I had no time. I was busy with naptime, diapers and play groups. As a surprise she enrolled me in my first children’s writing class and babysat my daughters so I would have the free time to write. From the very first assignment I was hooked and wondered, “Why didn’t I listen to my mother all those years ago?”

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

There are so many. There was the Frog and Toad series of books that I adored. I loved the idea that this entire world of talking animals existed—and they wore tiny clothes and had miniature homes. I really, really wanted their world to be real. I grew older, Anne of Green Gables stole my heart. She spoke to me, as she has for so many young readers. She was feisty, imperfect and the underdog. All qualities for me that made her perfectly lovable.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Each book offers something different.

Family of Spies: Paris is inspired by the mystery revolving around my grandfather’s still-sealed World War 2 records. He was the 1914 Rhodes Scholar from Newfoundland, a pilot with the RCAF, was awarded the Member of the British Empire award and yet all he would say about his time in the war was that he flew for the Queen. Rumors of his involvement with Canada’s most famous spy, Sir William Stephenson were part of our family lore and something we discussed at our family cottage every summer. When we coupled these rumors with the fact that his nephew was a code breaker at Bletchley Mansion, our belief that he did something “unusual” for the Allies intensified. The story I crafted demonstrates to students how possible it is to take a seed of an idea and grow it into a novel, using imagination and historical accuracy.

In Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons, the main character Connor is on the Autism Spectrum and is having trouble following school rules. His struggles, told with humour and heart, can lead to greater classroom discussions about having empathy for others and more broadly, how each one of us is different and it’s those very differences that make us each wonderfully unique.

Forever Julia is a book for teens and deals with the issue of relationship abuse. The main character Julia is dating a boy who becomes increasingly abusive. She needs to determine what lines cannot be crossed, find the strength to leave him,  and become her own hero. This book shows students how quickly infatuation can turn dark and opens up an important discussion of what healthy love and relationships look and feel like.

 

Find out more about Jodi Carmichael through her website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Nancy Rose

Nancy Rose lives near Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a busy backyard filled with squirrels, birds and several deer who wander through every day or so. Her interest in nature and wildlife, and a storage room full of fabrics, paint, clay and craft materials merged with her photography passion when she discovered the curiosity of the little North American Red Squirrels who raided the bird feeders in her backyard. By making miniature settings and squirrel size props she has created hundreds of scenarios where the inquisitive squirrels find themselves in some rather human like poses as they search for peanuts hidden in the props. Her best “actor”, Mr. Peanuts, was the first to eat from her hand and he has been followed by a succession of cute and curious squirrels who come daily for peanuts and sunflower seeds and to check out whatever Nancy puts out on the picnic table on her deck.

Nancy’s first book, The Secret Life of Squirrels, was published simultaneously in Canada and the US in 2014 and has also been published in Japan and South Korea. It is also available in a board book for the youngest readers. Merry Christmas, Squirrels followed in 2015, and The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story in 2016. The Secret Life of Squirrels: Back to School (2018) continues the adventures of Mr. Peanuts and Rosie, his special friend. The first three books are also available in paperback through Scholastic Books.

 

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

My advice for young, aspiring creators is to find your voice and dare to be different. Find what you love that makes you lose track of time. Find talented authors and artists and follow them, read them, study them, and learn something new every day. Find something you are passionate about, that can capture you and make you stay so focused that just don’t want to stop. Whether it be your art or your writing, if it feels like “work” you are not on the right path. I am not saying it will always be easy but find the times of day you are most creative and try to use them to your advantage. And welcome knowledgeable feedback. A good editor can turn a really good story into a really great story. Don’t listen to the people who just want you to “stop dreaming”. Always be a dreamer.  And believe in yourself.

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

For Book Week I absolutely must have my props with me which are a key part to my “illustrations” which are photographs of real squirrels in my miniature settings. And I rarely leave home without my camera. I hate to admit it, but I doubt I will have room for an extra book or time to read since I will be spending many of the evenings with old friends I have not seen for years. Or sleeping…I am afraid I won’t get enough sleep.

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

I am most excited for the opportunity to share my books and props with new audiences and to inspire kids to become more creative. I have visited many schools in the Halifax area and it will be so interesting to find out if my books are also being enjoyed in Newfoundland. I am a bit nervous about whether my homemade props will all arrive in good condition after my flight, and I certainly hope the weather is better than this week where they just got 15-20 cm of snow in Gander. (April 25). And I hope I can get enough sleep!

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

A random fact about me is that I never planned to become an author and I never dreamed I would be doing what I am doing today. I took up photography seriously in 2012 and started creating little stories of squirrels through my photographs to amuse my followers on Flickr. My friends just thought I was “nuts” and a bit quirky. I call myself an “accidental author” since I never thought I would be lucky enough that my photos would end up in children’s books.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Teachers can use my books in the classroom in a variety of ways. Some have used them when discussing the seasons, friendship, relationships, traditions, and holidays. They can read them prior to Christmas and Valentine’s day to discuss these holidays, and the Back to School story can be used to talk about the fears that kids might have before starting school. However, the most creative teachers have used the books as a springboard to a project that merges writing, art and technology skills. Grade 4 to 6 teachers can help their students create their own illustrated book for kids. The students write a story and make dioramas and characters for the story. They learn technology skills like making Power Point slide shows by taking photos using iPads, phones etc. They can make dioramas from recycled items as I do and use small toys or doll hose furniture or make their own. One classroom made a whole village and the students created little stories of things happening with the characters which were little stuffed animals.

 

Find out more about Nancy Rose through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


Ashley Barron

Ashley Barron is a multimedia artist who is best known for her cut-paper collage style work. Her award-winning illustrations have appeared in magazines and children’s publications, as well as animations, advertising campaigns, clothing and window displays. Her playful depictions of flora and fauna combine elements of geometry, texture, pattern and a love for colour. To date, she’s illustrated ten children’s books, including the Math in Nature series, Kyle Goes Alone and Birthdays Around the World.

In addition to her freelance work, Ashley enjoys teaching paper collage themed workshops for both adults and children at various galleries, schools, libraries and community centers across the GTA. In 2017, she was selected as IBBY Canada and Toronto Public Library’s Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence.

Ashley lives in Toronto with her partner, Kevin, and their three cats.

 

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

Trick yourself into action through play.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be good at something from the very start, but making art doesn’t work that way. Mistakes are part of the game. In fact, the more mistakes you make, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll become.

Treating your creative time as playtime takes the pressure “to be good” off. It allows you the space to dabble with a new medium, combine things, take things apart and walk into happy accidents.

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

I’ll be bringing along my copy of The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and a pair of comfortable hiking shoes.

How did you get started in children’s books?

I was always drawing as kid. After high school, I went to OCAD for illustration, but didn’t really plan on becoming a children’s book illustrator. After graduating, I was mostly focused on illustrating for magazines, newspapers and advertising campaigns. During this time, I had mailed some promotional postcards to Owlkids, in hopes of illustrating for one of their three magazines. And that wish came true! I ended up illustrating the cover of Chirp one month, and a couple months later was presented with my first book contract for the Math in Nature series.

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

So many things contribute to my art that it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly inspires me. A lot of the books I read have to do with natural history, evolution and ecology. I guess you could say that I’m on a life-long quest to figure out how we came to be where we are right now.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

My favourite book as a child was Balloonia by Audrey Wood. I was one of those daydreamer kids who relished stories that could transport me to far off places. And so, to read that fly-away balloons had a magical land of their own called Balloonia, really got my imagination going.

Find out more about Ashley Barron through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


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