Thursday, December 13, 2007

Home-made dog biscuits + a dog book = perfect gift

With the holiday season nearly upon us, here's an idea to simplify your shopping.
This is the perfect Xmas present for dog lovers of all ages. Make a batch of these scrumptious dog biscuits. Gift wrap them along with a copy of my picture book, This is the Dog. Your friends and their canines will love you forever!

Dog Biscuits + This is the Dog = a perfect present


Preheat oven to 350 ° F (180 ° C).

In a bowl, add 2 tsp. of dry yeast to 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Let rise.

Add the following and mix in with the above
1 1/2 cups cooled chicken broth (can be purchased, home-made, or made by dissolving 2 bouillon cubes in boiling water)
2 tablespoons dry parsley
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg.

Gradually mix in 5-6 cups whole wheat flour until a stiff dough is formed.

Transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball, and roll to 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Using small bone-shaped cookie cutters, make biscuits!

Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1/4 inch (6 mm) apart. Gather up the scraps, roll out again, and cut additional biscuits.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides. Let cool overnight.

Makes several dozen small bones that keep and freeze well.

Note: if you want to hang some on your Xmas tree, poke a hole in one end of each biscuit before baking. (hole will shrink while baking). Let it cool, and then thread it with a narrow ribbon.

Happy Holidays. Sheryl

Monday, November 12, 2007

A teacher's question answered

I received this provocative question from Vancouver Island teacher Ron Mollinga today:

"As a teacher, I would like to know: Should author's write selfishly for themselves or thoughtfully for their readers?"

Here's my response:

Such a simple question, and yet one that has captured the attention of writers for as long as the printed word has existed.

Like Philip Pullman, I believe that my most important responsibility is to the story itself. I suppose that’s why my writing ranges from books for toddlers to teens. I try to let each story that I write dictate the means by which it must be told and let it find it’s own audience. It drives my publishers crazy because it’s difficult to “market” an author when that author switches genera. It also means ignoring “trends” and fashions that might please readers. However, I truly believe that my job is to tell each and every story that I write to the very best of my ability and that means listening for the characters voices and actions to speak and do as they must. If I follow the dictates of the story, I sometimes have to throw outlines out the window, cut sections of writing that I love and have slaved over, and even kill off characters that don’t speak to the heart of the story. I take the responsibility seriously. If I am true to the story, I am true to myself, and also true to my readers rather than some undefined generalized audience that may or may not exist. I don’t doubt that if I wrote differently, I might have a wider readership. My books are not for everyone. But, if I have done my job, my story will find an audience. If a reader isn’t ready for one of my books, or if it isn’t the right book for them, they will find another; so long as parents, teachers, and librarians are there to guide them on their way.

You'll find more author answers to Ron's question here. I think you'll find the answers are as different as the books we authors write...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Best Selling Picture Books

Orca Book Publishers have announced their top selling picture books and guess what? I have books in first and 5th place.

1. Waiting for the Whales, by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Ron Lightburn, 2002.
A gentle story that illuminates the unique friendship between grandparent and child, Waiting for the Whales also suggests that aging and death are only part of a greater cycle of rebirth and continuity.

2. Alphabetter, by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Graham Ross, 2006.
In Alphabetter, twenty-six boys and girls find themselves in twenty-six different predicaments when the alphabet refuses to cooperate with them. In the end, the solution turns out to be right on the next page, if only they can find it …

3. Moccasin Goalie, written and illustrated by William Roy Brownridge, 2001.
Danny and his friends, Anita, Petou and Marcel, are typical prairie youngsters—hockey mad. One day a town team, the Wolves, is formed. The friends are overjoyed, but when the time comes to choose the team, only Marcel is picked. The other three friends are not chosen; Anita is a girl, Petou is too small and Danny cannot skate. Will Danny and his friends get a chance to play?

4. Final Game, written and illustrated by William Roy Brownridge, 2001.
Danny and his friends Petou and Anita live for hockey. So when they are asked to join the Wolves late in the season, they are determined to do their best for the town team.

5. Jessie's Island, by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Sheena Lott, 2002.
Cousin Thomas paints a picture of city life which makes Jessie's world seem a little dull in comparison. When her mother suggests they invite Thomas to visit their island, Jessie wonders glumly what she could possibly write in her letter that would sound as exciting as zoos, planetariums or video arcades.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Literacy Quilt

Here is a lovely book quilt that a wonderful woman by the name of Corinne Bantle put together. Corinne sent dozens of authors and illustrators pre-cut patches and asked us all to create a square. She reports that "The quilt went into the Saskatoon Quilt Show on October 19/20. Seemed to be a lot of interest from people that were at the show. I have a friend who is working for the Saskatchewan Literacy Network and they are having their conference in a couple of weeks - she's asked to have the quilt hanging during their two day conference. In 2009 the quilt will be featured at the Grace Campbell Gallery (at our public library) during Canadian Children's Book Week [November]. Also in 2009 the Canadian Quilt Association Quilt Show will be in Saskatoon - and I plan to put the quilt in that show as well." See if you can pick out the author versus illustrator squares! (Thanks to Corinne for the pictures and all her hard work.)

