Saturday, December 10, 2016

Warm Winter Greetings!

On this snowy Vancouver day, it seems fitting to check in with Bear and his friends. What are they doing? Having a wonderful winter party in Bear's den!

Bear is serving his homemade honey-ginger cookies and huckleberry tarts. Chickadee is leading the singing and Fox is playing his harmonica. Soon all the happy forest animals are dancing round and round the den. What a fun way to welcome winter!

Bear and his friends hope you are having a lovely start to winter. Stay warm and dry! And enjoy your celebrations with family and friends.


And to learn more about Bear and his friends, please go here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

On the West Coast...

Thank you to the Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada for choosing West Coast Wild as the winner of the Information Book Award for 2016! I am thrilled and very grateful!

This honour is shared with my marvellous co-creator, Karen Reczuch, whose gorgeous illustrations bring the book to life. 

Karen and I were delighted to be in the company of so many wonderful books on this year’s shortlist, and we send congratulations to all! We also thank our publisher, Groundwood Books.

We are so pleased to also be on the shortlist for both the Silver Birch Express Award and the Chocolate Lily Award, both children's choice awards. Thank you to everyone involved in these award programs!

And now for something fun: Here's a photo of West Coast Wild, open to a page that shows the exact location and replica of the little cove on Mackenzie Beach that was the reference for the illustration. Thanks to Crystal Cove, Tofino, BC for this wonderful image! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Beautiful Fall!

Like many writers, I love to walk!

I take a long stroll through my neighbourhood every day — to keep both body and mind in good working order. I often find that solutions to writing problems present themselves while I'm on foot in the fresh air.

And today? An extra gift! The sun was shining brightly against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and the trees overhead were spectacular in their glorious autumn colours. Here is a sample of what I saw.

It's fall on the west coast. What a wonderful time to be here!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thank you, Eden Mills!

Thank you to the wonderful town of Eden Mills, Ontario, for a marvellous weekend!

I'm just back from the Writer's Festival hosted in that glorious spot and it couldn't have been a better time. The setting is idyllic, under the sweeping trees and alongside the Eramosa River, with dozens of authors and poets reading their works to a most gracious and receptive crowd.

A few times over the weekend, I had to pinch myself to believe it was real.

The community (of about 350 people) pitch in to provide warm hospitality to the festival visitors and authors. A team of volunteers cooks and serves dinner to a great crowd of people on each of two nights, and serves up homemade pies for dessert. Not only that, but homemade champagne is poured!

What were the highlights? There are almost too many to count:

- delicious food
- friendly volunteers
- a gorgeous natural setting
- sitting in the sunshine, listening to the authors and poets read their works
- the making of new friends in the Canadian literary scene
- catching up with old friends living across our vast country
- the amazing young student, Samantha, who introduced me at my reading — the best introduction I've ever had! Thank you so much, Samantha!
- the careful and competent organization of travel details, hotels and flights
- the kindness and generosity of everyone I met

I could go on... but suffice it to say, it was a weekend I will always remember.

My sincere thanks to everyone involved in putting on the festival. I feel enormously privileged to have been invited! One day, I hope to return.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Eden Mills Writers Festival

Tomorrow, I am on my way to a wonderful writer's festival held in the scenic hamlet of Eden Mills, Ontario. What a privilege to be invited!

If you'd like to find out who's speaking over the weekend, you can check this festival link.

And here's a lovely piece of art showing the town and environs (borrowed from the Eden Mills website). I'm looking forward to spending the day on the banks of the Eramosa River.

I hear it's going to rain (but I don't mind — my umbrella is packed).

Back soon!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Back to School Wishes

In my part of the world, it is back-to-school day. I am thinking about all the children and teachers who are bravely returning to the classroom as the new school year unfolds.

I wish you all a successful and happy year, with much learning and many good books to read!

And if you are interested in finding out more about children and school, you might enjoy my friend Margriet Ruur's book, School Days Around the World.

Have a fun first day! I'll be thinking about you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer's Here!

We made it! Summer is here and the schools are on hiatus until the fall. Children and teachers everywhere have earned a well-deserved holiday.

As for me, now that school visits have wound down for the year, I hope to find a little quiet writing time and finish a manuscript that's been patiently waiting. 

Also in the plans, is a short family holiday by the ocean. I hope to see a lovely flock of sandpipers like these as I walk along the beach. 

Thank you to Karen Reczuch for this wonderful illustration from our book, West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet. 

Have a safe and happy summer! See you in September.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Finding Time...

Lately I've been feeling the elusiveness of time. Where does it go and how does it move so quickly? It's always easy to let a busy schedule take over.

