2018 Celebration of Award Winning Children’s Authors and Illustrators

The Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable and CWILL BC invite you to their 2018 Celebration of Award Winning BC Children’s Authors and Illustrators:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 | 7 – 9 pm
University Golf Club | Point Grey Room
5185 University Blvd | Vancouver

Jan Thornhills The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, published by Groundwood, is this year’s Information Book Award winner!

“For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive. In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that “weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen’s waist.” Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn’t fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn’t walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time … until humans became seafarers.”

Our Information Book Award Honour Book is
Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival, by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho; art by Brian Deines, published by Pajama Press.

“The first picture book to recount the dramatic true story of a refugee family’s perilous escape from Vietnam. It is 1981. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a fishing boat overloaded with 60 Vietnamese refugees drifts. The motor has failed; the hull is leaking; the drinking water is nearly gone. This is the dramatic true story recounted by Tuan Ho, who was six years old when he, his mother, and two sisters dodged the bullets of Vietnam’s military police for the perilous chance of boarding that boat. Told to multi-award-winning author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and illustrated by the celebrated Brian Deines, Tuan’s story has become Adrift At Sea, the first picture book to describe the flight of Vietnam’s “Boat People” refugees. Illustrated with sweeping oil paintings and complete with an expansive historical and biographical section with photographs, this non-fiction picture book is all the more important as the world responds to a new generation of refugees risking all on the open water for the chance at safety and a new life.”

— Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable

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Family Sunday – Art Gallery of Greater Victoria – December 17th

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is honoured to welcome special guest Margriet Ruurs and the book Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, which features the artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, to its next Family Sunday:

December 17th, 2017 | 2-4 pm
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria | Emily Carr Gallery
1040 Moss Street, Victoria, BC

Meet Margriet and hear about how this book was created in a collaboration between the author on Salt Spring Island and artist in Syria. Enjoy readings from the book and a range of cool art activities inspired by it. To top things off, check out an Emily Carr inspired photo booth in the mansion!

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey will be available for purchase in our Gallery shop and on Dec 17 all proceeds will be donated to a Syrian refugee family coming to Salt Spring in late summer.

This program is included with admission OR you can purchase a family membership for only $75 and receive unlimited Gallery admission, Family Sundays, and discounts! Alternatively, you can enjoy this event with your Library Family Access Pass, Warm Welcome Pass for Newcomers, and/or discounted admission with your membership to one of many partner organizations (for example, RBCM and VAG).

— Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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Books That Won Us Back When . . . CWILL authors share their favourite childhood books

Written by Glen Huser, President of CWILL BC

Sixteen CWILL members met on December 6th in Christianne’s Lyceum upper room to share the books and stories and songs that had a special meaning for them as they were growing up. Candle light and wine, a groaning board of great snacks . . . an evening to remember.

Here are the favourites that emerged . . .

Anne of Green Gables
by L. M. Montgomery
Suzanne de Montigny chose the well-loved Montgomery series as one that inspired her to become both a teacher and a writer. She brought along the actual paperbacks she has cherished since she was a young girl.

The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Nayoung Jin recalled how she was criticized by a particular teacher for her love of fantasy and the lovable “unreal” characters of the Saint-Exupery classic—but that didn’t stop her from continuing to admire the book. A second book, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is another that she has continued to read—especially when she feels the need for a good cry!


King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Mary Jane Muir told about how this book was one that helped her to heal following the untimely death of her mother. It also led to a lifelong love of horses and horseback riding.

Blackies Little Ones’ Annual
At the age of five, Beryl Young went to stay for with her grandparents in Saskatchewan. When she left, Blackies Little Ones’ Annual—a huge illustrated volume of stories, poems and articles—was gifted to her by her first grade teacher who inscribed all of the names of her classmates. Well-worn and well-loved, Beryl remembers this as being a testament to the fact that she could read very well at that age.

cwill_dec2017_mushroomplanet.jpgThe Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
Linda Bailey, with a laugh, recalls reading this popular fantasy when she was quite young and believing that it was essentially nonfiction—that there actually was a mushroom planet, a tiny habitable moon of the Earth. It had been explored by two boys—so Linda was mystified when so much fuss was made when the Russians actually landed some bit of metal on the earth’s other moon (which paled with what David and Chuck managed to achieve on their interplanetary visit).

The Bobbsey Twins
by Laura Lee Hope (a pseudonym)
Norma Charles remembers looking forward to babysitting jobs when she was a young girl, hoping that those for whom she was babysitting would be away at least four hours so that—with a salary of 25 cents an hour—she would have enough money to buy the latest Bobbsey Twin novel. The series, written by several writers, followed the adventures of two sets of fraternal twins. The young Norma loved them, but reading to her own children, she would choose something penned by the more talented Beverly Cleary.

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Illustrator Zoe Si has been a fan of Roald Dahl since childhood—and Matilda, with a strong central female character, has been a particular favourite. Quentin Blake, Dahl’s illustrator, with his deft strokes and great sense of humour has been an inspiration for her own artwork.

