TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 5

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 5

Well, it’s over. The final day of TD Book Week came to an end on Friday, and I managed to survive with my voice mostly intact. One more day probably would have killed it!

Mapping a story

I did two sessions of mapping a story, one at two schools that shared the same librarian (the schools are only five minutes apart).

In the planning stages of the tour, I had provided the schools and libraries with a list of my brainstorming sessions and most picked “enchanted trees” or “secret doorways.” These two schools, however, chose “mapping an adventure”—it was nice to get a little variety today. Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE designing doors, but when you are doing multiple sessions several days in a row, a change of pace is good for my creative energy.

Essentially, this type of mapping is writing with pictures—the students not only plot an adventure but create settings along the way—and, of course, characters, too! Here are some of the story-maps they came up with:

TDbookweek_mapping02

TDbookweek_mapping01

TDbookweek_mapping03

TDbookweek_mapping04

TDbookweek_mapping05

TDbookweek_mapping06

TDbookweek_mapping07

TDbookweek_mapping08

TDbookweek_mapping09

TDbookweek_mapping10

TDbookweek_mapping11

TDbookweek_mapping12

TDbookweek_mapping13

As you can see, many elements of the story are in place. In fact, I feel like some of these look like the adventure route on a Candy Land-style board game.

Final round of door brainstorming

The very last session of the tour was done at the Woodside branch of the Toronto Public Library. They invited in a classroom of tweens for a presentation and door brainstorming. I figured it was a Friday afternoon and they might be low energy, but they really produced some great designs: Just check these out:

tpl_woodside-door01

tpl_woodside-door02

tpl_woodside-door03

tpl_woodside-door04

tpl_woodside-door05

tpl_woodside-door06

tpl_woodside-door07

tpl_woodside-door08

tpl_woodside-door09

tpl_woodside-door10

tpl_woodside-door12

tpl_woodside-door13

tpl_woodside-door14

tpl_woodside-door15

Also, some of the kids started spilling into other areas, designing characters, such as this one sheet from a very talented kid:

TDbookweek_characterbrainstorming01

I was also enamored with this drawing that one student did of my artifacts:

TDbookweek_objectbrainstorming01

Speaking of my artifacts, this was the last time I unpacked and packed them back again before taking my flight home this weekend. They all survived! I didn’t break or lose a single one. Of course, kids continually asked to sell me the props, but I always say the same thing: “make your own!” Because, really, I don’t feel any of my props (other than the suitcase) is that complicated to make. Prop building is like writing—it takes mostly patience. And none of the supplies I use are that complicated.

artifacts_TDbookweektour_2019

Doing a workshop at the Toronto Public Library was a really great way to end the tour. Sophia, the library assistant, was a great host and she had just finished reading The Secret of Zoone and gave me a glowing review. Hey, I’ll take a glowing review from anyone, but, of course, it’s always special to get a good review from a librarian, because they are the ones who really read a lot and know their stuff. So, thank you, Sophia! I really appreciate your comments about my book.

Favourite question of the day

I actually got this question a few times this week, but I decided to feature it today. It was: “What is your favourite place that you traveled to?” (REAL place—not imaginary; I had to clarify!)

It’s always hard to answer this question. There are places I go to on a regular basis for work or family reasons: Korea, Japan, and England. But I think my favourite places I visit are the ones that are new to me, the ones that can offer me a surprising or unusual experience. I love nothing more than stepping out of my hotel door and being walloped by smells, sounds, and sights!

Book signing

After my last official TD Book Week visit, I had one more stop: the local Indigo book store at Scarborough Town Centre. My publisher had asked me to stop by and sign some stock. There were six books in the store, so I signed all of them (and one sold while I was there!).

In particular, though, it was fun to walk into the store and see my book positioned face out—this is obviously a good thing, because it means the book gets more attention.

zoone_scarboroughindigoshelves.jpg

Well, it’s time for me to go and get some grub, and some rest! I think I’ve earned it!

About Book Week

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

Advertisements

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 4

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 4

It was another fun and busy schedule on Day 4 of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour!

