Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Archive for the ‘Toronto Tuesdays’ Category

A New Page (No, this isn’t another New Year’s post)

In Toronto Tuesdays, writing on January 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

This blog post is mostly for the benefit of our new Torkidlit Facebook Page (that you are more than welcome to like, love, follow, fan, creep, or whatever!) This new page is designed so that the Toronto MG/YA Group authors’ blogs will feed directly into one convenient space so readers can see news and updates in a flash.

So, to familiarize you with some of the authors in the group, I thought I’d post a recap of the Toronto Tuesdays Interviews I’ve done with them so far. Feel free to browse the list of names, click, and get to know these amazing writers and illustrators!

Cheryl Rainfield – author of the YA novel, SCARS – Governor General Literary Award finalist, and nominated for too many awards to even remember!

 Andrew Tolson – agented author, MacLean’s photographer, and uber torkidlit supporter.

Marina Cohen – author of several middle-grade books and YA GHOST RIDE which has recently been nominated for the Red Maple Award. Also, her new YA, MIND GAP is due to be released soon.

Anna Humphrey – author of two forthcoming YA books  – RHYMES WITH CUPID (Dec. 2010) and MISSION (UN)POPULAR (June 2011). Look for them. They look great!

Rob Weston – super fantastic author of the wildly popular ZORGAMAZOO and the new, gritty YA rooted in fairy tales DUST CITY. Both highly recommended reads. ZORGAMAZOO won the 2010 Silver Birch Fiction Award.

Megan Crewe – author of GIVE UP THE GHOST and forthcoming dystopian THE WAY WE FALL.

Adrienne Kress – author of ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN and TIMOTHY AND THE DRAGON’S GATE. TIMOTHY has recently been optioned for film and Adrienne has also just sold her YA novel, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY.

Nelsa Roberto – author of ILLEGALLY BLONDE. And I happen to know she’s working on something new; something awesome! You’ll want to keep your eyes open for it.

Patricia Storms – amazing author and illustrator. Her picture book THE PIRATE AND THE PENGUIN was both written and illustrated by her. She has also illustrated countless other books.

Mahtab Narsimhan – author of THE TARA TRILOGY: THE THIRD EYE, which won the 2009 Silver Birch Award, THE SILVER BRACELET, and the forthcoming THE DEADLY CONCH. A trilogy that’s definitely worth reading!

Frieda Wishinsky – author of numerous books for children, including BLOB, her most recent YA title.

Bev Katz Rosenbaum – editor and author of I WAS A TEENAGE POPSICLE and BEYOND COOL, two very uniquely premised YA novels. Bev is also currently shopping some new work!

Vikki VanSickle – book-lover, manager of The Flying Dragon Bookshop in Toronto, and author of the newly released WORDS THAT START WITH B.

Joel A. Sutherland – author of the newly released BE A WRITING SUPERSTAR. Joel is also a horror writer and one of the latest Wipeout! Canada contestants!

Deborah Kerbel – prolific YA author of MACKENZIE, LOST AND FOUND; GIRL ON THE OTHER SIDE; and the newly released LURE.

Kari-Lynn Winters – author, teacher, and literary scholar who has written many books for children, including her latest picture book, RUNAWAY ALPHABET.

Helaine Becker – author of numerous books for children including the newly released THE HAUNTED HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT and THE HILARIOUS HISTORY OF HOCKEY. Her book, WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? has just been nominated for the 2011 Silver Birch Award for non-fiction.

Helene Boudreau – author of several books including ACADIAN STAR, KEEP OUT, and the newly released REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS.

Joanna Karaplis – debut author of FRACTURED, a book about three well-known fairy tales as they would happen in today’s world.

Happy reading!

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Joanna Karaplis

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on December 21, 2010 at 9:00 am

I’m pleased today to introduce you to Joanna Karaplis. I met Joanna a few months ago at one of our regularly scheduled tweetups, and at the time she was a yet-to-be-published author. Well, things have definitely changed since then and Joanna is now officially published and has a couple of launch parties and book signings under her belt, too! Congrats, Joanna!

Meet Joanna Karaplis.

Please introduce yourself to us.

Hi, my name is Joanna Karaplis. I’m originally from Vancouver, but in 2008 I moved to Toronto and I’ve been here ever since. I work for a children’s publishing house (not the same one that published my book) and my hobbies are swing dancing and learning new languages (I speak Japanese and am learning Spanish, but I gave up on French when I graduated high school).

Were you an avid reader as a child? What were your favorite books?

I read anything and everything as a child. I loved all of Roald Dahl’s work—I remember identifying with the main character of Matilda (though I wasn’t a math genius) and shivering with terror while reading The Witches (it really is a diabolical, deliciously terrifying book!). I went through a phase of reading boy-and-dog-vs.-the-wilderness books, mostly by Jack London or Jim Kjelgaard. I also devoured formulaic series: Archie comics, Baby-sitters Club books, horror stories by R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike, and the Sweet Valley High books (which I would skim for dialogue and drama, skipping over most of the rest).

Tell us a bit about what’s inside this killer cover.

Click to buy

Fractured: Happily Never After? 3 Tales is a collection of three classic fairytales—Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid—retold for the 21st century. There are no horse-drawn carriages or magic potions; instead, you’ll find text messaging, Facebook drama, reality TV stars, and even a handsome prince or two.

Why did you choose to write children’s books?

I love young adult fiction. There’s just something about the drama of adolescence that I find so compelling: it’s a time when you’re becoming independent, discovering who you are, and falling in love for the first time. There’s just so much happening; so many feelings and bits of new information to digest and figure out. It’s an exciting time, and I love re-imagining it when I create my characters.