Thank goodness for the sage advice of both my father (also a writer) and poet, Jane Kenyon, who remind me that a writer must always (and sometimes ruthlessly) set aside time to write.

In the words of Jane Kenyon, "Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours."

And for a little while now, that is what I will strive to do.

Thank you to Jane and my dad for a great reminder!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celebrating Literacy with Vancouver Schools

It was a wonderful event yesterday at Shaughnessy Elementary, celebrating books with a big group of enthusiastic students from Vancouver schools.

The Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice Principals Assocation (VEPVPA) chooses a book by a local author each year to donate to all Vancouver Schools. What an amazing show of support for literacy! And then students from every school, along with their teacher-librarians and school administrators, are invited to a celebration afternoon where they receive their book and get a chance to meet the author.

Karen Reczuch and I were fortunate to have our book, West Coast Wild, chosen this year. It is a such an honour and we are thrilled.

In addition to receiving a book, the children each get a chocolate gift and this year, it was in the shape of an orca whale (to match the ocean theme of our book). What fun!

Thank you so much to the VEPVPA for an amazing day and for their support of books for children in the schools!

Here are the student greeters handing out books as each child entered the library.

After the presentation, almost every student had a photograph taken with me. I loved meeting them all!

Here's me holding my chocolate orca.

And here's the book that the VEPVPA kindly selected this year as their choice for all the Vancouver schools. Thank you so much to everyone involved!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Week!

It's a big week here in Canada for booklovers. It's Canadian Children's Book Week!

Authors will tour every province and territory and share their new books with children in libraries and schools across the nation. It is a grand celebration of the amazing books that are created in our country. 

From BC, my friend, Sarah Ellis, is touring southern Saskatchewan (including Moose Jaw, place of my birth!) and another friend, Margriet Ruurs, is visiting children in Ontario. A third colleague, Maureen Fergus, from Manitoba, has gone all the way to Newfoundland! (Lucky her! I've always wanted to go there.) Each of these authors will delight kids with their inspiring and entertaining books.

And me? I'm happily staying home and looking forward to speaking to students and their teachers at Shaughnessy Elementary School tomorrow. I am thrilled that my book West Coast Wild has been chosen by the Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice Principals Association as the book they will donate to all Vancouver schools this year. It is a wonderful honour and I am very grateful! You can read the announcement here

I hope you get a chance to read a Canadian children's book this week. They are some of the best in the world. Hooray for Book Week! (If you follow the link to Book Week, you can scroll down the page to read interviews from some of the touring authors.)

A big thank you to TD Canada and the Canadian Children's Book Centre for hosting this marvellous celebration of books and their creators. If you'd like to see the full list of authors and where they are touring, please go here.

And another big thank you to the Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice Principals Association for their marvellous support of literacy in the schools.

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Questions, Questions...

I have been busy visiting schools over the last couple of months and have greatly enjoyed speaking to the students I've met.

Even though the schools varied from one another in size, tone, composition, and geographical location, there has been a striking similarity in their enthusiasm for books and stories. The students were keen readers and writers, and eager creators of their own work. And there were many amazing librarians who had done a sensational job of directing students to excellent reading material.

It has been heartening to see the high-spirited literacy in action.

I love question time with the children because I never know what they will ask.

At a recent school, one young student asked me how old I was when I started writing books. I told him. Then a second student asked how many years I had been a writer. I gave that answer too. Then someone burst out: "I know how old you are!" and announced my age.

"You don't look that old," another student said. I smiled and said thank you. And we quickly moved on to the next question. :-)

A virtual bouquet of flowers, and warm and sincere thanks to all the wonderful schools and teacher-librarians who invited me to visit this spring.

It's been a privilege to meet you all!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Congratulations to Groundwood Books!

The children's book publishing world is a wonderful place, filled with warm, supportive people who are mutually appreciative of one another's work.

One of the best groups of such people is found with my publisher, Groundwood Books. And, today, they were recognized as the "Best Children's Publisher in North America" at the Bologna Book Fair.

The Bologna Children's Book Fair (held each year in Italy) is regarded as the world's biggest and most important children's book fair in the world. Receiving an honour here is highly prestigious!

Congratulations to Groundwood, and to publisher, Sheila Barry, and to all the talented, hard-working people in this organization who collaborate to create such beautiful books for children!

What a marvellous honour!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Blossoms

Just outside my living room window is a beautiful magnolia tree in full bloom. It is one of my favourite sights of spring. In fact, my whole neighbourhood is in blossom — shimmering pink and white trees on every street, bursting with colour and life. It is a magical time in the city!

I like to take a long walk every day to energize my writing brain, and there is rarely a more inspirational sight than these gorgeous trees.