Knocking your socks right off

The first thing I want to say is that I have been having a great time and I think the students have, too. In fact, I can now say with all authority that my presentations will knock your socks off—literally.

Doubt me?

Well, I have the proof. After my very last presentation of the day, I found this lone sock hanging out on the gymnasium floor!

williamarmstrong-sock.jpg

But back to the beginning of my day, which started with me waking up in Markham to dismal weather. It was cloudy, rainy, and cold—in other words, what it feels like on a typical winter’s day in Vancouver. (Or, admittedly, often in June.) That was a good excuse for an extra cup of coffee, which I got at the Starbucks conveniently located in my hotel lobby.

I jumped into the car and headed to my first school Saint Francis Xavier—or, as they like to call it, SFX. Sounds like a cool Sci-Fi channel, but more importantly, it makes it a lot easier to autograph books to their school!

This friendly display welcomed me as I entered:

sfx-welcome

Perhaps more importantly, so did a tray of delicious snacks. Little touches like that can really help an author keep going in the middle of a buzzing tour.

Enchanted Trees

Every presentation I did today was in a gymnasium, which means I had a lot of big groups. I did two sessions at SFX, the first one involving 220 kids, grade K-3.

I rolled out my brainstorming session on enchanted trees for these guys; it always seems to be a good fit for younger kids.

Our “group” tree ended up looking like this, with keys for fruit and a flying pig as a critter:

sfx_tree00.jpg

Here are some of the trees the kids came up with:

sfx_tree01

sfx_tree02

sfx_tree03

sfx_tree04

Magical Doorways

For the second session at SFX, plus my presentation to grades K-8 at William Armstrong Public School, we designed magical doorways.

There have been a lot of doorways designed this week, but I was intrigued by what one boy did today. It was something very simple, something you would think would be quite intuitive, but something I haven’t seen any other kid do. He folded his paper in half so that he could physically open his doorway, then draw, on the opposite side, where his door led to!

williamarmstrong-door10

Here are some of the other doors that kids designed in these two sessions:

sfx_door01

sfx_door02

sfx_door03

sfx_door04

sfx_door06

williamarmstrong-door01

williamarmstrong-door02

williamarmstrong-door03

Favourite question of the day

There were a lot of great questions from my three sessions today, so I’m going to pick a main favourite, plus two honorary ones. So, my ultimate favourite is: “Why is writing special to you?”

I liked this question because I’ve never been asked it before. I’ve been asked similar questions, such as “Why do you like writing?” . . . but not one worded quite this way. And I tend to pay attention to specific wording in questions (I guess that comes with the territory of being an author and a teacher).

I will say that I had trouble answering the question. I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought of writing as something “special.” It’s a part of me, yes. But it’s always felt so integral, like a limb. Maybe it’s something I’ve taken for granted? I’m not sure . . .

Now to the honorary questions. Honorary favorite question #1 is: “Which character did you like writing the most?” This one is also hard to answer.

In terms of my Kendra Kandlestar books, I think it was Agent Lurk and Uncle Griffinskitch, because they both changed a lot across the series, and it was fun to see their growth, motivations, and history.

Uncle Griffinskitch

lurk_battlement_shard

For The Secret of Zoone, I’m tempted to say Tug the skyger because he is just so much darn fun!

Tug on the sofa

But, ultimately, I’m going to say Ozzie’s Aunt Temperance and I think it’s for the same reason as Aent Lurk and Uncle Griffinskitch. Her back story, her compulsions, and her motivations were very intriguing to me. Even though Ozzie is the clear main character in the book, I somehow feel the Zoone story is hers.

Aunt Temperance sketch

Honorary favorite question #2 is: “Can I have your key?” I like this question, because I get to answer “YES.” As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my Zoone key is 3D printed, and I have provided the file on my website (you can download it here).

Aunt Temperance's Zoone Key - orange background

I didn’t get to lost

Now to the big news of the day: I didn’t get lost. Not once! (First day this happened on the tour!)