Can you describe your writing process for us? ie: How do you get from having an idea to finishing a first draft? And, are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?

My ideas often come in the form of an opening sentence that pops into my head. Then I jot down some notes, and begin writing the first paragraph. If it flows, I try to keep writing until I get stuck.

Unless I have a very clear idea for what the ending will be, I sort of figure it out as I go. (And then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, so that it looks like I knew where things were going all along!) But other times, I’ll have a rough outline and I’ll plot out the main scenes that need to happen (for example, “fight with mother,” “steals a car,” etc.). Then I write the scenes, but not necessarily in order. Also, I don’t sweat the small stuff on the first draft: I’ll type notes to myself in all-caps so that I can come back later and fill in the details (minor characters’ names, locations, etc.).

Do you think you were born to write or is writing something you discovered along your life’s journey? Either way, when did you decide to do it in earnest?

I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. As a child, I used to make little booklets of stories for my mom: my very first reader. In early high school, I was reading and writing a lot of fantasy and science fiction. In university, I didn’t make as much time for creative writing; I just assumed I’d get around to it later, when I had more free time (ha!). I didn’t really start writing in earnest again until after graduating university.

However, whether I was actively writing or not, I was always jotting down story ideas, “for later.” Some of them must be a decade old by now, I should see if there’s anything I can use…

Is the writing community important to you? How so?

The writing community is hugely important to me. First of all, writing is a solitary activity, but I’m a very social person. I enjoy talking about books and writing, and a writing community provides me with a great group of people to do that with. Plus, if I meet someone with similar interests, who knows what wonderful collaborations we might end up creating? (Witness the anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns, or Geektastic.)

The writing community is also a great place to swap notes on every part of the writing and publishing process. No matter what issues you’re struggling with—you now hate your protagonist, you’ve got writer’s block, you missed a deadline, you need an agent, you need ideas on marketing your book—there’s a writer somewhere out there who’s dealt with something similar. So the community is like a huge database of personal experiences that you can learn from.

Finally, the writing community is supportive. (And if it’s not, you’re in the wrong community!) I’m fortunate to belong to a small writing group that meets regularly to workshop each other’s works-in-progress, and it’s been a great experience. It’s hard to get perspective on your own writing, so it’s wonderful to get constructive feedback from other writers. It also motivates you to write regularly so you’ll have something to bring to the meetings!

So I guess it really comes down to friendship and knowledge: two very good reasons to participate in the greater community of writers!

What advice would you give your pre-pub’d self?

The same advice I’d give any aspiring author: Write every day, or as often as you can manage. I used to write pretty much daily, from about age 10 or 11 or so. (That’s how I taught myself to type.) In high school, I continued to write a lot, but no longer daily. In university, I wrote editorials for the school paper to motivate me to write something that wasn’t an essay, but I stopped writing stories. And after graduating university, I put my writing aside completely for a while. I wish I’d gotten into the habit of writing a little each day; even 250 words would have been helpful.

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”  ~Elmore Leonard on writing


Thanks for the interview, Joanna!

And the rest of you have exactly 3 days left to go out and grab a copy of FRACTURED for your favorite YA reader for Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, well, I guess you’ve got as long as you want. But I’d still suggest getting a copy soon. 🙂

This being the last Toronto Tuesdays Interview of 2010, I’d like to say thanks to you all for such a great year, for reading and commenting on this blog, and especially for supporting the Toronto Tuesdays Interviews. Your interaction, retweets, and reposts are hugely appreciated! And just so you know, there are more interviews to come, beginning in January. Until then …

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Helene Boudreau

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on December 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

It’s my pleasure to interview Helene Boudreau for this week’s Toronto Tuesday. Helene is a terrific author and friend who is extremely witty and has a flair for slanting many a tête-à-tête towards the humorous side of things. (How’s that for throwing in a smidge of Francaise? Uh, or is it Francais? Anyway…) Helene is also a dedicated mom who loves sharing cute little snippets of life at home with her “chicklets”.

Meet Helene Boudreau.

Please introduce yourself to us.

Hi! I grew up on an island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and now I write fiction and non-fiction for kids from my land-locked home in Ontario, Canada.

My debut middle grade time-travel novel, ACADIAN STAR, was nominated for the 2009-2010 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. My eco-adventure chapter book KEEP OUT! was released this past spring (sequel is WATER HAZARD, out spring 2011) and my tween book REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS was released December 1st.

I have never time-travelled or saved an endangered bird, nor have I ever spotted a mermaid in the wild, but I believe mermaids are just as plausible as sea horses, flying fish, or electric eels.

Tell us a bit about your latest book.

Click for more info and to buy

REAL MERMAINDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS is a tween coming-of-age novel about a plus-sized aquaphobic mer-girl who is trying to balance the two-legged angst of zits, friendships and boys with a quest to save her memaid mother from very scary mer-dudes.

Back-of-the book blurbity-blurb:

“First zit. First crush. First…mermaid’s tail?

If she hadn’t been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?

Most. Embarassing. Moment. Ever.

Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But this revelation raises a serious question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?

Jade is determined to find out. But how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic, mer-girl go about doing that, exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend Cori, and her crush, Luke?

This summer is about to get a lot more interesting…”

How much has your background played a role in your writing?

Well, so far I’ve written a middle grade novel about a time-traveling Acadian girl from a small fishing village in Cape Breton, a chapter book series about twin boys solving eco-adventure mysteries about shore birds and lobsters in Prince Edward Island and a tween book about a mermaid. I grew up near the ocean. Can you tell? J

Why did you choose to write children’s books?

There is no better audience than a kid losing him/herself in a book on a quiet afternoon or while walking through the playground, nose buried in the pages, or sneaking in an extra chapter by the light of the hallway after his/her parents have hollered ‘lights out!’.

