Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 6

Get To Know The Touring Creators Part 6

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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, part four and part five.

Tanya Kyi
Emma FitzGerald
Shelly Becker
Sara Gillingham

 

Tanya Kyi

Tanya writes both fiction and non-fiction, often choosing topics related to science, pop culture and social history. She enjoys combining factual research with intriguing narratives, or the life stories of interesting folks.

Tanya began her writing career as a high-school poet, producing pages and pages of terrible poems that only her best friend read. Her love of writing took her to the University of Victoria, where she studied creative writing and English. Tanya’s early jobs were as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a staff writer for the Commonwealth Games. She also worked as an editor and graphic designer before turning to children’s books full time.

Tanya likes to bake, read and play tennis. Her favourite meal is breakfast, her favourite colour is blue, and her favourite children’s book is A Wrinkle in Time.

Her most recent works are Under Pressure (Kids Can Press), a non-fiction look at the science of stress, and Mya’s Strategy to Save the World (Penguin Random House), the fictional story of one girl’s quest to (a) get her own phone and (b) win the Nobel Prize.

Tanya grew up in Creston, BC, but now lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children.

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

Be brave. Pursuing a career in the arts can come with a lot of criticism and rejection. But you have a unique perspective, and the world needs to hear your voice. So keep creating and keep sharing!

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

I’m excited about meeting readers and sharing stories. Most days, I tell stories to my computer keyboard, so it’s a huge treat to tell them in person! I am a tiny bit nervous I’ll be lost forever in the wilds of Ontario… my grasp of geography is a little fuzzy. If there are no Tweets from me for 48 hours, can someone call search and rescue?

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

I can roller skate. When I was 10, my parents bought a restaurant. That meant long evenings for my sister and I. Fortunately, the restaurant had a huge concrete basement. We brought our roller skates and practiced our spins!

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

When I wrote this book, my tween daughter was in the middle of a long campaign to get her own cell phone. A few of the scenes (such as the one in which her dad says she’ll probably be the only single person in her high school class without one) were drawn directly from real life. But readers will be happy to know that my daughter – now 14 – did eventually get a phone of her very own.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Many of the topics in Mya’s Strategy to Save the World lend themselves to class discussions and activities. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Mya writes down her auntie’s recipes. Have students bring favourite family recipes of their own, then create a class cookbook. Maybe someone will bring sample treats!
  2. Some of this book is written in emails and texts. Have your students write a book review for Mya’s Strategy to Save the World, as if they were sending emails or texts to a friend. Would they tell a friend to read the book? Why or why not? What emojis would they choose to describe it?
  3. Mya mentions a lot of different humanitarian campaigns. Have your students form groups and choose one of these issues to research and present to the class. Encourage them to think about ways they could have an impact. Could they write letters? Sign a petition?

 

Find out more about Tanya Kyi at her official website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Emma FitzGerald


Emma FitzGerald was born in Lesotho in Southern Africa to Irish parents, grew up in Vancouver and calls Halifax, Nova Scotia home. She has always loved to dance and draw, and wanted to become a choreographer, writer or architect when she was 10 years old.

After completing a BFA in fine art and a Masters in Architecture, she worked in architecture offices in South Africa, Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax. She taught architecture in the Gambia, West Africa. Since 2013 she has run her own business as an artist, creating drawings of buildings and people in Halifax, Nova Scotia, selling them as both cards and prints. This led her to create her first book Hand Drawn Halifax (Formac Publishing, 2015), which has become a bestselling and well loved ode to the city. As Emma draws on location, people approach her and tell her stories, which are woven into the book.

Subsequently Emma explored the South Shore of Nova Scotia in a similar fashion, resulting in Sketch by Sketch Along Nova Scotia’s South Shore (Formac Publishing, 2017), and she is currently working on Hand Drawn Vancouver” (Appetite, 2020), which will share stories of the city she grew up in.

Emma is thrilled to have illustrated Sheree Fitch’s children’s book EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street first written as a poem for the Nova Scotia Hospital to spark conversation around mental health. In this book she was able to include many people dancing, which made her happy. She believes the message of the book; that we are all different and yet the same is a wonderful one.

Emma shares her passion for drawing through teaching on location sketching workshops. She has done so at the Lunenburg School of the Arts, at Urban Sketching Symposiums in Brazil and the UK, and in Libraries all around Nova Scotia.

