Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I love Mo Willems books but...

I have loved Mo Willems since Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! first hit bookstores. I was thrilled when Knuffle Bunny won the Caldecott Award and have enjoyed the further adventures of pigeon. So, when I heard that Mo Willems was speaking at a Seattle conference that I was attending, I rushed to his website to check out a bit of background info. It was all I expected and more. I was so excited. Sadly, I found Willems to be a bit of a lazy presenter, relying on his quirky, off-the-cuff humor and general charm. It was a bit disappointing coming from someone with such obvious talent.

Still, I remain a fan of Willems picture books as well as his early readers like I am Invited to a Party from the Elephant & Piggie series. Willems uses a minimum number of words along with priceless illustrations to maximum effect. His simple line-drawn animal characters are perfectly imbued with facial expressions and body language that children easily identify with. Like other Willems' stories, I am invited to a Party! has that perfect story arc that kids find universally appealing. The tension in the story develops as a result of the familiar personality types that kids will recognize and appreciate. It's classic, and yet not. Willems success lies in his ability to bring an appealing freshness & quirky sensibility to the familiar. In fact, I've yet to read a Willems book that I didn't like. Still, I think I'll stick to enjoying his books and leave public appearances for other conference attendees.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm the proud owner of a Janet Wilson sketch

Just back from Vancouver where I attended a fabulous fundraiser for the Canadian Children's Book Centre. Wine, cheese, seriously yummy deserts and 100 illustrations donated by Canadian book illustrators were up for grabs. My daughter managed to get a very cool Wallace Edwards sketch and I, lucky me got a graphite sketch done by Janet Wilson from the book by Andrea Spalding, Sarah May and the New Red Dress. I have always wanted the chance to work with Janet who is a wonderful illustrator, but never had the chance. Owning one of her drawings is the next best thing. I totally love both the sketch and the book. You can't check out my sketch because it's too big too scan, but you can check out the book. It's such a lovely story, but then that's no surprise because Andrea Spalding always writes lovely stories.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Literacy for Life

Just back from the most awesome Literacy for Life Conference in Saskatoon. Judy Ostrander, John Barton, our wonderful drivers Noreen and Jackie, and the rest of the fabulous volunteer crew put together a celebration of literacy that rivaled any I've ever been to. The 1200 kids out of 5000 kids and their teachers that I saw were a pleasure as were authors like Jaimie Bastedo, Helaine Becker, Diane Swanson, Bob McDonald, Joe Schwarcz, and illustrators George Littlechild and Jeremy Tankard.

I just wanted to make sure everyone gets all 10 writing tips, so here they are:

1. Keep a journal
2. Be a reader
3. Play with words
4. Research is half the fun
5. Fictionalize: play the lying game
6. Pay attention
7. Create an idea web
8. Make a list (see the first page of Waiting for the Whales for an example)
9. Imagine the "what if" moments
10. Mine your memories

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Kamloops Young Author Conference

Here I am in Kamloops, looking out the gorgeous sun-drenched river valley wishing we'd get this kind of brilliant blue sky more often. Mind you, the fact that I have to drive to get a cup of tea sucks! Three Young Author sessions coming up tomorrow so I will be one tired author, and that's before the drive back! At least I had the company of fellow writer, Ellen Schwartz on the way up. She's the author of many books, but one of my favs is Abby's Birds. Check it out, it's a lovely story. Later, S.