What do you find to be most challenging about being a writer?

The hardest thing for me to come to terms with is that progress doesn’t always equal output. I often get caught up in thinking I need to be constantly producing words on the page but writing a book takes a LOT of rumination for me. Some might call it procrastination (and trust me, there’s plenty of THAT going on, too) but I need a lot of ‘thinking time’ before and during the writing process.  I need to remember to allow myself that time, without guilt.

Is there anything specific you want to achieve through your book? Was it written with a specific purpose in mind?

Jade’s not so different from other girls her age. She’s wondering about boys, trying to figure out friendships, and seeing changes in her body. Though, in Jade’s case, make that BIG changes!

My own daughter is almost ten and is just at the precipice of entering those uncertain years of raging hormones and topsy-turvy emotions. I really wanted to write a fun story for her (and girls like her) to ease her into the land of zits, training bras and smelly armpits. The upside being that—no matter how hard puberty might get—at least she doesn’t have a TAIL!

And, in fact, that same almost-ten-year-old chicklet of mine stole my Advance Review Copy as soon as it arrived in the mail, and hid it from me until she could finish reading it. Can raiding my closet be very far behind?

Do you have any other interests? What are they?

I am a big-time long distance walker and have participated in several half-marathons and longer walks. Walking is a big part of my writing life since it’s a time for me to catch up on audio books and also a chance to let ideas stew. I’m a huge believer in fresh air and sun on your face. It does wonders for a person’s frame of mind. I also love cheese and cheap chocolate so walking balances that out. Kinda.

Are there any helpful books on writing that you’d like to recommend?

I love the book HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL by James N. Frey. That book was an eye-opener for me, early on, and it taught me a lot about pacing and the mechanics of developing identifiable/ sympathetic characters.

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

“I tried to follow along as Cori went on about Luke’s sun-bleached hair and cute surfer shorts, but the only thing occupying my mind at that moment was the fact that—even through all the miracles of modern science—they still hadn’t invented a bathing suit that didn’t creep up your butt. Maybe my brilliant engineer dad could get to work on that instead of trying to unify the theories of the universe.” (REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS)


Thanks so much, Helene! C’est interview est tres bon! ( :/

To find out more about Helene and her books, you can visit her website.

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Helaine Becker

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on November 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

Though cliche, the old saying is definitely true: A picture is worth a thousand words. And in Helaine Becker’s case, make that ten-thousand. Those of you who know Helaine, know that this picture says it all.

Those of you who don’t know Helaine, you’re missing out. You really oughtta hunt her down, buy her a drink, and spend some time with her. You won’t leave the table without having been inspired and/or challenged in one way or another. I can guarantee you that.

Meet Helaine Becker.

Please introduce yourself to us.

Hi Everybody! I’m Helaine Becker, and I write kids’ books. Funny kids’ books, for the most part.

Tell us about your most recent books.

This has been a really big year for me – I had FIVE books come out in 2010! First off the mark was The Quiz Book for Boys, which is a very silly kind of book, designed to appeal to the most juvenile-members (and I mean in spirit, not age) of the human species. Sample questions include What is Your Underwear Style, How Weird is Your Family? And What Kind of Junk Food are You?  And in case you think I am unfairly biased toward the guys, please note The Quiz Book for Girls – equally silly – will be out in January.

Click to buy

The second book off the press was Magic Up Your Sleeve, which is a how-to of magic with a scientific bent. All of the activities use simple scientific principles to work, so you get to have fun, fool your friends AND experiment with really neat science-y stuff all at once.

Click to buy

I’ve also got two picture books this year. The first is a Halloween book, The Haunted House that Jack Built.

Click to buy

The second is for Christmas and is called A Porcupine in a Pine Tree.

Click to buy

Last but not least, I’ve got a book sure to make me popular with hockey fans – It’s The Hilarious History of Hockey. It’s, well, a history of hockey. And, um, hilarious.

Click to buy

Are there any current/upcoming projects you can tell us about?

I’ve always got a zillion projects on the go – a perennially restless mind and short attention span, I suppose. I’ve just done edits on another picture book that will be out with Kids Can Press in September 11, and am about to start writing two new non-fiction books – the topics are still very hush hush….And in the meantime, I’m working on a YA Horror novel. It’s so gross my 16 yr old son won’t even let me mention the word “book” in front of him these days (mwah hah hah….) And there’s a few other ideas I’ve been kicking around, pitching around too, including a kids TV show.

What do you find to be most challenging about being a writer?

This question is easy. The most challenging, of course, is the constant rejection. You need a freakily thick skin to not let having your work regularly criticized, rejected or ignored get to you. You also need a resilient ego to deal with the fact that none of your friends or family will really take you seriously; most people don’t really understand what we writers do or how the business works, so they think we just print books in the basement or something in between loads of laundry. Related to that is that children’s authors (well, anything to do with children, really) do not get much respect from society. And last but not least, there is the ongoing challenge to survive in a struggling industry – making a buck never gets any easier!

What do you find to be the most rewarding?

Thankfully, the rewards of this career FAR outweigh the challenges. First, and maybe most important to me, is I almost never have to get up early, and don’t have to wear shoes or show up at an office for work 5 days a week. I can work when I want, where I want, and goof off if the weather is nice and a friend calls. To me, that’s worth a billion zillion dollars. Secondly, I get to read a lot and learn a lot, and those are, like, my two favorite things in the world. And third, I get to visit schools and meet tons of great kids, and I have so much fun doing that! Last, but not least, I also get to work with wonderful people – the editors and illustrators who help make my books so beautiful and appealing, the other authors I’ve gotten to know who are 100% the most interesting people I know, and the wonderful teachers and librarians I meet when I am on tour. And did I mention the biggest surprise and reward of this crazy writing gig – that you get to travel ALL OVER the place? I’ve been to almost every province and territory and more than one foreign country as part of my job.

