Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize 2018

Congratulations to BC Book Prizes finalists Norma Charles and Kallie George, who are shortlisted for the 2018 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize!

Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man
by Norma Charles
Publisher: Red Deer Press

Harry Jerome is one of Canada’s forgotten heroes. From a skinny little kid growing up in St. Boniface, MB, he rose to become “the fastest man in the world,” a title he held for an incredible eight years. He achieved this, despite having to battle the prejudices he and his family had to overcome, on account of their African-Canadian heritage.

In this engaging and inspiring novel, acclaimed children’s writer Norma Charles has woven together Harry’s fascinating life story from facts gathered through research; interviews with his family, friends, and coach; and also from her own memories of his races at UBC when she was a student there.

Norma Charles is an award-winning children’s author. She is the author of several bestselling picture books including See You Later, Alligator and All the Way to Mexico.

Heartwood Hotel Book 1: A True Home
by Kallie George
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

When Mona the mouse stumbles across the wondrous world of the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm, she desperately hopes the staff will let her stay. As it turns out, Mona is precisely the maid they need at the grandest hotel in Fernwood Forest, where animals come from far and wide for safety, luxury, and comfort. But it’s not all acorn soufflé and soft, moss-lined beds. Danger lurks nearby, and as it approaches, Mona has to use all her wits to protect the place she’s come to love. Because this hotel is more than a warm shelter for the night. It might also be a home.

Kallie George works as an author and editor in Vancouver, BC. She is also a public speaker and leads workshops for aspiring writers.


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Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature Honours Irene Watts and Kathryn Shoemaker

Irene Watts

Following a successful re-launch in 2016, the Vine Awards for Jewish Literature honoured four Canadian writers on October 3rd, 2017 at the Park Hyatt in Toronto. Each of the winning authors at the luncheon was presented with a unique glass Vine Awards trophy and a $10,000 prize.

Kathryn Shoemaker





In the category of children’s literature, the award was shared between author Irene Watts and illustrator Kathryn Shoemaker. They gave their acceptance speeches together, approaching the podium and quipping, “We do everything together.”

Watts then shared an anecdote of her childhood, saying that she was seven years old in 1938, when she was placed on a Kindertransport train with 200 other children and rescued from a Nazi-controlled area just before the war broke out. “Who would have guessed I would end up here?” she said as she accepted the award for her book with Shoemaker, Seeking Refuge.

The Vine Awards are given based on literary merit to both Jewish and non-Jewish authors who engage dynamically with Jewish themes, traditions, or history in their works. The four categories are fiction, non-fiction, history, and children’s writing, with an additional poetry prize awarded every three years.

Abridged from an article in Open Book



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Author/Illustrator Jami Gigot: Never without a sketchbook in her back pocket, by Pam Withers

It was the movie Toy Story that inspired Jami Gigot to move from her Madison, Wisconsin home to Vancouver – to study animation and visual effects at Vancouver Film School.

Always enamoured by her love of a good story (“My mom was always reading to me, and I had a big collection of Nancy Drew that I was given by my grandmother”), she dreamed of applying her skills to the movie industry. So after graduating, off she went to work on films in Los Angeles, then London, England – where she met her French-born, Tokyo-raised husband and had their first child.

When the BC film industry picked up, and an opportunity to move back to Vancouver arose in 2010, Jami happily returned with family in tow. It was just after having her second child that she began to focus her energy on working on her own stories and building an illustration portfolio. She soon realized that creating picture books was a true passion, and in 2015 her first picture book Mae and the Moon was published by Portland, Oregon-based Ripple Grove Press. In March of this year, her second book, Seb and the Sun, rolls off the same press.


Did we mention that her kids, Mae and Seb, are eight and six, and shyly proud of their mom’s new picture-book career?

In the meantime, Jami remains with her day job, Scanline Visual Effects, where she works as a vfx (visual effects) artist and digitally paints various characters, environments and props for a variety of film projects.

Does that make her cool? “Either that or a dork,” she responds with a laugh.

Jami begins her picture-book projects by brainstorming with a sketchbook in hand.

“When I have a glimpse of an idea in my head, I usually start by writing a rough manuscript, and then break it out into thumbnail sketches. My process is a little all over the place, a bit messy, to be honest.” When she assembles together a rough dummy book, she finds that she deletes many of the words she starts with, simply because the illustrations tell the story better. Finally, when the dummy’s ready for feedback, she sends it off to her critique group.

She met her critique partners though an online forum for writers and illustrators called 12X12. Members support one another while endeavouring to put out 12 manuscripts in 12 months. She finds them particularly helpful in that most are writers, not illustrators, and writing does not yet come as easily to her.

The next stop is her New York City-based agent, followed by lots of reworking, the status she’s at with several projects on the go now.

One of Jami’s challenges is finding creative time for picture books between her busy 9-5 and family life. “I try to find time in the little bits and pockets during the day. You have to squeeze in the time when you can; find that creative space.”