Canadian Toy Council 2008 Book Pics

Hurray! More good news. While I was in Chicago picking up a Moonbeam Award in the Young Adult category for The Smell of Paint, as well as a Moonbeam silver medal in the Board Book category, The Canadian Toy Council chose What's That Sound? In the City as one of it's Ten Best Books of the Year.

Back from Chicago

So nice to be back home in my cozy house after a lovely trip to Chicago to pick up my Moonbeam Awards for The Smell of Paint and for What's That Sound in the City. Chicago is a fantastic place to visit. Everyone was friendly, and there was so much to do: museums, art galleries and jazz clubs. Way more than I had time for in my short visit. I did manage to fit in a visit to The Museum of Modern Art which was awesome.

The award ceremony was at the Harold Washington Public Library which was such a cool building with the most amazing gargoyles at the top of the building. Lots of authors were there, including one other Canadian, Ellen Jaffe whose Feast of Lights won the Multicultural Fiction Award. Since the award ceremony was held in conjunction with the Children's Humanities Festival I had the chance to hear Philip Pullman speak. The author of His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman is one of my favourite authors, and he didn't disappoint. He spoke of the way characters take over and of how the most important responsibility an author has is to the story. All in all, a wonderful trip.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chicago here I come

So, Chicago here I come. I'll be heading south on Friday to pick up my Moonbeam Award in Chicago, meet up with fellow award-winners, participate in readings, and if I'm lucky, hear Philip Pullman speak. I've read His Dark Materials Trilogy as well as lots of his other books and I admire him immensely. I should be lots of fun. While I'm in the "windy city" I hope to get over to the art gallery, which is supposed to be pretty wonderful. I'm very excited.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Smell of Paint is a Moonbeam Award winner

Fantastic News. The Smell of Paint is the gold medal winner of the Moonbeam Award in the Young Adult category. And, yes there's more! What's That Sound? By the Sea is a silver medalist in the Board Book category. How's that for making my morning!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Check out this interview

Here is an interview that I did for Book Bites for Kids. This is a fabulous site where many children's book authors are interviewed. The host is Suzanne Lieurance who is a writer herself.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kit Pearson and Ken Oppel event

Last night was the Kit & Ken event sponsored by Munro's books. I was introducing Kit Pearson and Grenfell Featherston (Ken's high school English teacher turned freelance editor) introduced Ken Oppel. I brought my camera, intending to take pictures, but I totally forgot. What a fantastic night. The 350 capacity room was packed with kids and parents all excited about meeting two of Canada's finest author's for young people. Both authors gave great talks and read from their new books. Ken even showed us his first story which was dictated to his kindergarten teacher before he learned how to write.

There were plenty of questions from the audience. I love that kids aren't in the least bit shy to stand up and ask questions. Of course there were the usual ones like:
Where do you get your ideas from? and
What is your favourite book?

But some of the other questions were quite insightful.
How do you get over writer's block?
Do you know how a story will end before you begin?
What do you do when you have a great beginning, a great ending, but you can't think of anything for the middle?

If you missed this fabulous evening, don't worry, the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable is having an equally fabulous evening event on Monday October 15. We're celebrating the launch of three new Sono Nis titles by local authors. Follow this link to find out more. And if you don't happen to be in Victoria, check local listings for touring authors. This is the time of the year when all the literary festivals are celebrating new books so plenty of kids book authors are on tour. There may be someone visiting a bookstore or library near you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kid's Best Sellers from Munro's Books

I was chatting with the Pat from Munro's Books who mentioned that they have sold more than 1700 copies of Jessie's Island in the last couple of years! I was thrilled. Pod of Orcas is also one of their kid's best sellers.

And don't forget the Kit Pearson/Ken Oppel event sponsored by Munro's on Friday October 12 at the Victoria Conference Centre. I'll be there introducing Kit Pearson and enjoying hearing about two great new kids books from two of Canada's outstanding authors from young people. See you there.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Two of my books on the new Moonbeam Award Short-list

I couldn't be more thrilled. Two of my books have been short-listed for the new Moonbeam Children's Book Awards What's That Sound? by the Sea is one of five titles short-listed in the Board Book category. The Smell of Paint was a semi-finalist in the Young Adult Category.

