Interviews With Young Authors

It has been my pleasure to mentor some young authors this past year, honing their creative writing skills and bringing their work to publication.  Ivan Sun and Andrew Li are both in grade three and Aaron Lu is a grade six student.  Today, we launch their anthologies, chapter books and novels!

Ivan wrote, “Ivanworks:  An Anthology of Great Literature”, Andrew wrote, “The Great Space Race” and Aaron, “The Rookie”.

What better way to celebrate than with an interview.  Below, Andrew and Ivan interview one another on being young authors.

Interview With Andrew

Ivan:  Andrew, what inspired you to write, “The Great Space Race”?

Andrew:  Lori encouraged me to write my best and I chose space as my theme because space is very interesting and there are a lot of unknown things about it.  I could imagine my own planets and create them.

Ivan:  Why did you choose one obstacle to be a labyrinth?

Andrew:  A labyrinth is a very scary place.  You could be frapped in there forever.  It is a very dangerous setting and it keeps my readers interested because the characters are in danger.

Ivan:  Was it hard to write your book?

Andrew:  It was hard because I had to write thousands of words and edit it myself.  I had to write about a lot of characters.  I learned how to write longer stories and keep them interesting.


Interview with Ivan

Andrew:  Ivan, what was your favourite part of the book “Space Camp”?

Ivan:  My favourite part was when Adrian met Bloop De Blah Blah the president of all of the aliens.

Andrew:  Why did you write the book?

Ivan:  I wrote it to encourage readers to like adventures and to let their imaginations go loose.

Andrew:  Describe the main characters in the story “The Lost Necklace of Cleo Patra”.  Why did you choose them?

Ivan:  The two main characters are Grandpa and I.  We were royal mice.  Grandpa was the main character because he had magical hieroglyphic powers.  I was also a main character because I discovered the lost tomb of Cleo Patra in the story.


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In the ‘Zone’ at the Surrey International Children’s Festival

People got in touch with their inner poets in the Poet Zone, a concept I initiated this year at the Surrey International Children’s Festival.  We cut, pasted, collaged and created many brilliant works of found poetry, Todd Parr Style Portrait poetry and blackout poetry.  I got to work with Surrey’s Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar, a very inspiring woman.  In fact, there was inspiration all around…so much so that they are thinking of expanding the activity into a larger space for next year!  Thanks to everyone who made this happen!


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Newest Video From the Rainforest

It has been a month since I was in St. Lucia and was so moved by the work of OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation, the local people and Canadian volunteers whose goal it is to improve and inspire the world, one word and one book at at time.  This video, made by Jason Lupish captures the energy, the transformation, the joy, the wonder, the beauty, the collaboration and the connection that is created every time we open a book, every time the Rainforest of Reading is celebrated.  I am proud.  I am moved. I am humbled.  Enjoy.

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Spendosaur Finds a New Home

There are moments that touch us, move us beyond words, moments that propel us into action.  My time in St. Lucia at OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation’s Rainforest of Reading awards was filled with such moments, some of which are only being digested now that I am ‘home’.  I feel as if doors and windows that I did not even know were there have been opened.  While immersed in the culture of the Caribbean, where people harmoniously exist on and incorporate the natural resources around them, all I saw and felt was joy.  There was not a single complaint, no sense of lack.  There was a oneness.  People didn’t need lavish homes, televisions, computers, designer ‘things’.  They didn’t need thousands of dollars in the bank…they had the moment.  There were no dollar stores, toy stores or even a lot of grocery stores.  The connection here was one of hearts and hands working together.

I think Spendosaur will like it here.  Many of us brought books to give away, many of us gave away much more.  What is easy for us to access in Canada,was a delightful treasure in St. Lucia.  One parent even told me that her daughter loved the book we gave her so much that she slept with it under her pillow to sweeten her dreams.

A young boy named Quamy had  been ‘following’ me around at the Vieux Fort festival.  He had his hand waving in the air when I asked for volunteers to help Spendosaur roar during our presentation.  He lingered after his session, came back to visit at lunch and asked if he could play with Spendosaur.  Of course the answer was yes.  He flew around the grounds holding him high, smiling one of the broadest smiles I have ever seen.  He shared him with his friends, always followed by a troupe of admirers for ‘he who held Spendosaur’.  At the end of the day, he visited again and asked if I would be selling my toys.  I said no, but upon examining Quamy’s face, I knew he didn’t dare ask for what he really wanted.

“You really like Spendosaur, don’t you?”

“Yes, miss.”

