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.