Here are the full list of semi-finalists in these two categories.
Young Adult Fiction
The Smell of Paint (Fitzhenry & Whiteside); The Race to Eagle Mountain (Wine Press Group); The Alchemist’s Dream (Key Porter Books); Kristin’s Wilderness: A Braided Trail (Raven Productions); The Princess Mage (Sumach Press)

Board Book
What’s That Sound? By the Sea (Fitzhenry & Whiteside); My Alaska Animals - Can You Name Them? (Saddle Pal Creations); If You Were My Baby: A Wildlife Lullaby (Dawn Publications); Colorful Sleepy Sheep (Little Lion Press)

A winner (gold medalist) and runner-up (silver medalist) will be announced in each category during the week of October 15-19, and remaining semifinalists will become bronze medallists.

A formal awards presentation will be held on Saturday, November 3, in conjunction with the 2007 Children's Humanities Festival in Chicago.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Canadian Children's Book Centre announces awards...

The Canadian Children's Book Centre has just announced a wack of short-lists for Canadian Children's Book Awards. So exciting! You will definitely want to read them all!

Sponsored by the TD Bank Financial Group

I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids’ Guide to the Cycle of Life & Death
Written by Jan Thornhill
Maple Tree Press

“Fascinating and one-of-a-kind… This book is groundbreaking… Complimented by wonderful photographs, this book covers a difficult subject in a beautiful way.”

Johnny Kellock Died Today
Written by Hadley Dyer
HarperCollins Canada

“This story moves like a meandering, enjoyable summer full of wit, humour and honesty… Dyer is a stylist, an exquisite writer.”

Odd Man Out
Written by Sarah Ellis
Groundwood Books

“Beautifully written… I re-read this book as soon as I finished… Ellis skillfully weaves together a story within a story and creates a place for the reader… A brilliant ending.”

Stanley’s Wild Ride
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press

“Bailey’s fabulous dogs paired with Slavin’s perfect illustrations make for a picture book that is successful on all levels… This book is laugh-out-loud funny… What a great ride!”

Rex Zero and the End of the World
Written by Tim Wynne-Jones
Groundwood Books
“A fabulous book about the new kid in town…I laughed, I cried… Brilliant and beautifully written… Wynne-Jones is a master writer at the top of his field.”

Jury members: Merle Harris, author and storyteller; Theo Heras, Children’s Literature Resource Collection Specialist, Lillian H. Smith Library, Toronto Public Library; Dr. Dave Jenkinson, professor, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba; Norene Smiley, author; and Maya Munro Byers, owner, Livres Babar Books, Montreal.
. . . .

Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation

Factory Girl
Written by Barbara Greenwood
Kids Can Press

“A fresh take on this universal topic… The research is meticulous… Greenwood expertly weaves together fact and fiction… Poignant, personal and fabulous, this book draws you in.”

Fire! The Renewal of a Forest
Written and illustrated by Celia Godkin
Fitzhenry & Whiteside

“This book demonstrates a scientific point in an enlightening way by showing examples of how wildlife not only survive but thrive after a fire… The artwork is stunning… Godkin marries fine art and non-fiction like no other.”

Written by Jane Springer
Groundwood Books

“Well-written, well-argued, well-researched…This book is part of an incredible series… Springer explores this compelling and relevant topic making it accessible to teens.”

I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids’ Guide to the Cycle of Life & Death
Written by Jan Thornhill
Maple Tree Press

“Exceptional, original and engaging… The topics covered in this book are so powerful and so unusually fascinating… If you had to pick one way to explain our struggle with life and death this book would be it.”

Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Written by Herb Shoveller
Kids Can Press
“Compelling, touching, true-to-life and inspirational… Written with empathy for a child’s point of view, this book manages to neither make its subjects seem like heroes nor trivialize their lives.”

JURY MEMBERS: Mary Anne Cree, Junior School Librarian, The Bishop Strachan School; Polly Fleck, Governor General’s Award-nominated poet and member of the Fleck family; Frieda Wishinsky, author; Sheila Koffman, owner, Another Story Bookshop, Toronto; and Todd Kyle, branch manager, Churchill Meadows Library, Mississauga Library System.
. . . .
Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie
Abby's Birds
Written by Ellen Schwartz
Illustrated by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin
Tradewind Books

“Beautiful integration of visuals and text... This innovative picture book uses paper collage and origami to illustrate its theme about the relationships between youth and age.”

Written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Kids Can Press
“Watt invites young readers to explore art through her amazing, playful and luminous illustrations… The anxieties and fears of moving and making new friends are sensitively captured in this gentle tale… Watt knows exactly what her audience wants.”

Fox Walked Alone
Written and illustrated by Barbara Reid
North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada

“A beautiful book with amazing artwork… With lovely rhythm and perfect poetry, Reid shares a unique version of the animals’ journey to Noah’s Ark... A timeless, visual feast.”

Scaredy Squirrel
Written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Kids Can Press

“Clever, exciting and groundbreaking, this book is a real delight... A great and interactive way to get kids reading… Kids will love this book!”