I paused.  Should I give him away?  This Spendosaur who had been given to me by a dear friend and who had performed in many shows with me over the years?

“Then you should have him.”

Quamy’s face lit up.  He could hardly believe it!

“Thank you miss!  Thank you!”

Before he ran off to show his remarkable treasure to his friends, I told him that he would have to brush Spendosaur’s teeth, keep him cool and that sometimes he ate a lot.  It was like giving a child away in some respects, but the joy that it brought was immeasurable.  I knew I could get another Spendosaur in Canada, but that Quamy would not find one in his home.  He would treasure him, and Spendosaur would love his new life with a child and community that would treat him like a special celebrity.  This simple act made a difference.  What difference?  We may not know for years to come, that will be Quamy’s chapter to write.

Quamy appeared again moments later, seeing that I was folding tables and chairs.  He and his troupe of friends without even a request, began to help me, all smiles, all heart.  My own heart is full of such memories of the Rainforest of Reading, of the spirit of giving that was prevalent there, of the hope that one book, one action can make such a deep difference.  Thanks to all, especially Sonya White and Richard Clewes for making all of this possible.



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DAREarts Radio Interview

Enjoy discovering how the DAREarts program helps students to soar like eagles in this radio interview with colleagues Shelley MacDonald and Roy Mulder.

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“I’d Buy A Book”

Thousands of children.  Eleven banners.  Elaborate costumes and props ranging from owl masks and wings, to cars, bicycles and special visors with math poetry on them.  Chanting.  Singing.  The stadium rang with their voices and could barely contain their enthusiasm.  We walked beside the young readers and talked.  I made a game of making rhyming couplets with their names.  “Miss, miss…do one for me!”  Their eyes lit up, they laughed and bounced.  I asked one girl what she would do if she had lots of money like Spendosaur, what she would buy  She replied without hesitation, “I’d buy a book!”  Not a video game or a toy, but a book.  That was pretty amazing.

We paraded in to the grounds to be greeted by the Governor General, prayer, song, speeches and a full day of literacy related activities.  Peggy Collins and myself manned a table where Peggy taught them how to draw dragons and I got them to act, chant and dance to the poems in the book.  Then they did a 2 D shape activity where they created creatures, aliens, dragons, homes, rocket ships…anything their imaginations could conjure up.  I made my way around and talked to them, asking questions…where will your rocket ship go?  Who is in it?  Who will you meet when you land?  What does the planet look like?  Before they knew it, they had created vibrant narratives of their own.  They were so proud to share their pictures.  “Miss!  Miss!  Look at mine!”  My whole being smiled as I agreed they were works of art to be cherished.

Tomorrow we do it all again in Vieux Fort on the southern part of the island.  Until then, I shall be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the rainforest…tree frogs, crickets, from the canopy above and dream of inspiration.


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A Rare Political Post

I am privileged to be working with an amazing team of volunteers, authors, illustrators and the founders of One World Schoolhouse Foundation this week for the Rainforest of Reading awards in St. Lucia.

The quote of the day comes from Peggy Collins.  “What we are doing here is special.  It’s kind of like a campground.  You want to leave it better than you found it.”  We hope that our work here with thousands of grade 3-5 children will inspire them, remind them to keep the doors of their imaginations and the covers of their books open as they grow.

Tomorrow in Castries, we will be part of a large festival celebrating literacy and the many ways to engage with it.   We will make memories, spark passions and invite curiosity.

Here’s the political part…where will these students go when they have questions or want to find out more about the things that pique their imaginations?  Most schools here have no libraries.  Most communities have no libraries.  Books are a commodity, school computers lacking the space, ventilation and programs to operate effectively.  When I was a kid, I loved my weekly trips to the library and always left with a stack of books as tall as I was, reading or being read to every night.  I could spend hours perusing the shelves, hours more curled up feasting on the words on the page.  Here, children do not have this luxury. On a tour of schools here, you would find that parents must purchase textbooks and not much is left over for non-essential literature.  On a visit to a school ‘library’ you might find a smattering of old National Geographics and not much more.  How can this be?

Our goal as authors and illustrators is to ignite a passion in a generation of readers.  This is difficult when there are no books, places or times set aside to enjoy the magic of a story.  I encourage everyone for find a way to share that magic…help build a proper library, organize a book drive for a school near or far.  Help to leave this place a little better than we found it.



With Peggy Collins and Alma Fullerton




With Kari-Lynn Winters, Peggy Collins, Sonya White, Alice Feagan and Alma Fullerton, getting buttons ready for the first of two big days!


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