Well, one day left . . . hard to believe it’s almost over! (Insert sad emoji face here.)

About Book Week

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

 

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 3 (robots are liars)

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 3 (robots are liars)

Day 3 of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week marked the mid-point of my tour and it was very different from my previous days, mostly because I got to spend the whole day at one school. This was a nice switch! When you are a prop guy like me, there’s a lot of set up and pack up, and I only had to do it once today—as opposed to Monday and Tuesday, when I had to do it multiple times, and as quickly as possible to make the next event. (Hey, it’s my own fault!)

An oldie but a goodie

I spent the day in a gorgeous hundred-year old school called Summitview Public School located in the town of Stouffeville, Ontario. I was so busy hunting for the school that I didn’t even see the big sign out from with my name on it. The librarian pointed it out to me, so I rushed out at the break to take this photo, and one of the exterior of the building:

Summitville_sign

Summitville_school

Trees, doors, and a magical item or two!

Because I was there the entire day, I got to speak to the entire student body, from K-8, but in different groups, which I really appreciated. It not only made each group more intimate but allowed me to tailor my content to each age level.

For the younger group, that meant a lot of raw creativity and energy. We brainstormed magical trees and, for the group tree, ended up with a potion tree that was happy to dole out his magic to any passersby (the greedy little dragon who lived in his branches, however, had other ideas!)

Summitville-tree00

Of course, each student also created a tree of his or her own, and I managed to snap a couple of shots:

Summitville-tree02

Summitville-tree01

For the intermediate groups, I was able to combine the brainstorming with a little bit more of a discussion on the writing process. They had such great questions! And, of course, they had some very intriguing designs for their doors. Here’s just a handful of the ones that were produced:

DC266BFD-1F70-4004-A52D-12731580D9D1

0D4EE817-2EE1-4F3F-9D72-99A208C1EDA1

4B73728B-72C1-4A7D-8064-5C5B069914C2

16E5F49A-76DC-48BE-9352-79F88EA737CE

224FF666-F271-43DD-85EC-7C853C184250

3588E19D-1DEC-4773-9F09-1B304DD734CA

346896B7-DF71-4E11-A5DC-B644570CA357

73486227-3862-4545-AE6B-FAC1FE592AC3

CA05CA71-94BA-40BD-8996-9D7BFA7720A9

DB6B930A-54C6-4DFF-8A83-EA93E53B96FF

My final group was with the Grades 6-8. I had a lot of time with this group so I really covered some of the professional aspects of publishing, such as how a book cover is designed. Of course, I did allot some time for brainstorming, and we did the idea of magical markets.

This group was a little reserved to begin with, but at one point the cork suddenly popped and they burst forth with ideas. They pitched so many of them at me that we actually ran out of time (the teacher had to do the equivalent of yanking me off the stage with a long cane)!

Some of the items they came up? Well:

  • a jar of human souls
  • a vial of toenails from a king
  • a skirt that allows you to fly
  • shadow spray
  • truth serum (in a bottle shaped like a question mark)
  • a bottle of dragon tears
  • a portable hole
  • an orange, which, whenever you peel it, offers you a different type of fruit (and it’s unlimited)

Summitville-magicalmarket-group

A piece of advice I gave them is to try and be as specific as possible in their ideas—and they took it to heart. That’s why I was given ideas such as “a bottle of king’s toenails” as opposed to simply “toenails.” When you’re specific, the ideas are more interesting and more evocative!

What an engaged and creative bunch—all of them! It was a really great day, which was capped off with more event . . .

Adding to the Buzz

Fiona, one of the older students, started a podcast at her school called “What’s the Buzz?” (The school’s sports teams are “the stingers”, so they got a bee theme here). So, at the end of the day, I sat down with Fiona and recorded a short interview. She was so poised and confident (and prepared)—I was impressed.

Summitville_fiona_interview

Kindred spirits

It’s not just the kids I enjoy meeting at schools—it’s also the educators. I certainly love to talk about the process of writing, but I also love to talk about the process ofteachingwriting. I’ve had so many great conversations with teachers and librarians these past few days, and it was no different at Summitview. Constance Calvert, the librarian, runs a really great show and I really enjoyed talking “shop” with her!