When You Were Small
Written by Sara O'Leary
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Simply Read Books

“Beautifully illustrated and timeless… O’Leary takes the reader on a whimsical tour of the imagination and captures the essence of what it is like to be a child.”

Zoe and the Fawn
Written by Catherine Jameson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Theytus Books

“A lovely and gentle picture book with a touching storyline that greatly appeals to younger readers… Beautifully integrates Native Okanagan (Syilx) words and expressions into the text.”

JURY MEMBERS: Jeffrey Canton, Faculty of Arts, York University and children’s book reviewer; Myra Junyk, literacy advocate and author; and Janis Nostbakken, writer, producer, broadcaster and founding editor of ChickaDEE magazine.
. . . .
Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund

Written by Eva Wiseman
Tundra Books

“A poignant story that depicts the horrors of life inside the German concentration camps and the prejudice and persecution which the Jewish people experienced… Wiseman’s writing style is captivating and young people will be easily swept into the story.”

Meyers’ Rebellion
Written by Connie Brummel Crook
Fitzhenry & Whiteside

“Crook brings us an action-packed story full of historical details about real people… The characters are strong and independent, holding to their beliefs as they become involved in the 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada.”

A Rebel’s Daughter: The 1837 Rebellion Diary of Arabella Stevenson
Written by Janet Lunn
Scholastic Canada

“Lunn tells a tale of the “fall from grace” of an upper society family during the 1837 Rebellion… The book is well-researched and gives authentic details of the political situation in Upper Canada at the time.”
Terror at Turtle Mountain
Written by Penny Draper
Coteau Books

“Draper has done a first rate job of describing a terror filled night at Turtle Mountain… The reader lives the Frank Slide through the experiences of the well-developed and likeable character of Nathalie Vaughan and by the seamless weaving in of several historical stories.”

Where Soldiers Lie
Written by John Wilson
Key Porter Books

“This is an absolutely terrific book… Never lagging with a credible hero and an exotic setting which should engage both female and male readers… The pacing is flawless.”

JURY MEMBERS: Albert Fowler, author and storyteller; Sharon McKay, author; Vicki Pennell, editor of Resource Links and IMPACT; and Gail de Vos (chair), storyteller and professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta.
. . . .
The TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award was established in 2005 to honour the most distinguished book of the year for children aged 1 to 13. Entries are judged on the quality of the text and illustrations and the book’s overall contribution to literature. All books for children, in any genre, written by a Canadian, are eligible for the award. The winning book receives $20,000 and there is $10,000 to divide amongst the honour books. The publisher of the winning book receives $2,500 for promotional purposes.

The Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction was established by the Fleck Family Foundation in 1999 to recognize Canada’s exceptional non-fiction books for young people. The award honours Norma Fleck (1906 – 1998), who inspired a deep love of reading in her children and grandchildren. Dr. Jim Fleck, who initiated the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, is the son of Norma Fleck. The winning book receives $10,000.

The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award honours excellence in the illustrated picture book format, for children aged 3 to 6. Charles Baillie, retired Chairman and CEO of the TD Bank Financial Group, is delighted to give the prize in his wife Marilyn’s name. As an award-winning children’s book author and an early learning specialist, Marilyn is involved in and passionate about children’s literature. The winning book receives $10,000.

The Geoffrey Bilson Award was established in 1988 in memory of the respected historian and children's author, Geoffrey Bilson. The $1,000 prize is awarded annually to the Canadian author of an outstanding work of historical fiction for young people. In 2005, an endowment fund was created to support this award. If you wish to contribute to this fund, please contact the CCBC.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a national, not-for-profit organization and registered charity founded in 1976 to promote, support and encourage the reading, writing and illustrating of Canadian books for children and teens. With book collections and extensive resources in five cities across Canada, the CCBC is a treasure-trove for anyone interested in Canadian books for young readers. For more information, please visit

For more information, please contact:

Charlotte Teeple
Executive Director
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre
40 Orchard View Blvd., Suite 101
Toronto, Ontario M4R 1B9
Tel: 416.975.0010
Fax: 416.975.8970

Kit Pearson and Ken Oppel coming to Victoria

A special event is coming to Victoria hosted by Munro's Books. Kit Pearson and Ken Oppel will be reading from new works on Friday October 12th at 7:30 at The Conference Centre. It will be very cool. I will be introducing Kit and Grenfell Featherstone, a freelance editor and one of Ken's former high school teachers, will be introducing Ken. You won't want to miss these two fabulous writers. Hurry Hurry Hurry, tickets won't last long and are available at:
1108 Government Street, Victoria BC V8W 1Y2
phone (250) 382-2464 fax (250) 382-2832

Ken and Kit will be reading from their new books followed by a signing. Tickets are available at the store for $5.00 and can be used toward the purchase of Darkwing or A Perfect Gentle Knight (one ticket per book). Don’t delay as we expect this event to sell out quickly!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Cybils Awards

Sorry, no review today. It's Saturday almost afternoon, and I've spent the morning in bed reading. After a day of anxiety over the near loss of all my email files, I deserve it! I'm part way through a Michael Morpurgo title, which I will report on soon. Tomorrow the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable (which I chair) will be voting on our pick for the Information Book Award. Our votes will be pooled with votes from other Roundtable votes from across Canada, and will be announced in November. I have held off reviewing any of those titles but will do once our votes are in. As well, I confess to having been distracted by Kathy Reichs Break No Bones. Yes, I have an addiction to forensic type murder mysteries, and Reich's Temple mysteries are a favourite. But, soon I'll be back to reading kids books.