What does an average day look like for you?

Let’s just say there’s a lot of lying around the house…..

Was there a specific event that encouraged you to develop your writerly self?

Yes. Pure misery at a job I hated. I decided to quit, but before I did, I had to answer the question, what will you do instead? I’d been toying with the idea of writing for years – Honestly, I’d wanted to be a writer since I was 5 years old, but had talked myself out of it as a teenager, by telling myself a) I wasn’t talented enough and b) it was “unrealistic” to think you could make a living as a writer. But then, there I was 40 yrs old, and still wanting to be a writer! So I changed up the question in my head. Instead of saying to myself, with that derisive tone we sometimes use, “Why should your dream come true?” I asked myself instead, “Why shouldn’t they? There was only one reason why not: Because I hadn’t really ever made an honest effort to make my dreams come true. So I decided to use my sales experience (I’d been in sales for more than 15 yrs at that point) to start selling my own work – my writing. It was a pretty tough six months of sending out queries and getting rejections before I got my first yes (I don’t want to tell you how many no’s I got – let’s just say it was staggering). But eventually, the yes did come. And I’ve never looked back.

What advice would you give your pre-pub’d self?

It’s not about the talent. Ok, talent helps. But mostly, writing is a skill, that you can learn, and develop. The more you do it, the better you get at it. That being said, being a successful writer is not about the words on the page. HUH???? You say? What I mean is that to succeed in a tough business like publishing, you need to develop other skills in addition to the writing ones. You need to learn how the business of publishing works, and how to sell your work. Mostly, you need persistence, a never say die attitude and the ability to separate your work – your product, so to speak – from yourself as a worthwhile human being.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Read voraciously. Write constantly. These two tactics together will help you develop your ear for language, your vocabulary, your sense of drama and pacing. I would also encourage aspiring authors to find a group of like-minded people to share work with, for advice and support. No one can adequately critique their own work; you just can’t see it objectively, so you need someone to point out places where you can make improvements and bring your work to the next level. And third, I would suggest getting some basic business skills. If you are a freelance writer, you are in essence an entrepreneur. You need to know how to operate a small business. If you don’t have the basics down, you will really, really struggle to make a living, and you won’t even necessarily realize why.

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

“Where there’s life, there’s hope.” For me that means no matter how bleak things might look, as long as you are breathing, there is a chance for things to turn around, improve, even turn awesome! I remind myself of this whenever I feel like giving up.


Thanks so much, Helaine! What an inspiring interview. See, what did I tell you? Spending even five minutes with Helaine makes you think you can go out and conquer the world! Or, at least write a book. (Which, depending on the book, could help you conquer the world! :))

You can find out more about Helaine on her website.

*Note: Due to my involvement with NaNoWriMo, Toronto Tuesdays Interviews will be on hold for the next few weeks, resuming in December. Thanks for tuning in, and Happy November!

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Kari-Lynn Winters

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on October 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

I had the pleasure of meeting Kari-Lynn at a fellow torkidlit author’s book launch, just this past month. She is full of energy, enthusiasm, and smiles. Kari-Lynn has a deep love and appreciation for literature, and she participated in the recent AirLift to LA! initiative with Helaine Becker and Access Books. Approximately 5,000 books were donated through this outreach to an empty school library in L.A. (Click the above link for pictures and info.)

Meet Kari-Lynn Winters.

Please introduce yourself to us.

My name is Kari-Lynn Winters. I am an advocate of literacy and the arts. I have won awards for my picture books, plays, mentorship/teaching, and my academic research. Sixteen of my picture or poetry books have been accepted for publication.  I am an experienced teacher of writing, who has taught a range of students in Canada and the United States, including pre-school, special education, primary and intermediate, high school, and university teacher education. Additionally, I am an assistant professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. My research interests include: drama in education, children’s literature, authorship, and multimodal literacies.

Tell us about your most recent books.

This year I had two books published.

When Chickens Fly (Illustrated by Izabela Bzymek; published by Gumboot Books, 2010) is about a chicken who wants to be a free range aerialist.  However the Arranging Committee at the Snow Sports Competition will not let her compete—because the rules say that barnyard animals cannot compete!  This humourous picture book brings up themes of equity and fairness, and resonates with the 2010 Winter Olympics (when the Organizing Committee would not allow the female ski jumpers to compete).

Click to buy

Runaway Alphabet (Illustrated by Ben Frey; published by Simply Read Books, 2010) introduces two characters (Nan and Pa) who explore the sights and especially the sounds of the winter carnival. This unique alphabet book focuses on the sounds of the letters, and in this way, becomes a stepping stone for literacy for young readers.

Click to buy

 When and how did you start writing?

In some ways I have been writing all my life. I have always been a storyteller, sharing narratives with anyone who would listen.  In other ways, I only started writing twelve years ago.  It was at that time that I began to record my thoughts on paper.

How much has your background played a role in your writing?

People used to always say to me, “It is too bad that you spent all that time studying drama, when what you really wanted to be was a teacher.”  I just laugh to myself.  Drama has never been a waste of time for me—not as an educator, not as an author, and certainly not as a professor. It shows me how to present my ideas to others, how to think through plots and about characters, how to beat out a story, and most importantly, how to be more human.  Drama is anything but a waste of time.

Were you an avid reader as a child?

 I was never an avid reader as a child. I learned to read late (grade 3) and couldn’t read well until I went to university. Today, I am still the slowest reader around. But now I am motivated to read.  I see the power that reading holds.  I also see the imagination that reading brings to my life.  I love to read, especially picture books, magazines, theories, and plays.  I see now that reading is actually writing in your mind’s eye—for me they are one in the same.   I actually create the imaginary worlds, the text just helps me to visualize it a little bit clearer.

