Virtual author visits!

I’ve had a lot of queries and questions about author visits lately, so thought I would write a little bit about how I’m currently approaching them. 

First thing: I’m still doing them! I’ve delivered single “get-to-know-the-author” type of visits, and I’ve been able to do all the things I would do in a “live” situation. That means sharing the visuals of my writing process (which includes character sketches and props that I build), taking questions, and leading interactive brainstorming sessions.

The interactive brainstorming entails me helping students design a story building element, such as a character’s suitcase, a magical market, or the contents of a monster’s fridge. I am still doing these “old-school” setting up an easel in front of my camera so that the students can see what I’m working on. The students then either call out or ideas or they type them in the chat feature and the teacher calls them out to me. So far, it’s been really successful!

I’ve also been doing several writer-in-residencies, including one for the Vancouver School Board gifted program. In this series of workshops, I’ve been working with the students to create their own wizard schools. Even though I’ve been delivering the classes over a digital platform, we have still been able to do some hands-on activities, such as making potions. I assembled all the spell kits in advance, and had them delivered to the students. Then, on the designated day, I led the live prop-building activity, which then led directly into a writing project. Here are some photos that the students have been sending in—so far the props look AMAZING! (And so are the writing projects that have been inspired by these props.)

I’m also working with another class on a series of writing projects that build off the students’ personal cultural and family stories. This one has been a lot of fun, because I have been hearing all kinds of interesting and fascinating stories. One of the benefits of this theme is that all the hands-on stuff can be found right at home, because it involves the kids finding old family photos and heirlooms.

Finally, I’m leading a residency with a third school, in which I provide regular writing prompts and activities to inspire and engage the students. It’s been a great experience to do these repeat engagements, because it has allowed me to really get to know the students.

Working in the digital realm means I’ve been able to add some extra elements, such as using interactive “character choosing” wheels that provide students with a quick writing prompt and allows them to “play.”

However, the most important thing I’ve learned about this transition to teaching and presenting virtually is that you still have to be YOU. Never mind the digital platforms and all the tricks and tools that might come with them. What kids are looking for (perhaps more than ever) is someone who is engaged, present, and sincere. And, yes, many readers want to hear me talk about the books I’ve written, but they also want to explore their OWN ideas. They want to know how I create so that they can apply it to their own process—which is why I’ve still kept the interactive brainstorming as an integral part of my presentation/workshops.

I’m used to traveling to different places to do school visits and, thankfully, I can still do that virtually. I’ve been able to deliver presentations and workshops for students located across Canada and in other places around the world such as Singapore, Australia, China, and Korea. It’s not quite the same as being there in person, and the time differences can be tricky, but at least we can still connect.

If you’re a teacher or librarian looking for visits, check out my own website, or explore cwillbc.org (The Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators of BC), where you can search the database for a speaker that is perfect for your situation. (You can perform a search using various criteria—for example, you can search for creators who deliver presentations virtually). Another great organization is CANSCAIP, which also has a directory of authors and illustrators across Canada.

Until we meet in person . . . happy learning!

Give-away time!

The paperback version of The Guardians of Zoone, my most recent middlegrade book, is out now with HarperCollins Children’s Book! To celebrate this AND I Read Canadian Day, I’m gifting three autographed copies!

To enter:

  1. Head on over to my twitter account and check out my pinned tweet.
  2. Retweet and follow me (if you don’t already!)
  3. Comment with your favorite pirate character!

Giveaway closes Feb 13, 12pm PST and is available for shipping to Canadian and US addresses. I’m going to throw in some other Zoone-related goodies, such as some stickers! PLUS, the book includes one other special treats (more on that below) . . .

I had forgotten all about this until I got my own copies of the paperback version of The Guardians of Zoone and flipped through it—there is a SNEAK PEEK of my brand-new middle grade book, SPELL SWEEPER (coming out Fall, 2021). Ah! I’m so excited for Spell Sweeper and to share it with you!

What’s even more fun is that the graphic HarperCollins used in the sneak-peek section was designed by ME. I sometimes do little logos to help keep me going during the arduous writing process—and then I put them in my manuscript submissions. My editor and team at HarperCollins liked it well enough to use it for this sneak peek, which is kind of cool!

I should say that I’ve now received the “page passes” for the final design and the typography for the title looks MUCH better than mine, but it’s still neat to see that my version was here.