 

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

Just keep doing whatever you enjoy.

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

A biography, Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall, as the next children’s book I am illustrating is A Pocket of Time: The Poetic Childhood of Elizabeth Bishop by Rita Wilson, with Nimbus Publishing. Also some packets of ginger tea so I can make myself tea wherever I am — that makes me feel more at home. Also my sketchbook and a pen!

What are you most excited for about Book Week?

Seeing a new landscape in the Yukon, meeting new people and possibly seeing the swan migration on Marsh Lake.

How did you get started in children’s books?

Just writing and drawing stories as a kid and then not stopping even when I was a grown up.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

I loved the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I like plants and gardens, and I liked that the garden was also a place where Mary made new friendships in a country that was foreign to her.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

I think my art can show kids that being expressive can be more important then being ‘perfect’ but that attention to detail can also make an artwork more interesting.

 

Find out more about Emma FitzGerald through her website or through the Book Week website here.


 

Shelly Becker

 

Shelly Becker is the author of Even Superheroes Make Mistakes (Sterling Children’s Publishing, 2018), Even Superheroes Have Bad Days (a 2018 Blue Spruce Award Nominee), which Kirkus called “an action-packed romp,” and MINE! MINE! MINE!, which has been included in many “top 5” and “top 10” lists of books to teach the concept of “sharing” over the years. In addition, Shelly is the author of 18 children’s novelty books.

Shelly has four children and two grandchildren. Although she does not have a cape or laser vision, Shelly know how it feels to have a bad day and tries to use her inner superpowers to respond in positive ways. Shelly hopes her books will encourage readers of all ages to do the same. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

 

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

Keep creating! The more you work at it, the better you become. Also, a first draft is allowed to be bad. In fact, it usually is and that’s ok! The revision is where you rework it and make it better. Have fun!

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

I’m excited about a whole week of meeting so many students and teachers in a province far from home! I’m not really nervous about anything, except maybe straining my voice from speaking to so many groups, but I’ll hope and pray that doesn’t happen.

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

A fact about me that often surprises people is that I’m a grandmother.  People are usually surprised to learn that because I look young for my age.

How did you get started in children’s books?

I enjoy telling a longer version of this story in person. The short version is somebody challenged me to write a picture book, so I did. And I loved it so much, I kept doing it!

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

Probably The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Mostly because it was one of the few books I owned, but also, I loved the rhymes and the silliness and read it over and over until I knew it by heart. I also really liked Arty the Smarty, by Faith McNulty, about a little fish who did the opposite of what all the other fish did and his dream was to make a big splash.

 

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


Sara Gillingham

Sara is an award-winning art director and designer of hundreds of books, who has worked in book publishing for many years for publishers such as Chronicle Books, Disney and Scholastic. When Sara had children of her own, it inspired many book ideas, and since then, Sara has been published as an author/illustrator of over 25 books such as: How to Grow a FriendSnuggle the Baby, The Empowerment Series and the bestselling In My series. Sara has studied, lived and worked in the UK and the United States, and now lives with her family in Vancouver, BC, where she loves to share her passion for books and picture-making with audiences of all ages.

 

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

Spend time getting to know, love and listen to your audience. Don’t let your mistakes sink you: allow them to make you wiser and bolder. Persistence is worth the struggle.

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

I am ready to have my mind blown by children who live a beautiful life in such a powerful climate. I fear that they will have much more exciting things to share with me than I will with them!

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

My kids are my number one inspiration! I am also greatly inspired by art, craft and design from the 1960s and 70s.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

One of my favourite picture books as a child was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I loved how you could feel the closeness between a mother and daughter, paralleled by the mama/baby bear, the kuplink of the blueberries being picked, and the idea of canning food for winter. I really related to Sal’s character design — she had a short haircut and wore overalls, and looked really different from other depictions of little girls in picture books at the time.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

In the classroom, my books can be a good jumping off point for conversations about friendship and kindness (How to Grow a Friend, The Doll Hospital). My books can also be a good jumping off point for students to make their own patterns/art/design (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Seeing Stars, One Whole Bunch, Love is a Tutu) — they can design their own flag, constellation or flower using a variety of techniques like collage, assemblage and paint.

 

Find out more about Sara Gillingham through her official website and through the Book Week website here.


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