 What advice would you give your pre-pub’d self?

 1) If you think you can do it, you can.


2) There is no need to be competitive.  Give to others (go to book launches, talk to others about people who inspire you, buy the books of others, turn books face out in bookstores, ask for help, etc.)  People in this field, especially in Canada, are (for the most part) generous and encouraging.  There is enough room in the world for your stories, her stories, his stories, and my stories.  We must stand together as authors to inspire and educate the world about how important books (including picture books—see the NY Times article about picture books) are and how engaging literacy can be.

Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write your first book?

Writer’s block.

What do you find to be most challenging about being a writer? The most rewarding?

The most challenging part of being an author is never being able to turn off that switch.  Indeed, stories are constantly swarming around us.  I want to write it all. The most rewarding part of being an author is sharing stories with others, and giving back.  I love this part of my job.  Nothing beats an engaged audience, who are loving your books.  I write books so that I can share them with others. 

Do you think in words or images? How do you craft your scenes? Do you see them? Hear them?

I guess you could say that I embody stories—which drives my son nutty, especially when he has friends over.   I say phrases out loud and play with the words. I act out the parts and constantly think about the images.  It is a bit like a puzzle.  This is the only way that I know how to write.

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

 Those who cannot imagine, cannot read.

                                                –Elliot Eisner—

Thanks so much for this opportunity!  Write-ON!


Thanks, Kari-Lynn! It was great meeting you, and getting to know you a little better.

More information about Kari-Lynn can be found on her website.

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Deborah Kerbel

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on October 19, 2010 at 9:00 am

If you’ve ever met Deborah Kerbel, you’ll know that she’s a very up-beat, postitive person. She’s absolutely a pleasure to be with and can put a smile on anyone’s face. Not only that, she’s a total writing machine! Deborah has so many ideas, it seems to me like her newly released book/completed WIP ratio is an even 1:1. Always. Please, someone, correct me if I’m wrong. Although, come to think of it, it could possibly even be 1:2.

Meet Deborah Kerbel.

Please introduce yourself to us.

My name is Deborah Kerbel, I’m a YA writer on never-ending quest for inspiration and spare time.  I was born in England 38 years ago and now live in Thornhill, Ontario with my husband and our two kids.  I’m impulsive to a fault, a bit of a trivia nerd, an unapologetic exercise-phobe, a fan of the colour pink, and a firm believer in the glass always being half full. I have an insatiable sweet tooth and a totally irrational fear of tomatoes and large dogs.  And of course, I love books.  Pleased to meet you!

I happen to know that your two kids are fairly young. Anyone who’s ever had young children knows how tough it is to be anything other than “mommy”. How do you make time for your writing?

I’m a ‘stay-at-home’ mom to two high-energy kids – my son is 8 and my daughter is 5 – so I have to search out the little pockets of silence around their schedules and use them for writing.  I usually write for two hours in the morning while my daughter is at kindergarten then another few hours every night after both kids are in bed, my husband is watching TV, and the house is calm.  For me, it’s meant exchanging most of my leisurely evenings for writing time…but until my kids are bigger, it’s the only way I can fit writing into my day.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent book?

Click to buy

LURE is my third YA novel published by Dundurn Press. It’s a semi-historical ghost story based on actual paranormal events that are reported to have taken place at a haunted Victorian-era library near my home in Thornhill, Ontario.

Can you tell us about the journey to publication for LURE?

From first word to signed contract, LURE happened very quickly – faster than any book I’ve ever written.  The inspiration for the story came at me like a pie in the face one day in late August, 2009 and I started plotting the book out the same day.  For the next four weeks, I put everything in my life aside so I could write Lure ‘in the moment’ – capturing the sights and sounds of Thornhill in the dying days of summer.  I wrote into the early hours of the morning every night, driven by the need to finish the book before the season changed.  A month after I started writing, the first draft was finished.  Three weeks later, it was accepted for publication by Dundurn.  And now, almost exactly one year later, it’s ready and waiting on the shelf at your favourite bookstore.

When writing, do you think in words or images? How do you craft your scenes? Do you see them? Hear them?

Actually, it’s more like I feel them. I don’t think it’s enough to see or hear…a writer has to engage all her senses to create a world so vivid and believable that the reader finds themselves falling into the pages.  I often write in a quiet room with my eyes closed (good thing I’ve got the keyboard memorized!) to block out everything in ‘the real world’ so I can step into the scene in my head and let it play out.

Having three published YA novels under your belt, is there a particular book you’ve read that has inspired you to become a better writer over the years?

Well, I think every good book I read makes me a better writer.  I’m always reading something and, to a certain degree, I take inspiration from everything I read.  Whether it’s a lyrical turn of phrase, a unique voice, a fresh point of view, a beautifully crafted setting, or even just a well-paced plot – it’s all nourishment for my writer’s soul

What advice would you give your pre-pub’d self?

Don’t let the rejections get you down…a published author is a writer who never gave up!

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Always be open to inspiration, write daily to practice your craft, and keep reading, reading, reading!

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss


Thanks, Deborah! I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of LURE!

If you’d like to contact Deborah, you can visit her website, find her on facebook, and follow her on twitter.

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Joel A. Sutherland

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on October 12, 2010 at 9:00 am

I must admit, since there are currently just a handful of men in our torkidlit group, I always look forward to interviewing one of them. Not that I don’t look forward to interviewing the women, I do. But interviewing the guys, well, is kind of like a novelty, you know, since there aren’t very many of them. And since some of them, I’ve discovered, have pretty interesting lives hidden just beneath the surface of their writerly exteriors.