In the meantime, the Cybils Blogger Children's and YA Literary Awards for 2007 are in the works. The organizers are in search of bloggers to read read read, so if you are over 13, are a kid's book lover, and are a blogger, check them out. Alas, I'm too busy with other things at the moment so can't participate. I will definitely read the books on the short-list though.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back from LA and the SCBWI Conference

So nice to be home again. I missed my tiny house and huge garden; especially the garden. I also missed the creek that runs beyond the park near my house as I am setting a novel there. This morning I wandered along the footpath that runs along the creek taking notes of bird species, particularly wonderful climbing trees, and the playground equipment at the school nearby. These things will all figure into the story which is about a boy who is chronically late for school despite the fact that it is just down the street. Of course, it's never his fault, even when he gives in to the call of the lonely swings, for just one up up up and then jump ride, or when he falls into the creek trying to find the nesting spot of some ducks. But more on that later. For now, let's just say that one of the reasons I was away was to attend a fabulous writer's conference in LA put on by the SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). If you haven't already read one Sara Pennypacker's Clementine books, you'll want to hit the library or bookstore today. She is soooo funny. And, speaking of funny, I got to see the famous Sid Fleshman, who is also fantastically funny. Be sure and read ALL of his books too. There were lots and lots of writers there, some of whom I've admired for years, like Linda Sue Park who wrote A Single Shard. I also got a chance to hear Susan Patron, who wrote the Newbery Award-winning and hotly debated and much banned, The Higher Power of Lucky. But, there were new to me writers that I really enjoyed as well. One of my favourites was John Green. He writes for teens, but boy did I rush out and buy his books. I'm so looking forward to reading them. I saw lots of other really inspiring writers too, and will probably blog about some of their books on my book blog. One of the things I like best about being a kids/teens book writer is reading all these great books by other authors. If you want to be a writer, it all starts with being a reader. So, I'm off to read another great book. Later, Sheryl

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

SCBWI summer conference

Went to the SCBWI annual summer conference which I would recommend to both established and new writers. My week in LA was quite wonderful despite staying at the not very affordable for working writers Hyatt hotel. Actually, you could tell the writers from the aspiring as most of the writers would trek to the grocery store and return with shopping bags--not from Macies or Bloomingdales, but from the grocery store!

So inspiring to hear Linda Sue Park (Newbery Award-winner and author of A Single Shard not to mention lots of other books) discuss her process with her editor. Talks by newish writers like John Green (Looking for Alaska) who totally blew me away and Sara Pennypacker who accepted a humour award for writing the Clementine books which are wildly funny was a treat. Seeing Sid Fleshman and Susan Patron (author of the heavy banned The Higher Power of Lucky) was pretty cool too, although the autograph lines were just too long to wait in. So, I'm back at my friend's desk in Vancouver, pounding away on the keyboard (figuratively of course. Don't worry Dennis, I'm being gentle, honest) and looking forward to bedtime when I get to crack another new book, some of which I will review soon on my book reveiw blog soon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I was going to ignore the last Harry Potter book but...

Yes, I had every intention of ignoring the last Harry Potter book, at least until the price dropped. It's not as if I have nothing else to read. But, a friend wanted to see the new Potter film and so off we went. Well, after that it was inevitable. I went out and bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the next day. I had to know what was to become of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, not to mention 'You know who'. So my plan was, no daytime reading; this is for bedtime consumption only I told myself! Unfortunately, my rational, 'I have to finish this manuscript I'm working on and if spend all my time reading I never will and therefore won't be able to pay bills' self lost out to the 'but I want to know' self, and I cheated. I did start out, reading only a few chapters at night, but as the pace quickened, my resolve dissipated. I had to know. Today I finished it, and my 8 hour work day dwindled down to about 3 1/2 hours. I've got to hand it to Rowlings; she hooked me on the first page, and my interest never wained. Writing a series consisting of seven books with each one being more compelling than the previous one is not something most writers can pull off. As far as I can see, she has improved her craft with every book and of that I am even more envious than of her millions. After all, I doubt any of us enter this business with the view to making money. (Check your sanity if you have).From what I read in Publisher's Weekly, sales in the first 24 hours in the U.S. alone topped 8 1/2 million copies. Imagine that many people wanting to read your books! The thing that I find so encouraging here, is that if you write something wonderful and people hear about it, they'll read it; even in this media driven world that we inhabit, they will stop and read. How could I not be grateful to J.K. She has ensured interest in the written word for a generation of kids whom we feared wouldn't willingly pick up a book. As Allison Taylor-McBryde, one of our wonderful youth librarians as well as a UBC professor says, "Harry Potter is an a librarians dream opportunity." Besides, it gives the rest of us a bit of hope that the next book a child or teenager picks up just might be ours. J. K. you go girl!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vancouver is a Writer's Meca and this is where I will work work work on that novel...or else!