Christmas in Killarney

(An Irish Christmas song written by John Redmond, James Cavanaugh, and Frank Weldon)
Lori Sherritt-Fleming paid homage to her Celtic roots by singing this to us—a lovely touch in the midst of . . . well, we won’t call it a “prosaic” evening but an evening filled with prose.



Basil of Baker Street
by Eve Titus
This was Lee Edward Födi’s choice, and he went to some lengths to track down a second-hand copy exactly the same as the one he once owned and read many times. Titus’ story follows the adventures of Basil and his personal biographer Dr. Dawson, mice who live in the basement of a Baker Street house where Sherlock Holmes is a tenant. Charming illustrations by Paul Galdone.

Miss Hickory
by Caroline Sherwin Bailey
Kathie Shoemaker chose this 1946 Newbery-medal winner as a favourite from her childhood. She remembers loving stories about dolls and other diminutive characters such as The Little Fur Family series by Margaret Wise Brown with perfect illustrations by Garth Williams (the books themselves were small and originally had fur-wrapped covers). Other favourites: Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library and George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.



Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Janet Whyte remembers how Max’s wild rumpus appealed to her as a young catholic girl (who was definitely not encouraged to participate in a rumpus with wild things of any sort).


The Sand Lady
by Corinne M. Litzenberg
Kari Rust remembers spending a summer holiday at Crescent Beach a perfect spot for imagining how a mermaid might materialize from items assembled from beachcombing. The idea of making something from small found objects was appealing. Kari also loved Three Little Pigs retold by Fiona Carmichael with illustrations by Shosuke Takihara that tantalized with amazing perspectives and abstractions.

The Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series
These were favourites of Nancy Hundal when she was growing up. Nancy was not the only one who noted that children are not especially critical in their reading preferences—they love book for a lot of reasons beyond how well they are written. But later, as an undergrad at UBC, she recalls enjoying the discovery of strong novels for young readers by Canadian writers—books such as Christie Harris’s You Have to Draw the Line Somewhere and Ruth Nichols’ A Walk Out of the World.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was the book I chose as my favourite. First introduced to me as a told-aloud tale by an aunt (whom I thought had invented it), I was delighted to discover the actual book in a reclaimed small town library I operated for a couple of years as a teenager. And then I fell in love with the 1949 movie starring Margaret O’Brien (a black and white film with the restored garden sequences in colour). Comparing notes with Janet Lunn many years back, we both chose this novel as the one we loved best.



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Dip into Ink Well Vancouver

Three Vancouver children’s writers have launched a new kid lit community called Ink Well Vancouver and they’re planning a series of workshops, master classes, and events. Their first offering is a six-week children’s writing workshop, ideal for anyone hoping to write and pitch a picture book, chapter book, or even a young adult novel. You can find more information on the class here: https://www.inkwellvancouver.com/offerings/

The writers behind Ink Well Vancouver are Rachelle Delaney, author of The Bonaventure Adventures, Stacey Matson, author of the Total Genius trilogy for middle-grade readers, and Tanya Lloyd Kyi, who writes both fiction and non-fiction for kids and teens. Together, the three plan to establish a warm, supportive community of writers, aspiring writers, and dedicated fans of children’s literature!

Ink Well Vancouver’s Winter 2018 workshop is:

Writing For Children
Tuesdays, January 9 to February 13, 2018, 6:30 – 9 pm
Location: Writers Exchange, 881 East Hastings Street

“In this unique six-week course, three award-winning authors will introduce you to the basics of writing for young readers. Each session will involve a writing lesson, hands-on activities, discussion, and workshopping (plus time to socialize over snacks and tea). We’ll cover a range of topics, from plot and character development to the landscape of children’s literature and how to query publishers and agents.”

For more information, see: https://www.inkwellvancouver.com/contact/

— Tanya Lloyd Kyi

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Mahtab Narsimhan: New to BC, by Pam Withers

A brand-new member of CWILL BC, award-winning author Mahtab Narsimhan, comes to Vancouver via Mumbai, Delhi, Dubai, Bahrain, Oman, and Toronto.

This well-travelled former hotel manager and saleswoman moved from the Middle East to Toronto in 1997, seven years before she took up writing children’s books. She and her husband, who are co-owners of an I.T. firm, decided on Canada both to give their son (now 23) greater opportunities in life, and to be closer to Mahtab’s sister, who had immigrated here a couple of years earlier.

Mahtab met her husband in Delhi, where both were enrolled in a hotel management program. Each batch of management trainees had 30 students, four of them women. “We girls had our pick,” she jokes.

Her seven books – published by Dundurn Press, Cormorant (Dancing Cat Books), Pearson Canada, Lantana Publishing (UK) and Scholastic (USA/Canada) – include one picture book, one young adult book and five middle-grade novels. “Middle-grade is my favorite age group, and fantasy is my favorite genre,” she says.

You may recognize some of her titles: The Third Eye, The Tiffin (YA), Mission Mumbai and Looking for Lord Ganesh. All these reflect her fascination for Indian mythology, her culture and “memories of my life back in India.”