Favourite question of the day

I’m going to pick two favorite questions, and I feel like I’m entitled because one was from an actual session and one was from the podcast I did with Fiona.

So, from one of my workshop sessions: “Are your favorite characters always your main characters?” (The answer is “no!” I often prefer the side characters in my stories in terms of the ones I grow quite attached to.)

My other favorite question came from Fiona’s interview and was the last one she asked me, which was: “What’s the one questions that I didn’t ask that you would like me to?”

I chose: “What character in your book are you most alike!” (I won’t tell my answer here—I think I’ll wait until the podcast is posted!)

Did I get lost? Yes, because robots are liars

Um . . . does a bee buzz? In yesterday’s blog post, I mentioned that the potential for me getting lost today was low, because I had less travel. I should have never written with such bravado because the robots ganged up and sent me on a whirlwind circle around the greater Toronto area. Google Maps, my GPS, even the hotel website all provided an address that sent me down a freeway with NO hotel. So, basically, I’m in the middle of a stretch of freeway with nothing around me and the GPS is telling me I have arrived at my destination.

I pulled over more than once to try and figure it out. Eventually, I looked up the hotel on Google Maps, found a nearby Tim Horton’s, and plugged its address into the GPS and that got me to my destination. (Take that robots!) I’m staying here for three more nights, so at least I won’t have to hunt for the hotel tomorrow.

Oh, oh.

Did I just jinx myself?

Stay tuned . . .

About Book Week

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

 

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 2

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 2

Day 2 of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour was a wild one, presenting four times in three different locations. Because of that I didn’t have time to get many photos—it was go, go, go!

But here is one of me at the end of my first presentation, courtesy of one of the teachers at Carruthers Creek Public School:

ajax_library

A very literary day

There was a very literary theme to my day—and not just because I’m an author on tour! I stayed over night in a town called Ajax and on my way to present at the local library, drove on Achilles Road. Obviously, there is quite a Greek Mythology theme here. At one other point, I presented at a school on Byron Road (I was tempted to take out a sharpie and add “Lord” on the street sign)!

Another theme to the day was that there was a lot of variety. Doing a tour like this can sometimes feel like your trapped in a recurring dream, in which you are doing the same thing over and over again. Since becoming a published author, I now understand why touring bands get tired of playing the same old songs over and over again. After awhile, everything can blur together and I often forget if I have already said something to a group, of if that was something said I mentioned earlier in the day.

But that was not a problem today! All of my presentations were very distinctive . . .

 

Ajax Public Library

My first presentation was at the local public library, which means the kids were coming from a nearby school. I had 125 Grade 3 kids in attendance. Once I arrived at the library, and was “on the ground” so to speak, I realized that my usual format wasn’t going to quite the right fit. The space was excellent, but it wasn’t exactly conducive to doing a brainstorming session.

Plus, my time was really tight—I had to make sure I ended right on time so that I could jump in the car and zoom to my next school. That meant that if the kids (who were coming from offsite) were even five or ten minutes late, then the whole thing would be too rushed.

On top of all this, the library tech was in a bit of a panic because the technology and hookups weren’t working. So, with all these factors floating around, I decided that “less is more” and made the call to drop the brainstorming activity and just focus on my presentation and Q&A.

As it turned out, the tech didn’t have anything to worry about because I have a Mac. Which means I simply plugged in my computer and—as always—ta da!

It also turned out that I had made the right call with the format. By the time the last group made it into the presentation space, we were ten minutes in. I jumped to it!

As has been a common thread on this tour, the kids were fascinated by my suitcase of magic stuff! If I actually start taking the offers I’m getting to purchase all of these things, I could probably retire—because when nine-year-old kids offer me four thousand dollars for my Zoone key, I can assume they’re good for the money—RIGHT?