So here I am in Vancouver, taking over another writer's house while he takes over mine. This way I get to (a)help my daughter move, paint, put up curtains, and fill her fridge, (b)stay out of my garden during prime garden distraction season when I could spend days out there and not even turn my computer on, and (c)get back to that novel I've been working on. Yesterday it didn't work as I was involved in the slogging of furniture. Today it didn't work because I stayed in bed to start the latest Harry Potter book (damn you J.K. Rowlings for getting me hooked on page 1!) and then went over to hang curtains as per above. So, tonight it's more of Harry Potter; but no excuses tomorrow...Gotta go, Harry is calling. Sheryl

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Serendipty pictures

So, I have finally gotten around to buying a new battery for my camera and have downloaded some long neglected photos including a few from Serendipty, Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable's wonderful annual conference. Here are a few that I think you'll enjoy. Here's Ron Jobe, the man behind Serendipity and so many other wonderful Roundtable events.

And what a treat it was to hear Cornellia Funke speak. Here she is signing books. Of course there was no shortage of local talent either. From left to right is Irene Watts, Joan Betty Struchner, Ainslie Manson, and Norma Charles who blinked at the last minute. Julie Lawson is kneeling in front. Below, illustrator Janet Stevens , who was an absolute hoot, signs books. I wish I would have had more of a chance to chat with her, but I did at least get to introduce her, although I wish I would have had the low-down on her nickname for her sister for that introduction. Ah well, next time. And the last picture of the two lovely ladies is of Charlotte Teeple from the Canadian Children's Book Centre in Toronto on the left while on the right is the most talented Nan Gregory who books you definitely have to read if you haven't done so already.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Butler Prize for Books announces long-list & The Smell of Paint is on it!

A good bit of news came my way on the weekend. My novel, The Smell of Paint, has made the long list for The Butler Book Prize, in the Young Readers' Category. It was in good company alongside books by Andrea Spalding, Dede Crane, Laura Langston, Diane Swanson and Nikki Tate to name a few. Will have to wait two months to see who makes the short-list of five though. I have my fingers crossed.

What a busy few months it's been. Lots of travel back and forth to Vancouver for book-related activities and in helping my daughter search for an affordable condo. Did finally find her a place, although I'd hardly call it affordable. Sigh...I suppose affordable is a relative term these days.

Went to a fantastic Young Authors forum the other day with good friend and fellow author Linda Bailey. Met up with several other author friends, Normal Charles, Irene Watts, Ellen Schwartz, and Debbie Hodge which was also fun. The forum featured fantastic writers like Susan Jube, Dennis Foon, Shelley Hrdlitschka, John Burns and Kit Pearson not to mention Bob Tyrrell from Orca Book Publishers, Ken Setterington, the library's Youth advocate from Toronto, Allison Taylor-McBryde from North Van. library who also chairs the YA reader's choice book awards in BC, etc. The topics included writing for reluctant readers, censorship in YA books, fantasy, historical fiction, and humour. Of course the titles were far more clever and literary, but you get the gist. The format included two presenters per topic speaking for about 10 minutes each, followed by a panel discussion with moderator Phyllis Simon from Vancouver Kid's Books posing questions. Then the audience was invited to ask questions too. So so good.

Sadly, not as much writing getting done as I had hoped though, although plenty of thinking about writing which we all need to do on occasion. For example, Alison Taylor McBride pleaded for more books which reflect average teen concerns as opposed to the extremely brutal talley she's seen come across her desk recently while Orca Bob explained how their edgy reluctant teen series has coped with censorship issues in the US. There was plenty more insight as well as suggestions to mull over while I painted walls at my daughter's place that evening.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

And now May is gone too!

May has come and gone, and I'm finally settling down as I am pretty much at the end of my touring season. I have worked on several picture book manuscripts and am back to working on that mystery novel; well not exactly a mystery, but sort of. I'm am in the midst reading Noah Lukman's most excellent The First Five Pages which I highly recommend for both new and mid-list writers. I like to spend at least some time every year improving my craft as writing is one of those professions that you can always get better at. I have always had issues with dialogue although I'm pretty happy with the dialogue in The Smell of Paint. Lukeman has plenty of useful things to say about how to write it effectively. Needless to say, when it comes to this in process novel, more rewriting is in the cards for me. So, after a half day of working on my manuscript and another half day reading Lukeman and making notes, I'm disappearing into the garden for a little dirt therapy. Later. Sheryl

Monday, April 30, 2007

Yikes it's almost May!

