Get to Know the Touring Creators Part 5

Get to Know the Touring Creators Part 5

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Tomorrow is the day: #TDBookWeek begins Saturday May 5th and ends May 12th. Over the past week we’ve been getting to know all of the creators about to head out for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week. The 28 touring authors, illustrators and storytellers will travel to 175 communities across Canada. You can look at part one here, part two here, part three here and part four here.

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

Elly MacKay
Kass Reich
Darren Groth
Pam Withers
Tom Ryan

 

Elly MacKay


Elly MacKay is an award winning picture book maker living in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada with her family and rambunctious dog, Griffin. She is the author and illustrator of several books such as Butterfly Park, Red Sky at Night and If You Hold a Seed. She attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as well as The University of Canterbury with a focus on printmaking and illustration. She also has a Bachelor of Education from Nipissing University. Elly taught both in schools and as an educator at galleries before pursuing a career in picture books. When not creating in the studio, Elly loves visiting schools and libraries to share her love of books, writing and art with young readers and makers.

For the touring creators, Book Week involves a lot of traveling. What one book and one other item are your travel essentials?
It is always good to have a book with you. I am currently reading a book about a potter named Lucie Rie that my dad lent to me. He is a potter too. Another thing that is always nice to travel with… my sketchbook and pencil case. I take them with me everywhere I go.

 

What are you most excited for about Book Week? Is there anything you’re nervous about?
I have always loved adventures, doing school visits and PEI is such a beautiful, friendly place, so I am pretty excited. One thing I am nervous about? Hmm, I suppose I’m afraid I’ll loose my voice. So many schools! I’ll just have to pack some mints and candy.

 

How did you get started in children’s books?

I published my first book 5 years ago, when my son turned 1. An agent saw my work on Etsy and asked if I had any stories to tell. The first stories were turned down but then one weekend when I was pregnant and thinking about the growth of babies, other animals and trees, I wrote If You Hold A Seed. That one sold and I ended up doing the illustrations while my son napped. A very busy, exciting year.

 

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
When I was a kid my favourite picture book was Herman the Helper. If I were an octopus, I’d want to be just like Herman.

 

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Hopefully teachers will use my books to talk about the growth of trees, flowers, the needs of bees and butterflies, and to investigate signs from nature. My recent book Red Sky at Night has some science behind old weather sayings too at the back of the book. I used to teach, so I am always thinking about ways teachers can link books to their lessons.

 

Find out more about Elly MacKay at her official website or through the Book Week website here.

 


 

Kass Reich


Kass Reich was born in Montreal Canada. She works as an artist and educator and has spent a majority of the last decade traveling and living abroad. Kass graduated with a degree in Art Education from Concordia University then picked up and moved to Beijing where she worked as an early childhood educator for nearly three years. Working with the little ones inspired her to start making picture books for very young learners. After Beijing she lived in Hong Kong, London England and Melbourne Australia. She now finds herself back in Canada but this time in Toronto

 

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

The best advice I can offer to aspiring illustrators is to be patient. I remember when I first started my portfolio was all over the place and it looked as though it was done by 10 different artists. I later found out how important it is to have a distinct personal style. So even though I was eager to move forward I knew I had to slow down and really refine my work before I could expect things to happen. This takes a really long time. In my case it was about four years of drawing everyday until I figured it out. So be patient, bring a sketchbook with your everywhere and allow yourself time to sort out who you are as an artist.

 

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

The one book I can’t travel without is my sketchbook. I’m a big bird watching fan so when I’m in a new place I’m usually sneaking up on local birds so I can draw them.

The other item you’ll always find me with are my big comfy headphones. They’re a bit bulky but an absolute travel essential because the sound is infinitely better then regular ear buds and they’re much more comfortable. Music is super important to me and hours traveling can be made much more tolerable with the right playlist.

 

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

I’m most excited to experience Nova Scotia’s charm first hand. The province’s adorable seaside villages have inspired many illustrations of mine even though I’ve never seen them in real life.

The only thing I’m nervous about is leaving my dog. We haven’t had her all that long and she’s not used to being alone during the day because I work from home. There’s definitely a chance she’ll get mad and chew things she’s not supposed to.

 

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

I’m a twin. My sister also loves to draw and uses the skill in her job as an interior designer.

 

How did you get started in children’s books?

It all started when I was teaching English as a second language to preschoolers in Beijing. I wrote and illustrated a simple story that I thought my students would find funny. When I was done reading it to them I put the project aside not intending to do anything with it. Two weeks later I got an email from Orca Book Polishers saying they wanted to publisher my book. It turns out my mom went ahead and submitted it without telling. It was only then that I considered a career as an illustrator, thanks mom.

 

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

Little Black, a Pony written by Walter Farley and illustrated by James Schucker. Every story I loved back then involved animals, and I found little Black particularly captivating. To this day I still love a good underdog story with a happy ending.

 

Find out more about Kass Reich at her official website or through the Book Week website here.