Aunt Temperance's Zoone Key - orange background

By the way, I keep telling everyone that they don’t have to offer to buy my Zoone key. They can make their own! Mine was 3D printed by my friend Jeff Porter and he was good enough to supply the print file, which can be downloaded off The Secret of Zoone page on my website. The direct link to the 3D print file is here.

A character in a suitcase at Hatch House Montessori School

After presenting at the Ajax Public Library, I zoomed to a Montessori School in Whitby. This was an incredible 90-year old building that looks like a castle!

hatchouse-turret

The inside was just as amazing, with rich wood paneling along the narrow hallways. I simply just didn’t have time to take photos; in truth, I would have loved exploring that building for a couple of hours. (I bet there are cool doors down in the basement!)

The great thing about this presentation is that it was very intimate, with only twelve students in attendance. So, I didn’t need to set up my computer and projector; I just simple opened up my wizard’s suitcase and started showing the kids my artifacts.

Afterwards, we handed out blank paper and I had the kids design their own suitcases. The previous day, at the Children’s Book Bank in Toronto, I had provided the kids with premade templates, but that was mostly because they were younger and sometimes a bit more structure can be more helpful.

But at Hatch House, I had more time and less students, so I led them through a more organized process. As they designed their suitcases, I had them think about what characters would own them. Many of the kids chose characters such as princesses, spies, pirates, or magical animals (we even had a half-human, half-dragon—a “dragonoid”).

hatchhouse-suitcase04

hatchhouse-suitcase03

hatchhouse-suitcase02

hatchhouse-suitcase01

One impish student, however, decided that the owner of her suitcase was ME. Based on this drawing, I need some dental work—STAT!

hatchhouse-suitcase05-mrwiz

This activity is a lot of fun because it allows students to develop character (and story) from a different perspective—by SHOWING the character’s personality by the things he or she owns. (Writing teachers? We love to harp on our students about showing not telling.)

Enchanted trees and magical markets with Immanuel Christian School

After Hatch House, I jumped in my car, set my GPS, and roared off to the next school. Unfortunately, my GPS and my Google Maps print-out (because, yes, I like to have a back-up) were both convinced that the school was in Oshawa.

It is not.

It is also in Whitby—which means I went completely the opposite direction and got lost. To be fair to everyone (including me!) the school usedto be in Oshawa. I finally pulled over, rechecked some information and got turned around in time to make it to the school in time for both lunch and my presentations.

My first workshop was with the junior grades (1-5). In this presentation, I talked about enchanted trees and showed pictures of various trees that I have “collected” during my travels (don’t worry—I don’t take snippings! My collection just involves photos).

Afterwards, we brainstormed our own trees, including what the tree looks like, what it might grow, and who might live in it!

The kids came up with their own unique designs; as for the group tree, we ended up with a donut tree.

immanuelcs-donuttree.jpg

As you can see, he is really grumpy and doesn’t want to share his donuts, even though he has such nice rainbow-coloured leaves. Thankfully, there is a donut dragon living in his foliage, ready to swoop in and help weary and hungry travellers sneak a treat!

The second group was the tweens and teens. I showed them some photos of my visits to markets in Europe, Asia, Egypt, and Guatemala then we brainstormed our own magical shops, inventing all kinds of mysterious, arcane, or enchanted items that might be for sale. As you can see, the kids took great delight in populating the shop with different sorts of EGGS (because, as soon as you tell kids you can’t stand eggs, they go to town). Also, they added dragon poop. Yep, they went there. So, if you think about it, our market features the complete cycle of life.

immanuelcs-market.jpg

Favourite question of the day

My favourite question from today was one I’ve never had before:  “Which book did you enjoy writing the most?”

I often get asked which book I like the most, but not which one I liked writing the most. I actually didn’t have an answer for this question! Each book involves its own unique challenges. I think I remember more of the emotional torment I feel while writing a book—not the positive stuff. There are certainly times when I’m writing that everything is flowing smoothly, but then I don’t think about it—I’m just going with that flow. But when something is going wrong—like I’ve just tumbled into a massive plot hole—that’s what I really remember!

