One of my summer projects this year was collecting donations of books for the Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto, where I volunteer once a week with school-aged kids. I was happy to collect books from Rachel Seigel of S&B Books, author and reading program coordinator Sheilah Currie, and Barb Pepin of Chapters Indigo. These books are being used in the shelter’s summer reading program, which I help with once a week. I received novels, picture books, learning-to-read books, graphic novels, and non-fiction books by fabulous Canadian and international writers and illustrators – a total of five boxes of books. The kids and the shelter staff were thrilled when I brought them in! Thanks to Rachel, Sheilah, and Barb for making it happen.
This past week, I received an advance reading copy of The Yo-Yo Prophet, my new novel from Orca Books. The interior design is on-theme, with a silhoutette of a yo-yo starting each chapter. It looks like the designer had a lot of fun with this one!
This week, I also completed the judging of submissions for the Toronto Public Library’s Young Voices Magazine of art, poetry, and prose. I met with a team of enthusiastic teen judges on Thursday night to argue passionately for our favourites in the category of prose written by teens aged 17 to 19. The winners will be announced soon, and the launch for the 2011 magazine will be held in October. I can’t wait to see the finished product.
I also ran a memoir-writing workshop this week for fellow writer and instructor Karen Rankin, who was unable to attend her class. I was so impressed with the fascinating stories I heard and the quality of the writing. These dedicated writers are faithfully developing their craft and sharing their sometimes hilarious and sometimes harrowing real-life tales. It made me remember two things: First, everyone has interesting stories to share, if only we take the time to listen. Second, real life is often stranger than fiction, but perhaps fiction can be equally strange, if it’s told well enough to make unusual events believable.
As Vice-President of CANSCAIP, one of my duties is to coordinate the annual Packaging Your Imagination conference. If you like to write, illustrate, or perform for children and teens, please join me at Victoria College in Toronto on Saturday, November 5th. You can:
- start the day with a Welcome Address by Governor-General’s Award winner Sarah Ellis.
- choose three Workshops in your special area of interest. Workshops include master-level sessions intended for established writers and illustrators — as well as a session for beginners. All others sessions are at the intermediate level. Topics range from how to craft a picture book to creating graphic novels to how to pitch your work.
- join with the whole group for a Keynote Address from renowned author/illustrator Loris Lesynski.
- end the day with a Pitch Perfect manuscript/portfolio critiquing session. Get a one-paragraph pitch plus 1000 words critiqued by agent Ali McDonald or editor Gail Winskill in a ten-minute private session. Or get five portfolio pieces critiqued by art director Andrea Casault. Space is limited, and spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Register early to get your first choice in workshops and one of the limited number of Pitch Perfect critiquing sessions.
For more information, go to Packaging Your Imagination 2011.
On March 10, I ran a writing workshop for teens at Covenant House Toronto. It was a great opportunity to interact with the teens there, and listen to their fabulous insights through writing. My only complaint is that I wish I could have had more time with them. Luckily, at least one of the teens agreed with me.
I was delighted to receive workshop reviews from some of the teens who attended. With their permission, I’ve included excerpts here:
“The workshop in my opinion was freaking awesome. I enjoyed it a lot. I love to write. It is one of my favourite pastimes. It helps you figure yourself out as well as clear your head. The only thing about the workshop that I did not like was the fact that it was rather short, and in my opinion, it would have been more effective and entertaining if we were able to have you come back for a full day! The one aspect of the workshop that I really enjoyed is that the creativity level of each participant was phenomenal. Everyone was really creative, motivated, and descriptive in their short stories.”
“I loved it so much. It made me so interested in writing. The reason was how she made us be interested in what we wrote. In my opinion, I found the workshop very valuable because it got me focussed with the writing that I’m trying to accomplish. I also loved the games that she made us do; it made me find another strategy to keep me writing.”
“The presenter was very encouraging and put a few twists into the workshop with the photographs and the word box, which gave it a feel of originality. It’s interesting to see that the writing runs in the family, and I would hope to perhaps explore the book titles left behind. The speaker was extremely pleasant and I believe she put everyone at ease.”
“I really enjoyed Karen’s workshop. She gave everyone the opportunity to express themselves creatively in a non-judgmental environment. The activities we took part in were interactive and interesting. I would encourage any high school student to take part in these workshops, as writing creatively can be used in so many different ways, and be a lot of fun too.”
This outreach workshop was facilitated by the Toronto Public Library as part of their Young Voices Magazine of teen writing and art. Teens between the ages of 12 and 19 years who live or go to school in the City of Toronto are invited to submit poetry, prose, rants, art, and photography for the 2011 Young Voices Magazine by April 2. You can submit online or drop your work off at any library branch. Submissions will be evaluated in the spring and the finished product launches in October. Good luck to all who submit!
Last night, I attended the second official meeting of a new teen writers’ group at the Barbara Frum Library in Toronto. Organized by Youth Services Specialist Claire Argyropoulos, this group offers teens a place to share their works-in-progress and get valuable feedback. I was invited to talk to the group about the writing process and how to set up a nurturing and dynamic writing group. We also wrote together and critiqued each others’ work. Here’s what Claire Argyropoulos had to say about the evening: “Your workshop was very enjoyable, and the girls thought you were inspiring. They really enjoyed the exercises, and you gave them a lot of good tips. I hope you can come back soon to give us more of your wisdom and insight.”
Tonight I’m going to the launch of the Toronto Public Library’s 2010 Young Voices magazine. It’s a magazine of art and writing by 12 to 19 year-olds. I’ve been a guest editor of the magazine for four years, and I love encouraging young writers.
If you know any teen writers or illustrators in Toronto, please let them know about the magazine. The deadline for submissions is every April. Here’s a link.