Take Joel Sutherland for example. First of all, in writerly-exterior terms, he’s both a horror AND children’s non-fiction writer. Understanding how those two writer-selves co-exist in one brain is beyond me. And then second of all, in just-beneath-the-surface-of-writerly-exterior terms, he’s … well … just read on. You’ll see.

Meet Joel Sutherland

Please introduce yourself.

Perhaps my Twitter bio says it best (or, at least, most succinctly): “Author and librarian. Proud husband, father and dog owner.” Nice and short, but I’m a writer and I like to write — I’ll leave the shortening to my editor. I currently live east of Oshawa in a town called Courtice, but when I travel abroad I simply say “Toronto”. It’s much simpler. I’ve worked as an Information Assistant at the Ajax Public Library for the past six years and am nearing the completion of a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree.

But that’s all a little dry. Here are the answers to the truly burning questions: green, seven, pizza, walking the dog, Back to the Future and The Lord of the Rings (it’s a tie), fresh-cut grass and woodsmoke (also a tie), my family, and bubble wrap. Definitely bubble wrap.

Tell us about your book.

It’s a creative writing book called Be a Writing Superstar.

Click to buy

Wait, let me back up. “Creative writing book” sounds far too formal for what it really is. It’s more a collection of fun games, cool crafts and silly interviews, all designed to improve children’s literacy skills. Parents are always coming into the library looking for books to make their kids to enjoy reading and writing more than they currently do, and this book will definitely fill that desire. It’s been written with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour (and a touch of potty humour, too) and should appeal to both kids who cringe when their teachers hand out writing assignments and JK students who dream of being the next J.K. Rowling.

Plus, it’s beautifully illustrated by the mega-talented Patricia Storms, who matched the lighthearted tone of the book perfectly. I couldn’t be happier with the way the book turned out, and I hope it reaches as wide an audience as possible — the world needs more writers!

Can you tell us about the journey to publication for your current book?

Well, as you know, it can be extremely difficult to get that first big book deal, and Be a Writing Superstar took a somewhat unusual path to publication. I used to write short, silly interviews with popular Canadian authors and illustrators for my library’s newsletter, and the answers I was getting from the interviewees were so incredibly funny (not to mention insightful) that I began to think it would be fun to collect them in a book for a wider audience to enjoy. After attending a presentation by The Dewey Divas and Dudes (a group who inform public and school librarians about various publishers’ upcoming releases) I emailed the rep from Scholastic Canada and told her about my idea. She passed it on to the publishing director and I heard back a little later that they enjoyed the interviews but felt they wouldn’t really make an ideal children’s book on their own.

But the door was open…

I’d like to be able to say that through a supreme stroke of insight and creative genius, I thought of how to pair the interviews with another idea to make a more well-rounded book, but I have to give credit where credit is due. My wife, Colleen, was the first one to think that they would work well in a book on creative writing, and I had been running creative writing workshops for children for the past few years. I whipped up a proposal, sent it in and the rest is history.

The lesson to take away from this experience is that there’s more than one path to publication. Never give up regardless of how many rejections you receive and look for opportunities in unusual places. Also, don’t be afraid to alter your project to suit different publishers if they’re interested enough to give constructive feedback.

What advice would you give your pre-pub’d self?

Read in as many genres as possible, write in every spare second you have, and listen to your wife.

You’ve said that you have both a day job and a family. How do you make time for your writing?

As previously mentioned, I work full time in a public library and have a very supportive wife — we also had our first child, a beautiful baby boy named Charles (Charlie to his friends), seven months ago, so life is great but definitely busy. It can be a challenge to find time for writing and that’s one of the reasons I’d tell my pre-pub’d self to write every spare second I have. Lately I’ve been writing in a notebook or on my netbook during coffee and meal breaks at work. You’ve really got to have a passion for writing, especially if you can’t afford to do it full time and need to squeeze it into the spare seconds you can find here and there throughout the day.

Had you written anything before your first published work? What was it? Did you try to get it published?

Be a Writing Superstar is actually my first published children’s work, but my first published work was a horror novel called Frozen Blood. It’s a throwback to the mass market supernatural horror novels of the 80s and is set in a haunted Ottawa mansion during a terrible hailstorm. I threw in a lot of elements I enjoy to read in books and it was a lot of fun to write, and the response from readers was very positive. It was even nominated for the Bram Stoker Award (horror writing’s highest honour) for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, which was a wonderful experience.

I’ve also had quite a few short stories published in anthologies and magazines over the years. Most recently I have a humourous Christmas horror story in Blood Lite II: Overbite (Simon & Schuster, October 2010), which was edited by Kevin J. Anderson and also includes stories by Kelley Armstrong, L.A. Banks and Heather Graham, and I’ve sold a ghost story to Cemetery Dance Magazine, to appear sometime next year.

Have you ever taken any formal writing classes/courses? What were they?

The best writing classes I ever took were Writing for Children I and II through George Brown College. Red Deer Press Children’s Editor Peter Carver runs the course and trusts the students to lead much of the discussion after volunteers read sections of their writing assignments aloud to the group. Two of my favourite aspects of the class is that it is held in Toronto bookstore Mabel’s Fables after closing hours (how fun to get to stay in the store after it’s been locked up!) and Peter supplies tea and cookies during the break. It was an incredibly rewarding class and many of the students keep coming back, something I did for a few years myself. Ken Setterington, formerly of the Toronto Public Library, recommended the class to me and Be a Writing Superstar has a nice little thank you to both Ken and Peter — I doubt I’d be where I am today if not for their generous assistance and mentoring over the years. If you live in the GTA and want to improve your children’s writing, I’d seriously recommend enrolling in the class!