Well, tomorrow will be a unique day on this tour. I’m spending the entire day at a single school! (Which, for those keeping track, really reduces my opportunities for getting lost.)

About Book Week

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

 

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 1

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 1

Today was the official start of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in Toronto and surrounding areas.

Yesterday, I chronicled my long travel day. Despite that long day, and the time difference, I sprang out of bed this morning before my alarm actually went off. Always a good sign!

I had three different places to visit, so I made sure I left with extra travel time to spare. Which I needed, because I got lost twice before even arriving at my visit—the first time just trying to find my way to the hotel parking lot from the front lobby.

Do NOT underestimate my ability to get lost!

Enchanted vessels at Shaughnessy Public School

My first visit was for an audience of K-6 in a gymnasium setting. Gyms aren’t my favorite places to present because they are often so big and vacuous and, for some reason I can never fathom, schools are always keen to arrange the kids so that there is giant 100-foot gap between me and them. At Shaughnessy Public School, though, the gym is small and intimate, and I could easily interact with the kids.

Here’s a picture of me at the presentation (photo by Grace Wu).

shaughnessypublicschool

Part of my presentation included an interactive brainstorming session based around the theme of “enchanted vessels.” I led them through the activity, asking them to consider important details for their vessels, including shape, design, decoration, and other sensory details—such as sounds that the vessel might make, or what it might feel like to touch it. Of course, they also had to decide how it could be opened and what it might contain.

shaughnessy-boxbrainstorming02

shaughnessy-boxbrainstorming03

shaughnessy-boxbrainstorming04

shaughnessy-boxbrainstorming05

shaughnessy-boxbrainstorming01

Secret doorways at St. Joseph’s Catholic School

My next stop was only a short drive away. I didn’t get lost! I had plenty of time to unload my kit, drop it off to the school, then go for lunch. The school is located in the Leslie Village neighborhood and I really dug it. There were so many old doors along Queen Street! (Anyone who knows me, knows I dig doors).

Here’s a beautiful flourish I found decorating just one of the many neat doors I encountered.

doorflourish-leslievillage.jpg

After lunch, I headed back to the school and set up my space in the library. I had an enthusiastic group of Grades 3-6 who were bursting with questions about my props and approach to writing.

Similar to the morning session, I led the students in an interactive brainstorming session, but this time around the theme of—you guessed it—doors.

Here are some of the kids’ creations:

stjosephs-door01

stjosephs-door02

stjosephs-door03

stjosephs-door04

stjosephs-door05

stjosephs-door06

stjosephs-door07

stjosephs-door08

Spellbinding suitcases at the Children’s Book Bank

My final visit was at the Children’s Book Bank, which is a wonderful little hybrid between a library and a bookshop—except no one pays for the book. The Book Bank provides free books and literacy support to children living in low-income neighborhoods across Toronto.

I absolutely adored the space in its beautiful brick building with its delightful corners for curling up and reading a good book or two.

bookbank01

bookbank02

bookbank03

But there was no time for ME to disappear into a book during my visit. I was busy presenting to two different afternoon groups!

I was also treated to a great surprise—two representatives, Emma and Kirsti, came from the Children’s Book Centre to watch me at work and take photos. I actually like it when parents, teachers, school board trustees, and other representatives come to see my workshops and presentations because I think that’s the only true way to really get to understand what I do.

Having said that, what I delivered at the Children’s Book Bank was pretty different from what I usually do. Because of the intimate setting, I didn’t show slides, but simply sat down, and told stories using all of the items in my wizard’s suitcase as visual aids.

They were enthralled, to say the least—which was good, because the activity I had for them was decorating and designing a suitcase that might belong to a traveler who would visit Zoone. Afterwards, they got to think about what that traveler might have inside his suitcase.

bookbank05

bookbank06

It was all over in a blur!

Favorite question of the day

I get bombarded with questions during a school visit, and I always like to try and pick out one or two that really stand out. The first question that pops into my head came from Shaughnessy Public School. A girl asked, “How do you get all these names for these characters and worlds?”