She’s enthused about having joined CWILL-BC a year ago. “It has been wonderful to meet fellow illustrators and writers who are so welcoming and have a lot of experience and advice.”

While shy about offering advice when she still feels like a newbie herself, she says what has helped her most is to never be without a notebook in her pocket. “You never know when an idea might strike you.”

Nor when your children just might star in it. Welcome to CWILL-BC, Jami.

Pam Withers has written 17 YA adventure novels.


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CWILL BC Authors and Illustrator Make Math More “App”etizing!

mathapp-dragonsurprise.jpgCWILL members Tiffany Stone, Lori Sherritt-Fleming and Scot Ritchie are serving up stories that are sparking imaginations internationally in the new app series produced by GAPC Entertainment for the Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE).

MATH STORYTIME is an engaging interactive storybook app for children ages 5 to 7, and beyond.  Each wonderfully illustrated story features a unique take on a math theme, and allows users to choose to read themselves, be read to or record their own voice! Parents and caregivers can also engage their children in fun activities and ‘math talk’ through discussion bubbles that extend the learning within each story. All stories have been produced in French and English.

mathapp-eggstravagent“This was a really fun project to work on,” says Sherritt-Fleming. “I’m sure Scot spent hours trying to figure out how to fit fifty birds as well as Mrs. Aves and her students all on one screen! I also loved that I sent him a picture of the real Emilia, my cousin’s daughter and he designed a perfect caricature of her! Life inspires art!”

Tiffany Stone wrote Dragon Surprise and Scot Ritchie illustrated The Eggs-travagant Problem and Nuts About Maps.

Designed especially for a tablet or phone, you can download the app for free at GooglePlay, the iTunes App store, or go to


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Serendipity 2018 – March 3rd at UBC Robson Square

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Glen Huser: CWILL BC’s president loves “offbeat humour,” by Pam Withers

With a schoolteacher mother who wrote poetry, perhaps Glen Huser was always destined to be a writer. “She read to us every night. We definitely grew up with literature around us.”

The second of four children, Glen grew up in a tiny hamlet in central Alberta, a two-hour drive north of Edmonton. His ambition was to live in a city, which happened when his family moved to Edmonton as he entered twelfth grade.

Soon after, he attended the University of Alberta for teachers’ training, with an art education major. “I was always torn between art and English, and ended up teaching both—at first in junior high, then elementary schools before becoming a teacher-librarian,” he says. “I’ve never illustrated any of my books, but some day I might.”

His masters in English at the U of A in Edmonton led him to write his first book, Grace Lake (NeWest Press), for adults when he had a sabbatical. Though thrilled it was nominated for a First Novel Award in Canada, Glen couldn’t find the time to write more books until he retired from his job as a school board consultant in school libraries. He also wrote children’s book reviews for the Edmonton Journal, as well as movie reviews for small local magazines.

But when he retired in 1996, books began spinning off his plate – ten so far. First came the YA novel Touch of the Clown, nominated for several awards. Then Stitches, published by Groundwood Press, which won the Governor General’s Award (GG).

“It was pretty special flying to Ottawa to receive that, with a tuxedo I had to let out at the waist because I’d gained a few pounds since I’d last worn it,” he says.

In 2004, Glen moved to Vancouver, where he taught children’s literature for the Education Department at UBC, then worked for the Department of Creative Writing as an online teacher. He also became involved with CWILL BC, where he has served as our trusty president going on three years now.

In 2007 he published Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen, nominated for a GG. And the books just kept coming from then on.

Stitches is my favorite, perhaps because it was the most honored. But Skinnybones sold best, perhaps because of the humour.”

Glen is all about humour. “I would say offbeat humour is my strong point. I also work on characterization. I’d say my work is more character-driven than plot-driven. I’m also interested in style. I know you must not let it take over your book, but you have to build it in. I get a little lyrical in places, although a good editor will at times say that sounds like purple prose and will take a red pencil to it, which is good.”

His most recent interest has been writing lyrics and text for the retelling of Greek stories, for a Montreal music group. Not long ago he was treated to hearing 200 schoolchildren sing his songs in Montreal, accompanied by a small symphony orchestra. He didn’t sing along “because I’m a terrible singer.”

Glen likes to get out of his silent apartment and write in noisy restaurants. He jokes he’s a “writer in restaurants as opposed to a writer in residence. I like the hubbub around me; I like writing there.”

When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, taking in movies and cooking (“anything with pasta”). He never goes anywhere without a book, but when he’s caught up in writing a novel, “I get pretty obsessive about it. Something takes hold of me that makes me tenacious.”

He’s currently writing a novel that may turn out to be YA or adult. His only goal, he said, is to turn 76 next year – and maybe eventually illustrate one of his novels. Lyrically and with offbeat humour, of course.

Pam Withers has written 17 YA adventure novels.

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