The best books with magical brooms (that aren’t Harry Potter)

There’s a groovy website (fairly) new to the book-review game called Shepard and one of the things that I enjoy about it is the featured lists—especially those by authors!

Inspired by the process of writing my own book, Spell Sweeper, I compiled a list of middle-grade books that feature magical brooms that aren’t Harry Potter (I’ve met more than one young reader—and some older ones, too—who assume Rowling is the inventor of flying broomsticks, as well other fantasy tropes, such as magical schools and owls as familiars)!

You can check out my list here—and, of course, if you have read Spell Sweeper, you already know that the brooms in that book are definitely not for flying!

Me flying.
Me trying to fly a broom—emphasis on the word “trying.”

Speaking of Spell Sweeper and Shepherd, I was thrilled to see that my book made it onto its own list: The best middle-grade books with fantastically fun ensemble casts. (Thank you to author Kerelyn Smith for including it! You should check out her delightful fantasy book, Mulrox and the Malcognitos!)

Check it out!


In which a girl with pointed ears and crazy hair gets her own plaque


Last year I received the exciting news that the first book in my Kendra Kandlestar series, The Box of Whispers, would be a part of the Reading Lights literacy initiative, in which plaques featuring children’s books by BC authors and illustrators  are installed on lamp posts near parks, playgrounds, schools, and libraries throughout the city of Vancouver. This week, the actual plaque was installed at Alma Park near 12th & Dunbar on the west side of the city.

The Reading Lights program represents an exciting collaboration between the Vancouver Public Library and the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of B.C. Society. The first set of twenty Reading Lights plaques were installed in January 2016 and another wave is set to come out in 2018.

Check out the official Reading Lights website, where you can view an interactive map of all the plaques installed for both Phase 1 and 2 of the project. You can even download the map to take with you as you go on a kid-lit hunt!




An interview on CBC radio


Since I’ve been announcing the official release for my latest book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, I thought I’d post the link to an interview I did on CBC radio earlier this year.

I’ve done many interviews before, but I think this might be the first one where I actually went into the studio. I found it a little intimidating to be surrounded by all the equipment and to have to sit in a separate booth from the interviewer. However, you’ll never get a sense of any of this when you listen to the interview. Host Sheryl MacKay does a fabulous job of making both the guest and the audience feel like they are just having a cozy morning chat!

Kendra Kandlestar shortlisted for Chocolate Lily Award


I received some thrilling news—Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers has been shortlisted for the Chocolate Lily award.

This is a readers’ choice award—ultimately, the winning book will be selected by the kids in the province of BC. I’m particularly pleased to be nominated along many of my friends and colleagues, including Dan Bar-el, Meg TillyAnn Walsh, and Rachelle Delaney. Congratulations to all the nominees!

You can find out more about the program at




A week of celebration at the Richmond Children’s Arts Festival

I just finished my work as the feature author at the Richmond Children’s Arts Festival. It was an exhilarating week that began with a 5:45am wake up call on Monday morning so that we could get to the site in time to do a spot on the local talk show, Breakfast Television.


I’m not sure how long the link will stay active, but you can check out the spot here.

That was followed by a day of performances. It was a thrill to have so much of the festival centered around my Kendra Kandlestar books and fantasy writing. Artwork from the books decorated the library the entire week!


There was a fantasy map station and a hat-building station too!




The rest of my time at the festival was spent leading kids in creativity workshops. I delivered some of my best-known workshops, such as “Monster Designing 101”, “Crafting Kingdoms: The Art of Building Strong Fantasy Worlds”, “How to Be a Hero”, and “So, You Think You’re a Villain?”

Here’s some of the snapshots I managed to take of the kids’ work. To start with, here are some of the group characters we brainstormed in “Monster Designing 101”:rcaf_monster01





And here are some photos of some of the individual pieces:







You can see the brainstorming simply bursting off the pages, with some students even starting a story!

Here’s one last one, which depicts a little caricature of Kendra reading. What great hair—I think she could give Medusa a run for her money!


I’d like to extend a big shout-out to all the organizers, performers, and volunteers who made the week a fantastic success! I have a lot of fun doing what I do, but it takes a whole lot of energy, and nothing helps like all of that behind-the-scenes work.

And now, I’m off to Asia to teach a Monsters & Mythology camp. The fun never seems to end, as you can see by some of the things I have to pack in my suitcase:



Close and personal: I’m the cover story in the Fall edition of Wordworks

Wordworks Fall 2012One of my close friends, kc dyer, serves as the guest editor in the latest issue of WordWorks Magazine, which focuses on children’s lit and YA.

Lucky for her that the power-that-be wanted me to be the cover story; kc knows me so well I had absolutely no inhibitions during our interview. In fact, re-reading the story, I’m surprised at some of the things I said! Oh well. You can get a hint of what’s to come for Kendra Kandlestar in my upcoming book and read about my philosophies on how I think an author’s job is to “torture” his characters.

You can check out the issue here.

I’m pleased to see many of my other friends and colleagues featured in this issue as well. James McCann discusses the Zombie Apocalypse, Tanya Lloyd Kai has a piece on nonfiction, Jaqueline Pearce tell us about the process of writing about Japan, and Phyllis Simon from Kidsbooks relates life as a bookseller. And of course, there’s plenty form kc too!

Wordworks Fall 2012

Q & A with an eleven-year-old

This week one of my favourite students emailed me from Korea and asked to interview me for a school project. Rachel really thinks like a writer (after all, she IS a writer) and so I was happy to answer all of her questions.