But I think my true favorite question came from a little girl at the Children’s Book Bank, who asked, “Can I buy your notebook?”

The answer, of course, was “NO!” Why? Well, that brainstorming notebook is howI come up with all of those names for my characters and worlds!

You can see the brainstorming book in the photo below (photo courtesy of Emma Hunter at the Children’s Book Centre).

Toronto Book Bank 01

About Book Week

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

 

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 0

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 0

I’m currently on the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in Toronto (and nearby areas) and I’ve committed to journaling (blogging) each day about my experiences.

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

One of the great things about this tour is it takes Canadian chidlren’s writers, illustrators, and storytellers and sends them out of their “home” territory. I chose to visit Toronto, because well, I like the big city and it also gave me an opportunity to tack on a day to visit my god daughter.

Before that? Well, I’m going to babble myself to death talking about my new book, The Secret of Zoone.

Secret of Zoone - fancy door background.jpg

Today was “Day 0” of the tour. How can a tour have a “Day 0”? That’s easy! It’s called a travel day.

I had chosen an 8:00 am flight, which meant getting up bright and early to get to the airport. I had packed the day before, including carefully arranging my Wizard’s suitcase and setting it right by the front door for a quick departure:

wizard_suitcase_readytogo.jpg

I had also prepared my “travel survival kit”, which includes:

  • Coffee
  • Throat tea
  • Emergency snacks
  • Hand sanitizer

. . . and bookmarks—I thought these would be particularly helpful if I had to explain to airport security why I was carrying such a unique suitcase.

tour_survival_kit.jpg

Well, I got up bright and early at 5:20. I had checked my flight the night before, but forgot to recheck it at such an early hour. I simply jumped in a cab and off I went. On the way, my driver told me that they were busily closing down many of the major routes in Vancouver for the annual marathon.

“In another hour or two, you’re not getting to the airport quickly,” he told me.

Whew! I congratulated myself on choosing such an early flight—but all the relief evaporated the moment I arrived at the airport. Turned out my flight was cancelled.

Not delayed.

Cancelled!

I quickly hopped into the ticketing line and got rebooked on the 10:00 am flight.

Which was immediately delayed by two hours.

yvr_delayedflight_screen

So much for my plan to get into Toronto early to give myself prep and relax time before hitting my first visit Monday morning.

First things first, was getting through security. I had already been worried what they would think of my suitcase and I watched in amusement as I saw it appear on the X-ray monitor, with all the metal bits (the keys!) jumping out on the image.

Sure enough, the case got pulled over. The attendant took one look at it, with the gear and the locks, and told me to open it.

So what caused it to get an extra inspection? It wasn’t the dragon eggs, the potion bottle with glowing stones, the bestiary, or even the secret key to Zoone. It was those pesky bookmarks! I guess they couldn’t tell what they were!

suitcase02

Well, I eventually boarded my flight and from there it was pretty smooth sailing, with us landing at Toronto Pearson airport without further delay. I snatched up my check bag, picked up my rental car, and off I went.

But not without circling the airport car rental lot first. That’s because I missed the turnoff to the highway, and it reminded me of the LAST time I did the TD Book Week tour. On that occasion, I was travelling with fellow author Tanya Lloyd Kyi and we must have circled that airport lot three times. So, I guess my work has improved—this time, just one circle and I was off and running.

Now, I’m finally ensconced in my hotel room, ready for my first suite of visits tomorrow. On the sched? A public school, a Catholic school, and one children’s book bank!

 

 

10 Easy ways to support an author

10 Easy ways to support an author

This spring has been a busy one for myself and many of my friends. Seems like everyone in my author circle has a new book to launch, so we’ve been having fun celebrating and getting lots of personally autographed books.

My own book, The Secret of Zoone, came out officially on April 9th, and we celebrated by launching at our favorite local indie store, Kidsbooks.

signing-hiro&marcie

However, it wasn’t the first launch of the season. Preceding mine was the release of two new books by my friend Holman Wang: Great Job, Mom!and Great Job, Dad!