Although her debut novel, The Third Eye, won the Silver Birch Fiction Award in 2009, Mahtab has had anything but an easy go of her career. For one thing, her day job’s demands mean she must rise at five-thirty every morning to write for a couple of hours before work. “My goal is 1500 words a day. I get very cranky if I don’t get a chance to write. Good thing I’m a morning person.”

For another, she jumped into the deep end with writing for children. The Third Eye started as a journal, to cope with the grief of losing her father: “I had no training. I just decided to write a story.” An agent said she loved it and sent it to eight publishers. “She dropped me when none of them accepted it. I had lots of rejections after that; I think I stopped counting after a hundred. It was brutal. Then I joined an online critique group, met an editor from Dundurn who said yes, and I was on my way to being a published author. You only need one yes!”

Though she still finds getting up from her warm bed in the mornings and dragging herself to the laptop a challenge, “once I’m there I can write, though of course some days are harder than others.”

The best part of being a writer, she says, is “creating something out of nothing, and having kids come up and say they love my book.”

Not everyone loves her books’ endings, however. “I don’t do neat endings because life isn’t neat. My endings are realistic but hopeful.”

When she’s not writing or working, Mahtab is out walking along Vancouver’s seawall, reading or cooking, especially Indian food. Her most recent passion is to master baking a perfect loaf of bread.

Though she did lots of school talks in Ontario, she hasn’t presented in BC yet except during TD Bookweek, earlier this year. She and her husband are currently in Coal Harbour but will be moving to Furry Creek (near Squamish) in a few months. She hopes that won’t cut her off from newly-made friends in CWILL BC, which she joined for the networking and social benefits. “I’ve been getting to know lovely people!”

Her goals are simple: to keep improving her writing and publishing more books. “I have finally recognized my true calling in life: to be a writer. And it only took half a lifetime to find it!” she likes to say.

Pam Withers is a long-time CWILL BC member with
17 YA novels published.

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A writer from a tender age: Kallie George, by Pam Withers

It may have started with a houseguest who happened to be a children’s writer. Kallie George was five years old when she shyly spied on the family friend creating a children’s book.

Or it may have been her indulgent father (founder of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee), who loved telling her made-up stories as much as he loved encouraging her to make up her own. Her family home, which included her parents and a younger brother, was well filled with books and reading.

For sure it was a Christmas gift she made in fourth grade that nudged her towards becoming a writer: She decided to create a story for family members, which she photocopied so that each received a copy. That became an annual holiday tradition right through 12th grade.

Finally, there was her Croatian grandfather, who hand-wrote before typing up crime novels in his retirement, but gave up sending them out after one rejection.

“You are definitely going to be a writer,” he told his granddaughter, who in high school was already submitting novels to big publishing houses and collecting her own rejection slips.

“No! No!” she insisted. “I’m going to be an actress!”

He loved rubbing in the fact he was right when she finally published her first book in 2010.

Born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, Kallie George (now 33) is the award-winning author of 12 picture and chapter books. They include Secrets I Know; Duck, Duck Dinosaur; and the Heartwood Hotel (“Downton Abbey meets the Tale of Peter Rabbit”) and The Magical Animal Adoption Agency series. Her publishers include Disney-Hyperion, HarperCollins and Schwartz & Wade (US).

After studying English and art history as an undergrad, Kallie earned a Masters in Children’s Literature at UBC and began by editing for Simply Read Books, which published her first picture books.

It was around then she met her husband, who works in the film industry, in a whimsical way.

“Eight years ago I was writing a story in a café right after a guitar lesson,” Kallie says. “I was smiling out the window because I was excited about the story.” A young man passing by caught her smile, assumed it was for him and entered the eatery to ask her out. They’ve been married four years now. “He has a wonderful creative spirit and that’s something we share.”

Although writing takes up an increasing portion of her time, Kallie also edits for Greystone Books and leads creative writing workshops through Capilano University, Emily Carr University, and Creative Writing for Children Society of Vancouver.

She has a middle-grade novel coming out in 2018, followed by its sequel the next year. “I find writing for the older grades more difficult, but I appreciate the challenge. I would like to keep exploring the many genres of children’s literature.”

Kallie credits CWILL BC with “great friendships and a sense of how to do school visits and residencies.”

Between perspective she has gleaned from fellow CWILLers, her lifetime of reading and writing, and her successful career, here are some nuggets of wisdom Kallie likes to share:

“A good story is a good story. If you try to follow trends or marketing, you might not be writing the best story you can.”

“Publishing is all about perseverance. The more you work on your story, the more you polish your writing, the more you LOVE writing, the easier the publishing part will be.”

“A new idea is the best gift in the world to a writer.”

“Writing works best when I let my ideas simmer – and plot them out.”

“Oftentimes, my first scenes are just dreadful, but as long as the germ of the idea is there, I know I can work on them until the writing itself is polished to how I like it.”

“The arts can help inspire young people to express their own experiences and emotions, as well as help young people understand and empathize with experiences that they haven’t had.”

“Stories are my whole life.”

Pam Withers has written
17 young-adult adventure novels.

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