 


 

Darren Groth


Darren Groth is a Vancouver author and naturalized citizen of Canada, having moved from his native Australia in 2007. His novels include Kindling (Hachette, 2010) and his acclaimed YA work, Are You Seeing Me? (Random House Australia, 2014; Orca, 2015). His new YA novel, Munro vs. the Coyote, is out now through Penguin Random House (AUS/NZ) and Orca (CAN/US).

Darren was the recipient of the 2016 Adelaide Festival Award for Young Adult Literature and has been a finalist in numerous other prestigious prizes including the Governor General’s Literary Awards (Canada), the BC Book Prizes (Canada), the CBCA Book of the Year (Australia) and the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (Australia).

Darren is a former special-education teacher, a passionate disability advocate and the proud father of a son with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For fun, he watches Game of Thrones with his beautiful Canadian wife and eats Fatburger with his wondrous sixteen-year-old twins.

 

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

Don’t stop creating and have a broad definition of success.

 

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

My essential book is the one I’m reading at the time (right now it’s Lincoln in the Bardo). The other item would be clean undies, for obvious reasons.

 

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

Connecting with readers – that’s always a thrill. What am I nervous about? Maybe that I’ll need translation support for my Aussie-isms.

 

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

As a sixteen year old, I ran the 100m sprint in 10.9 seconds.

 

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

I hope my books serve teachers in the way all good fiction does: by telling a good tale and offering some food for thought.Teachers might also use my books as paper weights or door stops, but they might not work very well – my novels are not very thick or heavy.

 

Find out more about Darren Groth at his official website or through the Book Week website here.

 


 

Pam Withers


Pam Withers is an award-winning young-adult/middle-grade author of 18 adventure books especially popular with teenage boys, including reluctant readers. She’s also a boys’ literacy advocate, speaker (parenting groups, library and school visits), and a blogger on parenting boys and more. She co-authored Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life.

Growing up in a large, boisterous family in a small town in the Prairies, Pam was encouraged to read by her parents and grandparents. She used to sneak off to the public library for some peace and quiet, where she discovered magazines on writing and formed a dream of becoming a writer. She started writing for the local newspaper at 16, became a journalist, then an editor. She was also an avid outdoors person, whitewater kayak racer and instructor who ran a summer camp for kids for six years. She married a fellow kayaker. When their son was ten and she found herself unemployed for a year, she wrote an adventure novel for him that became the first in a series of ten and changed her career.

 

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

Let your imagination out to play! It’s all about giving yourself permission to dream, draw, write whatever you like. If someone tries to put you down for it, do not ever take it to heart; they’re probably just jealous.

 

What are you most excited for about Book Week?

Meeting lots of students. I just love touring and presenting and answering students’ questions about writing. I’m a people-person and I love meeting young readers. (Way better than sitting in a room all by myself and writing.) Is there anything you’re nervous about? Getting lost between schools!

 

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

I kayaked the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon when I was 21. And these days, I’m a table tennis fiend.

 

How did you get started in children’s books?

I wrote my first novel when my son was ten years old, and used to read each chapter (as I finished writing it) for his bedtime story. Trying to delay his bedtime, he’d say, “Won’t you read me just one more chapter?” And I’d have to say, “No, because I haven’t written it yet!”

 

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

The kids in the former summer camp I used to run. Also, my twisted imagination and the students I visit while on tour. They’ve actually given me many of my ideas and I always welcome suggestions.

 

Find out more about Pam Withers at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Tom Ryan


Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. He has been nominated for the White Pine Award, the Stellar Award and the Hackmatack Award, and two of his books were Junior Library Guild selections. His young adult novels, Way to Go and Tag Along, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013 and 2014. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction.

 

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

I’ve found that the journey is often even more fun than the destination! There are many rewards to be found within the creative process, and the end result is often secondary to the joy of figuring out how to create something in the first place. With every new project I learn something new that I can bring to the next project, and so on and so forth. It’s a bit of a cliche, but ‘practice makes perfect’ is true! Keep working on your art/writing/music/etc… and eventually you’ll find your own voice.

 

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

I’m most excited to visit the west coast! I lived in B.C. for a couple of years, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve been back, so I’m looking forward to that wonderful Pacific air! I’m a little bit nervous about losing my voice, since a friend of mine lost his voice on book week a couple of years ago. I’ll be packing lots of grapefruit juice (an old musical theatre trick) just in case.

 

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

I tried out for Canadian Idol way back in 2003. I made it to the judges round, where I was told that I was “one of the most boring performers on earth.” Ouch! Fortunately, I was able to use the experience in one of my books.

 

How did you get started in children’s books?

I always loved writing stories, and when I decided to start writing seriously, my first attempt was at writing a young adult novel. I was lucky enough to become friends with an editor at a publishing company, and she liked my stuff. The rest is history!

 

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

I’m most inspired by other writers and their stories! When I read a wonderful book, and find myself sinking into a story that I don’t want to end, it makes me want to become better at my job.

Find out more about Tom Ryan through his official website or through the Book Week website here.