Oh, by the way, the eleven-year-old in the title of this blog refers to ME. True, Rachel is technically eleven—though, if you ask me, she has the mind of a twenty-five-year old. (Do you know many kids in Grade 6 who casually throw around the word “flagitious?”). On the other hand, I’m often told that I’m emotionally stuck at eleven . . . so here you go—the candid and unedited interview . . .

1) What inspired you to become a writer?
BOREDOM. When I was a kid, growing up on the farm, I felt stuck. I dreamed of travelling to exotic (or magical!) places, but while all my friends were off having summer vacation, we were working hard on the farm. The work was okay—it was just that I was always bored, doing repetitive tasks like picking cherries or cleaning the chicken coop (which, by the way, is not only repetitive but repoopitive. Okay. Bad joke. MOVE ON.) In any case, I used to make up stories to entertain myself. Well, I also LOVED books. Everything about them. The stories, the illustrations, even the way the books were designed. So I started writing, illustrating and designing my own books. They looked terrible! But was not terrible was my love of books. And I guess that just continued forward as I got older. (Please notice how I didn’t say “Grew up”).

2) What do you feel is the advantage of being a writer?
I have never had this question before, even though I’ve done quite a few interviews! I suppose I never thought of writing in quite this way. After all, many people will happily leap up and tell you all the DISADVANTAGES of being a writer (which seem to mainly consist of not earning enough money). I suppose I find this question difficult to answer because it makes it sound like someone has a choice when it comes to this career. And I feel like I did NOT have a choice. I am a storyteller. I didn’t choose it. When I was in university I listened to all the disadvantages that everyone was telling me and decided that I would abandon writing so that I could get a real job. And I did get a real job . . . But then I found myself scampering home each night to write anyway. I couldn’t stop writing! So, what is the advantage of being a writer? I guess the answer for me is not being a miserable person who decided to deny what is trying to burst out of his soul.

By the way, there are many benefits to being a writer—I get to make up worlds and play in them. I get to travel the world and meet tons of children and hear THEIR wonderful stories. And I get to meet other authors, who are really some of the most interesting people in the world.

Tower of London3) What do you believe is the mandatory preparations to be a writer?
Read. A lot. And write. A lot. Read and write different sorts of books. Even if you are committed to a certain genre, reading and writing different styles ultimately makes you a better writer in whatever genre you end up choosing. (Though, sometimes, I feel like the genre chooses you). I’m a fantasy writer, so I believe you should cultivate creativity in your life. That’s why I build props, go on “field trips” to do research, and draw. Actually, as far as I’m concerned, all of these things are writing. When I’m drawing—I’m writing. When I’m building my magic potions kit—I’m writing. And when I’m traipsing through a castle dungeon and feeling a cold trickle of air down my spine—well, then, I’m DEFINITELY writing.

4) Would you advise people to follow your career as a writer?
I would advise people to “follow their bliss,” which is actually advice from the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell (one of my heroes). Follow what you love. It may not lead you to the greatest financial wealth or material prosperity . . . But, then again, I feel that each person has to decide what is most important. How do we define personally success? I decided long ago that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t throw every fiber of my soul into being a writer. Certainly, I was always writing . . . But there’s a difference between hiding in a dark corner and writing in secret and getting out there and putting everything you can into it! I am SO much happier now as a writer than I was when I had a “proper” career. And so many different doors have opened for me along the way.

Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah5) (Sorry, I had to throw this in for my teacher wanted something that qualified as ‘having done enough research on the following person that is being interviewed’). As Kendra Kandlestar IV won many awards, namely the Mom’s Choice Award, CCBC selecion, and Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice award, which is far more, if you excuse me for saying so, awards than any of the other books in the series have gotten, why do you believe so?

Yeesh, you’ve been tort—er TAUGHT by me at numerous writing camps and classes; you even know what I like to eat and don’t like to eat! I would say you’ve done your research. BUT, in any case, proper answer below . . .

Actually, my first book in the Kendra Kandlestar series had quite a few accolades as well, being recommended by the Canadian Toy Testing Council, winning the Mom’s Choice Award, and being nominated for the Surrey Book of the Year award. Why The Crack in Kazah has ended up garnering so many awards is a pleasant surprise to me—I’m so happy that a fourth book in a series can win these awards, because it just means that the series hasn’t become repetitive or stale. I took a risk in writing that book, making it very different from the others and I suppose winning awards is ONE proof that my approach worked. (Though, the best proof would be reader response. MOST readers seem pleased with it). I’m not sure Crack in Kazah is my best book . . . It’s hard for me to be objective about it. The book I’m working on right now, the final installment of Kendra Kandlestar, is my favourite—just because I’m in the middle of it and I am enjoying what is happening with the characters.

Kazah makes the Best Books List for 2012

Best Book for Kids and Teens 2012I just received the official press release from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) announcing the release of their Spring Edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens 2012 and—as I tweeted a couple days ago—Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah has made the list.

I’m thrilled, especially since it’s the fourth in a series (and these are the types of things that give me fuel as I toil away on Kendra Kandlestar 5).

I’m also pleased that my friends and colleagues both have books that made the list (Vikki Van Sickle for Love is a Four-Letter Word and Dan Bar-el for Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?)

As stated in CCBC’s own press release, all of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada. You can find out more at CCBC’s website.