April has been a crazy busy month, with trips to Lethbridge, Calgary, Vancouver, Saltspring Island and Seattle. Two Young Authors Conferences and a Teachers' Conference not to mention school visits, have kept me hopping ferries and planes. It's always a treat to catch up with old friends like Marie Louise Gay, Deborah Turney-Zagwin and Linda Bailey. I have met lots of wonderful new friends too,writers: Helaine Becker, Marty Chan, and Dennis Foon, and illustrator Lorna Bennett. Be sure to check out all of their books.

A heartfelt thanks to event organizers Elaine Rusnack,(Weaving Words), Richard Chase (Lethrbridge YA Conference), Teresa Bowles (Calgary YA Conference) and Kelly McQuillan (Surrey teacher/librarian) who all did such a fabulous job of putting together author events.

With so much traveling, I am way behind in my writing. I plan to start catching up though really soon. I am bursting with ideas, some of them coming from the kids I've met up with over the last few months. Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable' Serendipity Conference is coming up this week, so I'll have to be patient a little longer. Oh how I wish I could be like Eric Walters and write anywhere and everywhere. Sadly, I need to lock myself away from all distractions to really get words on paper; at least words anyone cares to read.

For now though, I'm enjoying the second in Bruce Coville's The Unicorn Chronicles. I am so behind! I saw him at a conference on the weekend and he mentioned that the third book is about to come out. I guess I'd better read fast. If you haven't read the first, go get it immediately. The other book that I have on the top of my pile is The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. It is supposed to be soooo good. With so many good books to read, it's a wonder any of us ever get around to writing! Later, Sheryl

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Otters holding hands

Yes, despite my daughter's lack of faith in my technology abilities (probably with good reasons), I have finally figured out how to upload You Tube videos to my blog. This is a fantasitc one of sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Enjoy! Sheryl

I Can't Believe It's Already April!

I can't believe it's already April! I know, I know, I know. It's been ages since I've posted. Trips to Vancouver, Nevada, Tofino, Lethbridge and French Beach have kept me busy. A particular highlight in Lethbridge aside from the awesome Weaving Words Conference and The equally awesome YA Writing Conference hosted jointly by their library and Children's Literature Roundtable, was a trip to Waterton National Park and seeing a huge herd of elk, and I am talking in the hundreds. It was fantastic! Then, having my lovely daughter home from Australia has enticed me away from work and into talking about books, reading books, and watching our favourite TV shows, What Not to Wear, and one and all of the home reno shows. She has two more weeks before starting her dream job in Vancouver working for a book rep. company which is the go-between for publishers and booksellers/libraries. Got to enjoy having her home while I can. Next week is Saltspring Island and teaching writing to grade four and fives, and then Vancouver where I'll be teaching a YA writing workshop for Adults. Busy busy busy...

Until next time, happy reading, Sheryl

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bloggers have kid's book awards too

Just wanted to let everyone know who doesn't already that bloggers give out awards too! Check out find out about the best of the best in kids' books according to us regular folk. Hey, a Canadian book even made the list; Melanie Watt has won for fiction picture books for her book Scaredy Squirrel published by Kids Can Press. Later, Sheryl

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Deb Ellis

I have just returned from taking Deborah Ellis to her hotel after her last presentation during the Victoria leg of her western tour. I have spent the last several days listening to Deb address the effects of war, aids, poverty, and the drug trade on the lives of children with audiences that ranged from grade four students to senior citizens. The importance of the themes that Deb’s stories bring to the forefront are especially evident in the questions the young people in her audience ask; questions like how can kids live in prisons, why can’t kids who are sick get the medicine they need, and why can’t girls go to school in Afghanistan? Many will have read The Breadwinner, Pavanah's Journey and Mud City, but Deborah Ellis has written many other books. She is no one trick pony, despite this label she so often gives to herself. She is about shaking us out of our complacency and about empowering young people to demand more of our world and it's inhabitants. She is about social justice.

Not surprisingly, I was excited to hear that Deb has turned her compassionate yet critical storyteller’s eye on North American. Jakeman will be the title of her next novel. It's about kid whose mother goes to prison. It's about poverty and the feeling of being powerless, but it's also about alter-egos and about kids taking back their power. I can hardly wait to read it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky & Three Wishes

So what do The Higher Power of Lucky and Three Wishes have in common? Read on...

