In the clutches of Irko Vex

Here’s an illustration I finished this week of everyone’s favourite Een mouse, Oki, ensnared by a bounty hunter who goes by the name of Irko Vex. This bounty hunter will play an interesting role in Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. He specializes in hunting and capturing Eens, and has many tools to help him in this task. Poor Oki—he’s not really the one Irko is after . . . but he just happens to get in the way.

Oki Ensnared.

The Seoul International Book Fair

sibfI’m really excited to announce that Creative Writing for Children (CWC), the company I co-founded in 2004, is joining forces with the Canadian Embassy in Korea to participate in the upcoming Seoul International Book Fair, which will take place from June 19-23.

I’m particularly pleased for my students, as many of their books will be displayed at our booth there. For some of my students who actually live in Korea, there will be an extra thrill; they will actually attend the fair to present and launch the books they have worked so hard to write and publish. They will be under the wise and watchful guidance of the other co-found of CWC, Joon Hyung Park. He will guide the students in their presentations will deliver his own seminar about the importance of weaving creativity into writing.

I’ve been to Korea on twelve different occasions to teach creative writing camps. We’ve covered all sorts of themes, including pirates, safaris, fairy tales (see the photo below, from 2008), fantasy and magic, circuses, spies, and space— so our participation in the Seoul International Book Fair represents a sort of culmination of many years of work. You can check out our page on the official book fair site in both Korean and English. I won’t be at the fair personally (I’m not heading over to Korea until July), but I’ll make sure the share any photos that come my way.


Friday’s Een-mail bag

I received more questions this week through the Een-mail bag! These ones are all related to the fifth and upcoming book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen.

Q: What does Oki try not to think about (in Book 5)?
Famously, Oki tries not to think about a different item of food in each adventure. This started in The Box of Whispers, when Oki did his best NOT to think of onions, a technique that Uncle Griffinskitch taught him as a means of trying to be less afraid. Of course, it’s impossible to not think of something—which Oki learned all too well when he encountered the wheezing wonder plant of Krodos (it had the power to transform you into whatever was in your mind . . .)

Oki as an onion.

For Book Five? Well, it isn’t one hundred percent decided yet. But I’m leaning towards rhubarb . . . . (either that or beans).

Q: What form does Pugglemud come in?
This addresses another ongoing element of the Kendra Kandlestar series. Pugglemud started off as a minor character, but, like a pesky weed, keeps wriggling his way back into each plot. So far he’s been a treasure hunter, a king, a pirate, and a ringmaster. I don’t want to quite say what Pugglemud’s job will be in this book, but I’ll just tell you that it will be his most sinister role yet.

Q: Is the cover going to be brown or yellow?
Neither! I haven’t decided entirely yet, but it will probably be an orangeish-gold. Or black . . .

Q:Can you give me a sneek peek on the book or send me a. Picture of what the cover looks like?
I haven’t done any artwork or design for the cover yet. However, there will be important news about the covers in the ENTIRE series coming soon!

Not your average wizard


I just finished an illustration of Oroook, that Unger Wizard who first appeared in Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger. Even though Oroook was only in the book for a few scant moments, he set off quite a chain of events in Kendra’s life—and so far, we’ve never had any insight into his motivation. That will change in the final Kendra book, The Search for Arazeen.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Oroook, especially since he is one of the few characters who I’ve killed off (see my post on that subject). So, sadly, we won’t actually get to meet Oroook directly again, but in this final Kendra book readers will come to learn more about his history and how he came to meet Kendra’s mother, the infamous sorceress Kayla Kandlestar.

Kandlestar Kin

Here’s a new illustration I worked on this week for Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. It’s the last book in the series, and yet it’s the first time I’ve drawn a picture of Kendra and her whole family together in one scene. Of course, this has largely been due to the fact that they’ve never been together at any moment in the plot. But I decided that this illustration could serve a flashback scene that shows the Kandlestars in a happier time, when Kendra was just a baby (her braids have a way to grow).