Holmanbooklaunch.jpg

At his launch, Holman talked about the different ways that readers can support authors. And make no mistakes about it—authors need support! Even though it might not seem like it to the casual reader browsing the shelves of the local bookstore (or the virtual shelves of amazon or any other online retailer), authors aren’t necessarily automatically getting tons of reviews or attention for their books.

Any attention helps!

So, provided to me by Holman, here are ten easy ways to support an author’s book:

1. Tell your friends about the book
The age-old strategy of word-of-mouth is still the best!

2. Write a review of the book online.
For the record, here are the links to the pages for my new book The Secret of Zoone:

Please consider rating the book (which is a simple click on most sites). If you have more time, consider leaving a review. Honest ones are welcome; this may not seem that intuitive, but ALL reviews generally help authors—even negative ones.

3. Take a book selfie for Social Media
This one can be a lot of fun, especially if you want to get creative. Some people like to show them reading the book in a certain location that relates to the book. (For The Secret of Zoone, I encourage people to take pictures of them reading it in front of doors. The older the door, the better!)

4. Turn the book face out on store bookshelves
You know when you peruse the shelves and you see some only as spines and others as facing out with the cover? Well, obviously the ones face out will get more attention!

5. Read the book in public
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see someone reading at the coffee shop, or on the subway or plane, I always sneak a peek at the cover!

6. Check out the book from the library
Some people feel bad for not buying a book, but only taking it out from their local library. But this really helps! It keeps an author’s book in circulation. Plus, if the library doesn’t have the book, but is getting lots of requests, then they will order copies of the book.

7. Lend the book to a friend
That’s the great thing about books—you can pass them on. Personally, I always love it when I see a dog-eared copy of my books knocking about at a school or library. It means that it has been read.

8. Ask your favourite bookstore or specialty retailer to carry the book.
There are thousands of books published every year, and not all of them automatically go into stores. So public engagement and requests really help.

9. Follow the author’s social media
This is a simple click, and most current authors are on the major sites. Myself, I’m on facebook, twitter, instagram, and youtube. I also have a newsletter that you can sign up for here.

10. Buy the book for yourself and others
If you (or your child!) loved an author’s book, then buy extra copies as gifts for birthdays or other special occasions. Book gifts can always be combined with other items that relate to the books. For example, you could buy a small stuffie of an animal that might appear in the book. (Sadly, there are no “skyger” stuffies yet—but let’s hope that happens!)

Of course, it’s one thing for ME to ask people to support me, but I feel that being a part of this community means also doing the supporting. I’m really lucky that a big part of my career is teaching creative writing to tweens and teens—that means I have a lot of opportunities to introduce books to my students, and to connect them to the authors.

Each time we have a book discussion in one of my classes, I tweet and tag the author so that they (and others) can see that we’re focusing on their book that day. This has been a huge success for me as a teacher because my students have LOVED connecting with the authors and are always thrilled when authors acknowledge our messages.

One recent success for us was when we discussed the book Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (he of the Origami Yoda fame). I tweeted out a picture of my class holding up the book and wearing—you guessed it—fake mustaches. Tom Angleberger was so thrilled he offered to host questions from my students about the book. What an opportunity for them!

FakeMustaches!

So, I’ll close out this post by giving a shout out to some of my friends and colleagues who have recently launched books.

I already mentioned the books by Holman Wang, but here they are again—Great Job, Mom!And Great Job, Dad!:.

Matab Narisimhan‘s new middle-grade book, Embrace the Chicken, came out in January:

embracethechicken.jpg

 

Eileen Cook’s new young adult book, You Owe Me a Murder, was launched March 8th:

youowemeamurder

Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Kallie George launched their new books, Mya’s strategy to Save the Worldand Wings of Olympus on April 25th:

Tanya&Kallie booklaunch.jpg

Nafiza Azad’s debut, The Candle and the Flame, comes out May 14th:

candle&theflame

 

Lots of books to celebrate this spring season. I hope you enjoy them. As for me? Yep, I have a lot of reading to do!