It’s unbelievable. The controversy around this year’s Newbery Award-winner, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron is growing in leaps and bounds. The ugly head of censorship has been rearing it’s head in the New York Times, on Publisher Weekly’s Website, and in blog after blog. It seems that a lot of librarians have trouble with the word “scrotum”, and that’s enough to keep the book away from sensitive young readers! I must admit that I agree totally with Ms. Patron who explained that scrotum is a “delicious” word. Unbelievable, and of course one of the many ironies (I’m not even going to go into sex-driven advertising or music videos here) is that as the ‘ban the book frenzy’ reaches it’s peak, we are just about to celebrate Freedom to Read Week. Don’t they get it? Banned books are wildly appealing to the young and curious, as I first learned back in the 1960’s when J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was banned from my high school. Even the kids who had an aversion to reading devoured that book (or at least key passages of it). So, congratulations Ms. Patron. You can expect to sell more books and you are in very good company!

It was only a year ago that a huge controversy developed when one school district in Ontario chose to drop Deborah Ellis’ Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak from a provincially sanctioned readers’ choice award, again just as we were heading into Freedom to Read Week!

For anyone in the Victoria, BC area, the Victoria Children’s Literature Roundtable will be hosting Deb Ellis as part of our celebration of Freedom to Read Week at Spectrum Community High School @ 957 Burnside Rd in the school library @ 7:30.

Or you can go to to find out how you can celebrate this important week in your own area. Defy the censors. Read a banned book!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Eric Wilson was wonderful Grey Whales Ahead

Yes, I'm a little slow. It has been a couple of weeks since mystery writer Eric Wilson spoke at our Children's Literature Roundtable. With sales into the millions and publications in more than a dozen countries worldwide, you might expect him to be less humble. But, that just wouldn't be Eric. What a lovely man. Here's where you can find out more about Eric and his newest books

In upcoming news, On March 20, and 21, I'll be visiting Tofino and Uclulet during their Pacific Rim Whale Festival. If I'm lucky I'll get to see the some of the 22,000 grey whales on their annual migration-the longest of any mammal; an estimated 16,000 km return trip. Very cool! While I'm there I hope I get a chance to stop by the studio of one of my favourite west coast artists, Mark Hobson. I have one of his limited edition grey whale prints over my bed. One of the few disadvantages of being a kids' book writer as far as I can see, is that I don't have enough money to buy more art! But then, there could be far worse things couldn't there. S.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Back from Australia and ALA in Seattle...

After my last trip to Seattle for the American Library Association Conference and book signings with author friends Debbie Hodge and Linda Bailey I had one more trip planned. I had thought I would be going to Toronto for the Ontario Librarian's super conference, but I'm just not up for it, so my plans are to stay home and write. Unfortunately, flu season has slowed me down. Hopefully, I will soon be back to the novel I'm working on as well as one new picture book and two board books.

In the meantime, reading, mindless television and the sun finally shining is keeping me sane.
Check out my book blog for a review of Debbie Hodge's new picture book. Here I am at American Library Association Conference in Seattle signing my newest book. I am with two fantastic Fitzhenry & Whiteside Sales Reps. Stephanie Stewart (left), and Penny Taylor (right).

Tomorrow night our Children's Literature Roundtable will also be hosting Eric Wilson; Canada's million-copy selling mystery author for kids. He always gives a fantastic talk, so will let you know how it goes. Later, Sheryl

Tuesday, January 23, 2007



I just discovered two reviews of my new book, The Smell of Paint. One is on to the review at the bottom of the page. The other is on a Book Blog. Check them out. S.

Back from sunny Australia and rainy Seattle

So, I'm finally back from a wonderful trip to Australia where my three lovely daughters and I enjoyed surf and sun, great wines, and fantastic museums and art galleries for almost a month. Arrived home to power outages and a foot of snow. Yikes! That was followed by wind storms, downed phone lines, and then computer problems. I fit in a trip to Seattle for the American Library Association Conference and book signings for A Pod of Orcas and The Smell of Paint with author friends Debbie Hodge (she has a new picture book out which you should totally check out called Lily and the Mixed Up Letters --watch for a review soon on my book blog with Tundra Books and Linda Bailey (who has new picture book coming out in the spring called Sweet Pig) which was also lots of fun. So, you see I have plenty of excuses for not updating this blog for a while. No more slacking off though…

It was a pretty busy fall with lots of travelling, lots of school presentations and festivals. The winter is supposed to be my writing time, so I'll be home a lot more. I'm especially looking forward to hearing Eric Wilson talk at the Children's Literature Roundtable (a group of teachers, librarians, parents and writers who love and want to support kids books) on January 29th. Eric has a new book out called Red River Ransom. With more than a million books sold in 10 countries, and 30 years of writing under his belt, Eric has tremendous insight into writing for kids. I am especially interested to hear of how he always gets feedback on manuscripts from a small group of kids. What a cool guy. Then near the end of February, our Roundtable is hosting Deborah Ellis who is also fabulous. But, I'd better get back to writing. All for now, Sheryl