Do you have any other interests? What are they?

I’m a big reality TV fan. I can’t help but watch shows like Survivor, Big Brother and The Amazing Race and wonder how well I’d do in those situations. I also can’t help but be jealous of our neighbours to the south who are allowed to apply for those shows, while Canadians have to settle for sitting at home watching the Americans have all the fun.

While watching an episode of Wipeout this past summer I saw an ad for an upcoming Canadian version of the hit show which was open to applications for a short period of time. I immediately logged on to the website, found the application form and began brainstorming my answers which I submitted (along with a video application) shortly thereafter. So, too, did 45,000 other Canadians, but I was fortunate enough to get an interview with the producers. About a month later I got a call telling me I had been selected as one of the 260 contestants for the first season of Wipeout Canada! If I hadn’t been in the library when they called, I would have screamed at the top of my lungs (they tend to frown upon that sort of thing in libraries). My chance to run the course will come later this month and I’m starting to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into… (Interviewer’s aside: I do believe that as you read this, Joel is en route to Argentina, where he will discover exactly what he’s gotten himself into. Go Joel!)

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

There are so many, but one of my favourites is included in Be a Writing Superstar: “I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book.” Groucho Marx said that. Never mind the fact that he not only had a successful film career but also hosted two television shows, nor that I’m a sucker for TV myself. It’s still a great quote!


Thanks so much for sharing a bit of yourself with us, Joel! And congrats for being chosen for Wipeout Canada! We’ll definitely be cheering for you. Good luck!

If you’d like to contact Joel you can find him on facebook, at his website, and on twitter.

Toronto Tuesdays Interview: Vikki VanSickle

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on October 5, 2010 at 9:12 am

After a two-month hiatus, I’m so glad to once again offer you Toronto Tuesdays Interviews!

Our Toronto MG/YA writers’ group is full of ultra-talented authors and illustrators, the fabulous people that you’ll have the pleasure of meeting during the coming months. I try to keep up-to-date with everyone’s news so as to feature them at the best possible times, like right before or following a new book release! And considering the calibre of talent in this group, we’re never at a loss for those! Feel free to browse this blog to catch the interviews you’ve missed so far. Believe me, each one is worth reading!

And this week’s interview is no exception.

Vikki VanSickle is one of the cutest, smartest, book-lovingest people you’ll ever meet. She wears her passion for writing and books on her sleeve and you can’t help but get excited about whatever it is she’s talking about. It’s always enjoyable to sit beside Vikki at a tweetup!

Meet Vikki VanSickle.

Please introduce yourself to us.

My name is Vikki VanSickle- yes, that is my real name. Clearly my parents had a premonition that my name would be on the cover of a children’s book one day and so they opted for alliteration. Always a good move.

When I’m not reading or writing I can be found at The Flying Dragon Bookshop in Toronto, where I am the manager. In the summer, I am the playwright and director of Lock and Keynote Production’s musical theatre summer camps. I’m currently living in Toronto with the world’s best roommates, two human, one feline. I love autumn, chocolate milkshakes, going out for brunch, musical theatre, my friends, vintage clothing, long walks, Vancouver, camp, singing, and of course, writing.

Tell us about your book.

Words That Start With B, is a friendship story. It chronicles a particularly bad year in the life of Clarissa Louise Delaney, who describes herself as the “unexceptional daughter of a bona-fide beauty queen.” Clarissa’s mom runs a hair salon out of their basement. She spends most of her time with her next door neighbor Benji, a shy kid with a hockey-loving dad who just can’t understand why Benji would rather hang out with Clarissa at the salon. In grade three, Clarissa was rescued from the principal’s office by enigmatic grade seven teacher Miss Ross. Now that grade seven is just around the corner, Clarissa has decided that this will be her year. She’s going to be smarter, nicer, funnier; she is determined to be the best possible version of herself.

Click to buy

But things start to go downhill pretty quickly. First, Miss Ross is no longer at the school and is replaced by goofy Mr. Campbell. Then it turns out that Benji’s dad is not the only one who finds his preference for girls and beauty salons weird, and he becomes the target for a particularly nasty bully. Michael Greenblat keeps giving Clarissa weird gifts and for some reason, goody-two-shoes Mattie Cohen seems to think she’s her new best friend. But things go from bad to worse when Clarissa’s mother is given a diagnosis that changes everything. But Clarissa is a survivor, and she manages to stumble through the year if not with grace, then with a lot of humour.  

Why did you choose to write children’s books?

It was never a conscious decision for me. When I sit down to write, the things that come to mind always happen to be children’s stories. Other than a few plays, I’ve never attempted to write any sort of fiction aimed at adults. I think this is due in part to the fact that I love kids and I have worked with children in various capacities since I became a reading buddy in grade four. I think writing for kids was a natural progression of my love for kids and how I am ceaselessly amazed by their intelligence, complexity, and struggles. In many ways, my writing comes out of a deep respect for children and the process of childhood and adolescence.

In terms of my own reading, I have always read children’s books, even as an adult. And not just because I worked in a bookstore or was a camp counselor, but because I really enjoyed them. Anything goes in children’s literature- there is so much room for experimentation and wonder. Kids are a naturally open and receptive audience. How freeing for an author! And how exciting to be contributing to a child’s development in their formative years. So many people remember vividly and fondly the books they loved as children. It is an honour and a privilege to write for young audiences, one that I take very seriously.   

Were you an avid reader as a child? What were your favorite books?