Kandlestar Family

Questions from the Een-mail bag

Honest OkiOne of the best things about being the chronicler of Kendra Kandlestar is receiving Een-mail from my young readers.

I recently received some questions that I thought I would share, along with my answers, all to do with the Een calendar! Here they are . . .

Q: When is Kendra’s birthday?

A: Though the exact date is never mentioned in the books, Kendra’s birthday is September 7th. In the third book in the series, The Shard from Greeve, it’s told that Kendra has just turned twelve, and that it is late summer, when Uncle Griffinskitch takes Kendra to the great tree of Een to procure a wand for her. Twelve is an important age for Eens, as it is the time they finish school and can be taken as an apprentice—Uncle Griffinskitch, of course, has decided to start instructing Kendra in the ways of Een magic.

Q: Is a year shorter for Eens? If so, do Eens have a different calendar?

A: The Een calendar is like ours, with the important dates being the changes of the seasons. They celebrate Jamboreen on the longest day of the year (the summer solstice) and Ald Meryn’s Eve on the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice).

Q: Can you send me an Een calendar?

No Een calendar exists (yet!). This would be a fun project though, that’s for sure!

* * *

Well, these questions remind me just how much detail needs to go into constructing a world! Even though so many details (like Kendra’s birthday, her favourite food, and first word) never make it into the text, they are things that I need to know if I’m to skillfully deliver the stories of Een!

Keep those Een-mails coming . . .

Magical doors from the Young Author’s Conference

Last week I delivered my Secret Doorways workshop at the Young Author’s Conference in Kamloops, BC. I have taught this workshop, but never to this many students. By the end of the day, we had created over sixty doorways!

I always do my best to give the students plenty of inspiration, but I have to say they usually just exceed my expectations anyway. Here’s just a smattering of some of the fantastic doors. Some of them feature faces and some are even standing upright!



























Three drops of pixie juice, a goblin’s eye, and a sprinkle of heart’s desire

That’s just a typical recipe you might have heard called out in my Magic Potions class this weeekend.

This is actually the first time in months that I’ve led this workshop, and so there were a few new ingredients for my young would-be wizards. These included ogre boogers, troll snot, and goblin eyes. It was the eyes that turned out to be the most popular item; I guess my apprentices enjoyed how the giant orbs stared back up at them from their swirling mixtures. (Though, if you ask me, it turned out to be rather creepy.)

On the surface, this activity seems all splash and no substance, but it’s actually an excellent way to teach students about the five senses. As the apprentices concoct their potions, they record the sights, sounds, smells, and even the sense of touch they get from stirring and mixing. As for taste, well they need to IMAGINE that one. (I don’t need anyone turning into a toad on my watch!)

Two of my new ingredients, envy’s curse and heart’s desire, really add some crack, pop, and sizzle to the mixtures, so we got lots of fantastic sounds. And the smells? Well, they ranged from delicious and intoxicating to vile and disgusting!

Here’s some of the photos from the day, beginning with a potion-splattered table cloth and the slew of ingredients.


I think my parents have always felt that it’s not a real job unless you get your hands dirty. By this logic, wizardry is a real job—as proven by this young apprentice smeared with pixie juice.


Here’s a potion with a goblin eye floating in a thick mixture of basilisk blood and other strange ingredients.


This student concocted a strange swirling coffee-like brew. Stirring it with the feather from a winged horse adds a bit of extra charm.


The deep purple brew and the lime-green one (made with dragon tears) shown below feature a few feathers floating to the top. These are clippings from a winged horse, but I do want to emphasize that no magical creatures were harmed for this class (well, except . . . er, the goblins).



Mummy dust and burning acid . . . they make for some beautiful foam and fizz!



The potion below features some more clippings from a winged horse and some elf bones, which seem to float to the top of the brew. (I’m told the bones come from previously deceased elves, so no elves were harmed for the express purpose of this class).


More potions featuring goblin eyes.