Wandering and Wondering through 2015

As I’ve been sitting around eating chocolates, drinking coffee and enjoying having both kids home for the holidays, I’ve also been reflecting on 2015, a busy year for me, especially in terms of writing. I did lots of wandering (14 trips by air, thousands of kilometers – a few too many, I think – Cuba, Georgia, Vancouver, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Toronto, Maine, Ottawa, etc.) and plenty of wondering, marveling at sights I saw, things I heard. I met hundreds of readers, and lots of writers, too, including Alice Priestley, the illustrator of my first book, Rainbows in the Dark (2005).

In May, one of my favorite moments was seeing the mountains in British Columbia, a glorious sight I hadn’t seen since 1981. Stunningly beautiful! P1000544Another favorite, as part of TD Book Week, was arriving at a Sikh private school, donning a bright orange headscarf (which clashed with my pink shirt), before being greeted enthusiastically by a hundred smiling five and six-year-olds, several asking if I really had written If Dogs Could Talk, one of my books with Caramel Tree Readers. So sweet.

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With fellow juror (and new friend:) Rachna Gilmore.

In  December, I had dinner at the Governor General’s house, Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, and got to enjoy the company of many of Canada’s literary luminaries, briefly. In the lead-up to that Literary Awards ceremony, as part of the jury (with David Poulsen and Rachna Gilmore), I had the privilege of reading 148 Canadian novels published for young readers in 2014/15. There’s a lot of talent in our midst!

My newest book, The King of Keji, came out from Nimbus in June, I wrote (and read) pretty much every day all year, and saw my first (and possibly last) coy-wolf while loving being artist in residence at Fool’s Paradise, former home of Canadian artist, Doris McCarthy, overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs.

Fool's Paradise - a perfect reflection.

Fool’s Paradise – a perfect reflection.

2016 looks like it will be a less busy year, but before 2017 arrives, I’m hopeful of finding homes for the two novels I think I’ve finally finished polishing (possibly, maybe, hopefully…). And, of course, lots of new ideas to start getting down on paper. Also, Sky Pig (with intricate plasticine illustrations by Suzanne Del Rizzo) 9781927485989 (2)will fly out from Pajama Press in April, 2016.

Sincere thanks to YOU for being part of my year; I hope your 2016 will be pleasantly busy, full of good health and cozy time spent with those who matter most to you. Take good care of yourself, and I hope to see you again next year!

Read 148 Novels in 4.5 months? Yup.

FINALLY, the winners of the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced today. Huge congratulations to Caroline Pignat, who won her second GG for her beautiful book, The Gospel Truth. 2015_text-e_PignatAlong with Rachna Gilmore and David Poulsen, I had the privilege of being on the peer assessment committee for the Children’s Literature (Text) Award this year. As part of that task, we each read the 148 novels submitted for consideration – all between mid-April and the end of August. More than one book a day, and many were 300+ pages. What an incredible (and somewhat intimidating) learning experience!

Never having done this before, I had no idea how I would go about choosing from such a fine collection of books. But as I read, certain books simply emerged; their characters, stories and words all stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. I went to our Ottawa meeting in early September naively believing it would take only a couple of hours for the three of us to discuss the short-listed books and come to a consensus re the five finalists and one winner.

I was wrong.

It was more like ten hours of intense discussion and debate that left both my brain and body exhausted, but I think we all left the room feeling like we’d done a good job. We also collaborated on this brief, yet hard-to-write, jury statement:

Caroline Pignat’s The Gospel Truth is the powerful and poignant story of 16-year-old Phoebe, a slave girl in 1858 Virginia. Written in lyrical and elegant free verse, it is an unflinching look at the brutality of slavery and Phoebe’s struggle for freedom and truth. Ultimately, this is a story of hope.

We weren’t allocated sufficient words to mention that the story is told in six different voices. The other four finalists, all of them excellent books, are Young Man With Camera (Emil Sher), 2015_text-e_SherWe Are All Made of Molecules (Susin Nielsen), 2015_text-e_NielsenAre You Seeing Me? (Darren Groth), 2015_text-e_Grothand Audrey (Cow) (Dan Bar-el). 2015_text-e_Bar-elCongratulations to one and all. There sure are a lot of amazing children’s authors writing brilliant, diverse books in Canada today. Happy reading!