Well, what are you waiting for? Head on over to my twitter page and enter my contest!

I Read Canadian — and I write and teach it, too!

I Read Canadian — and I write and teach it, too!

I’m so proud to be one of the “captains” for the second annual I Read Canadian Day, which is coming up on February 17, 2021, all across the country (and maybe the world)! This year, our theme is #NowMoreThanEver. 

If you are a teacher, librarian, parent, or simply a lover of children’s literature, then I encourage you to join us in celebrating!


What is I Read Canadian Day?

I’m leading the BC team along with fellow author Mahtab Narsimhan, and we are supported by a fantastic team of volunteer authors, illustrators, and kidlit lovers who have been working hard to spread awareness of the event.

IRCD is a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people. This is a day dedicated to “reading Canadian” and will empower families, schools, libraries and organizations to host local activities and events within the week.

For example, we’ve asked libraries and bookstores to set up local “I Read Canadian” displays. Many schools have created challenges to get more readers involved, to see how many readers can read Canadian.

GOAL
The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity and breadth of Canadian literature.

WHEN
The official celebration day is February 17th, 2021. We are also celebrating Canadian children’s bookstores on February 13th, 2021. Last year, stores hosted authors and illustrators in-store; this year that’s obviously not possible in most Canadian cities, so we have dozens of authors and illustrators creating videos to promote their local bookstores. Stay tuned to social media and get ready to see a wave of fantastic creators share their corner of Canada!

ACTION
On February 17th, we challenge the nation to “Read Canadian” for fifteen minutes and to share their experience at their library, in their school, with their families and friends, or on social media. Young people are encouraged to read, or be read to, a Canadian book of their choice.


What we’re reading in my household

We are big readers in our house and have so many great Canadian children’s books to share. My social media feeds include posts almost every day of our son Hiro’s favorite Canadian children’s books. He doesn’t know they are Canadian, of course—he’s too young to think that way, but these are his favorite books that just so happen to be Canadian. You can see these posts on my twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. 


What I’m teaching

As a co-founder of The Creative Writing Children for Society (CWC), I lead many book discussions with the students in my classes. We’re reading Canadian for the entire month of February! Here are this year’s Canadian picks, which I’ve divided into YA and middle-grade, since I teach both age groups. If you’re looking for recommendation in these age groups, try these out!

CanadianBooks-yabooks

YA books:
The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad
Caster, by Elsie Chapman
Hungry Hearts, edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond 
Are You Seeing Me, by Darren Groth
All We Left Behind, by Danielle R. Graham
Crimson, by Arthur Slade
This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel

CanadianBooks-middlegrade

MG Books:
The Very, Very Far North, by Dan Bar-el
Music for Tigers, by Michelle Kadarusman
Embrace the Chicken, by Mahtab Narsimhan
Krista Kim-bap, by Angela Ahn
Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier
Bloom, by Kenneth Oppel
This is Your Brain on Stereotypes, by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Finding Cooper, by Stacey Matson
The Secret of Zoone, by Lee Edward Födi


What I’m writing 

You’ll notice that last book is by me—because I not only read and teach Canadian, I also write it. As a fantasy writer, I’m best known for creating books that take place in other worlds, but I don’t think setting is what makes a book Canadian. (Though, I feel the need to point out here that my latest book—it’s called SPELL SWEEPER and is coming out this fall—is the first one that I’ve actually set it in a real place. The main location is a magical school called Dragonsong Academy, situated in Canada. Another important location is the Whistler Train Wreck.)

Obviously, what really makes a book a Canadian is the author and, honestly, that comes with our unique and distinctive perspective. Yes, we are a country that is very diverse. We have multiple major political parties. We have vast and varied geography, from deserts to tundra. We have one of the biggest cities in North America, and we have some of the tiniest towns you’ll ever find. We have people from many different cultural backgrounds and experiences. But, at the same time, we are a small country, with under 40 million people, and I think that provides us with a common identity. In my own kidlit community, everyone seems to know everyone—if not personally, second-hand. And I think that’s Canada in a nutshell: we are a small close-knit community.

So, please come join and celebrate our community on February 17th!

You can sign up for I Read Canadian day HERE—and, hey, feel free to check out my entire personal book list at my website.