I was a HUGE reader. At one point the librarian at my public library kept my library card behind the desk because I was in borrowing books so frequently. I read everywhere: in bed, in the bathtub, in the car, at lunchtime, at the arena when the zamboni was resurfacing the ice before skating practice- it’s safe to say I was addicted. I wasn’t picky about what I read, either. I particularly loved Nancy Drew books, Anne of Green Gables, ghost stories, WWII novels, anything to do with witches (but particularly the Salem Witch Trials) and Sweet Valley High.

Do you think you were born to write or is writing something you discovered along your life’s journey? Either way, when did you decide to do it in earnest?

I think I was a born storyteller. As a kid I entered poetry contests and kept a fairly elaborate journal. In grade eight I convinced my teacher to allow me to spend an entire year working on a novel instead of handing in individual writing assignments. For awhile I took a bit of a detour into acting and directing, but I found my way back to writing and I feel like I’ve found my niche.

It wasn’t until I entered the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program at UBC in 2005 that I seriously considered writing as a calling. I enrolled in a creative writing for children course with writer and teacher Alison Acheson and everything just clicked. I made wonderful friends and read fabulous books and stayed up late discussing children’s literature. I left the program with the tools, the confidence and the drive to pursue publication. I am a huge supporter of writing groups and workshops. If you are serious about writing but need some structure or support (or both), get thee to a workshop!

Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write your first book?

Warning: This section contains spoilers!!

Words That Start With B came out of a number of sources. I wanted to write a friendship story between a boy and a girl that didn’t turn into a romance. So many middle grade and teen novels are about the boy (or girl) next door who suddenly become appealing, but I found truly platonic boy-girl friendships hard to come by in children’s literature.

I also wanted my male character to be more effeminate than perhaps we’re used to seeing in kids fiction. I knew (and know) many boys who preferred the company of girls, were perhaps a little more sensitive than other boys, and had more traditional female interests, but these boys are practically invisible in children’s fiction. I had written a few scenes about a shy boy named Benji and his spunky neighbour Clarissa, but not much came out of it.

Then I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who relayed a story about a girl in grade six who chose to take a fail on a test rather than label the parts of the female reproduction system because she was embarrassed by the subject matter. I wondered how this girl would react if someone close to her, like her mother, developed breast cancer? This seed lead to a monologue I had written that began with the sentence, “Of all the cancers in the world, my mother had to get breast cancer.” I realized that this monologue sounded an awful lot like my character Clarissa, and then everything fell into place. Fun fact: that sentence is still in the book.

Is there anything that you’ve found to be particularly helpful in your journey to publication?

My friends, both writerly and non-writerly. My writerly friends understand the agony and ecstasy of the process, including the long stretches of time between your first submission to receiving an offer to signing the contract to your first round of edits to seeing the final product. They know what it is to agonize over word choice and covers. My non-writerly friends are also supportive, but most importantly, they remind me to get out and do stuff. What’s the point of sitting at home and stewing when there is so much to see and do in life that is non-book related?

Can you share a favorite quote with us?

I was a camp counselor for many years, and one of the quotations I used to write out in big letters and tape above the cabin door was, “Don’t Count the Days, Make the Days Count.” There are lots of great inspirational quotations out there, but this one has really shaped how I live my life. So much of life (particularly when you’re a writer) is waiting for something. It’s easy to be idle and let time pass. It’s much harder to get up and do something. I try to make the most out of every day, whether that means enjoying all the small things or connecting with my friends or writing. When I’m old and grey I want to be able to look back and think, I made every day count!


Thanks, so much, Vikki! WORDS THAT START WITH B is a great choice for middle-grade readers or for anyone who remembers what it was like to be in 7th grade! (I do. I moved part-way through the year. And besides that, how could anyone forget a teacher like Mr. Baker? Sheesh. He was no Miss Ross, that’s for sure.)

If you’d like to contact Vikki, you can find her on Twitter, on her blog, or on Facebook.

The Return of Toronto Tuesdays!

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on September 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I’m very happy to announce that the Toronto Tuesdays Interviews will resume this coming Tuesday, October 5th!

I’ve got a great line-up planned, including:

Vikki VanSickle, author of the newly released WORDS THAT START WITH B

Joel Sutherland, horror writer and author of the newly released BE A WRITING SUPERSTAR!

Deborah Kerbel, author of MACKENZIE, LOST AND FOUND; GIRL ON THE OTHER SIDE; and the forthcoming YA thriller, LURE.

Helaine Becker, author of numerous children’s books including the award-winning INSECTO-FILES and THE HAUNTED HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. Helaine also spearheaded the amazing literacy-based outreach, AirLift to LA!

Kari-Lynn Winters, award-winning author, playwright, and literary scholar. Kari-Lynn’s forthcoming picture book, RUNAWAY ALPHABET, is due to be released this fall.

See? What did I tell you? You won’t want to miss getting a peek into the lives of these (and many other) extraordinary torkidlit authors!

Check back this coming Tuesday, in which the Interview with Vikki VanSickle will be brought to you by the letter B.

How About a T.O. Tuesday Recap?

In torkidlit, Toronto Tuesdays on July 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

Toronto Tuesdays will be on hiatus for the month of August. I hope you’ve enjoyed the interviews so far and have felt like you’ve gotten to know some of the Toronto MG/YA Writers Group members. They are a fantastic group of people and I’m happy to say there are still plenty more interviews to be had, starting up in September.

In case you’ve missed some of the #torkidlit interviews that have already been done, here’s a list of the people who’ve been so kind as to answer my questions thus far:

Cheryl Rainfield

 Andrew Tolson

Marina Cohen

Anna Humphrey

Rob Weston

Megan Crewe

Adrienne Kress

Nelsa Roberto

Patricia Storms

Mahtab Narsimhan

Frieda Wishinsky

Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Hope to see you back in September for more Toronto Tuesdays interviews with the #torkidlit group.

Happy August! 🙂