Happy Spring to you all!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Happy Spring Break!

In my corner of the world, Spring Break has arrived, and the children and teachers have two weeks of well-deserved holidays.

At the wonderful schools I've been visiting recently, there's been evidence of much learning and hard work going on — by enthusiastic students and educators alike. Congratulations to all of you!

Have a lovely holiday! Enjoy the sunshine!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thank you, Berkshire Park Elementary!

I was visiting a school last week and enjoyed speaking with the students so much. Hello Berkshire Park Elementary! Thank you for inviting me. 

The students had many great questions about books and writing, and it was a real treat to talk with them. Some of the questions that stood out were:

When you write a manuscript and it doesn’t get published, are you devastated?

(Yes! — although this happens to every writer, and we know it is part of the job. We trust our editors and publishers to know when a manuscript is working or if it is right for them. And then we put that manuscript away in a drawer. We might go back to it later to see if we can improve it. But usually we start writing something new.)

Did you always know you wanted to become a writer?

(No, but I always knew I loved books. When my mother was expecting me to clean my bedroom or do other chores, she often found me reading instead. Later in life, I discovered that kids who love to read as much as I did, often become writers.)

What about kids who love to draw?

(They often become artists or book illustrators.)

Which book of yours is your favourite?

(This is always a hard question to answer. Every book is a favourite for some reason. But my current favourite is a book that will be published next September. It’s called Bear’s Winter Party and is the story of a lonely bear who wants to make friends.)

Do you make a lot of money?

(About 5 cents on every book.)

Whaaat??? You should make $50,000 on every book!

(That would be nice but it doesn’t happen for most writers. Usually we have to work at other jobs to earn our living. We write because we love to do it, not for the money we might be paid.)

Can someone who is 10 years old publish a book?

(There aren’t many places to do that, but you can have your stories or poems published at a website started by my friend and author, Margriet Ruurs. It is called KidsWWwrite and you can email your stories to:

Good luck to all the budding authors and illustrators at Berkshire Park School, and everywhere else. There’s nothing more satisfying than creating a piece of writing or art that you are proud of.

By the way, I loved seeing your stories in the display case just outside the library. Well done!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Family Day!

Here in beautiful British Columbia, we are celebrating Family Day — we know the rest of the country celebrates next Monday. But that's the way we are on the west coast: nonconformists!

It is a gorgeous, warm, sunny day (apologies to all of you with snow) and it feels like spring. I was out on a walk this morning and came across a marvellous field of purple crocuses. I've posted this photo not to gloat — but to marvel at the flowers blooming so early in the season.

A lovely sight on Family Day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thank you, Crofton House!

I just spent a lovely morning at Crofton House School and wanted to say a sincere thank you to the teachers and students!

It was wonderful to meet you all and to hear about the alphabet books that the Grade 6 students are creating. It was fun to talk about my own experience writing an alphabet book — and to say that they aren't as easy to write as they look. (Some of the students are also finding this out.) :-)

I wish you the best of luck with your books and hope to see some of them when they are done.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reading Lights Program!

If you happened to visit a library today, you will know it is Family Literacy Day. Hooray for families and books everywhere!

I attended a kick-off event this morning to celebrate a wonderful new program, Reading Lights, that highlights the work of BC children's authors and illustrators. Lamp posts around the city now feature plaques displaying the works of local creators. Beautifully designed images can be found in 20 locations near parks, playgrounds, schools and libraries throughout Vancouver.

Imagine my thrill to have a lamp post featuring one of my books! The plaque for Watch Me Grow! A Down to Earth Look at Growing Food in the City is at the northwest corner of Sunrise Park (near Rupert and 1st Ave.). It looks sensational! The talented Brian Harris is the co-creator of this book, which features local urban gardens. He shot amazing colourful photographs of children and adults engaged in growing food right where they live.

After the ceremony at the library, I zipped over to Sunrise Park to see the plaque and take a photo. It was a grey, rainy day in Vancouver so my friend and fellow author, Tanya Lloyd Kyi, took this photo on a sunnier day. Thank you, Tanya!

Thank you to the Vancouver Public Library and Cwill BC for such a lovely honour! 

If you'd like to see the plaques, please check out the Reading Lights website to find the locations. Then take a tour!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Mayor Reads!

The Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, has a wonderful program for children called “The Mayor Reads.” Each month, he selects a book to read to an enthusiastic audience of kids. The reading is videotaped and posted on the city’s website. Imagine my surprise to find out that one of my books Emma’s Story had been selected for January. What a wonderful way to start the New Year! If you’d like to see the video, please go here

And let’s give a big round of applause to the mayor and his inspiring literacy initiative!