Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Schmaltzy Post Where I Give Thanks

I wanted to do this for Canadian Thanksgiving but didn't get my act together. Now I'm halfway between Canadian and American Thanksgiving so thought I'd give it a go now. 

I've been reflecting a lot lately on my still fairly new-found life as an author. I've worked in the TV biz since I was 22, but I came to books quite a bit later in life, with my first YA novel, "Word Nerd, published by Tundra in 2008. Sometimes you don't take the time to think about things as they're happening, but for some reason, this fall, it really hit me what a wonderful, world-expanding experience my life as a YA author has been, and will, I hope, continue to be.

I wrote "Word Nerd" because I was sick of the vagaries of the TV industry. I was sick of waiting. And waiting ... and waiting ... to hear if series would be renewed, or greenlit for production, or if I'd be hired in a staff position. I was sick of being at the mercy of broadcast executives, some of whom were passionate about their jobs but powerless, and others (usually the ones who wielded real power) who couldn't give a sh*t about Canadian programming and only did the bare minimum to meet their CRTC obligations. 

I realized the only power I had as a writer was to write. Instead of bitching and moaning and complaining, I could create! Something that was just for me, a story I was passionate about. Ambrose, my protagonist, had been talking to me for a while. I took the plunge. I sat down and wrote what stayed my opening line: "The day I almost died, the sky was a bright, brilliant blue."

The journey from that day forward has been really special. I didn't always realize it at the time. But I have made new friends and encountered hundreds of wonderful people since then. Today I'd like to mention a few of them. Today I focus on FELLOW AUTHORS (I have also met tons of fantastic people in the world of publishing, whether they be editors, publishers, publicists or agents, librarians, teachers, readers and festival and awards organizers).

To quote a famous philosopher, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Some of you will recognize that philosopher. It is Ferris Bueller.

So here we go.

Susan Juby is top of my list. She is a hugely talented writer, first and foremost. But she's also just a class act. I met Susan when I adapted her trilogy, "Alice, I Think," into a TV series.  The series only got one season. But Susan and I liked and respected each other, and stayed in touch. When I was finishing "Word Nerd," she asked to read it. She liked it. And in an act of supreme generosity that I am forever grateful for, she gave me an entre (accent agu) into the world of publishing. She essentially launched my career. To this day we read each others' manuscripts and offer each other a lot of moral support.
 Susin and Susan at the VIWF Literati Dinner, 2012

At my very first author's festival (Winnipeg's fantastic Thin Air) I shared a stage with Arthur Slade. Again - sheer good fortune. I couldn't have asked to be paired with a kinder, more generous (and hilariously funny) writer. He's been at this game a long time, and in another show of generosity, he sat down (after I told him about a disastrous presentation I'd done at a Winnipeg girls' school - my first ever - I didn't have a clue what I was doing) and took me through his power point presentation, showing me what he does when he goes into schools. I adore Arthur and count him as a good friend - even if he does have over 10,000 Twitter followers versus my 813. (I keep telling him I'll outstrip him, in approximately the year 2167).

At my second author's festival (the equally wonderful VIWF) a couple of weeks later, I shared the stage with another incredible talent and lovely human being, Sheree Fitch. Again, what a gift. She was so generous and warm and encouraging (ugh, I'm sorry, I know I keep using the same adjectives over and over, but I did warn you this would be schmaltzy), and she has stayed that way from the moment we met. Sheree is one of those people that you can't help but fall in love with. It's like she's surrounded by a force field of positive energy.
Me, Arthur and Sheree, dressed in character for one of Susan Juby's videos, VIWF 2012

Later there was Marsha Skrypuch, a multi-award-winning YA novelist who along with current GG nominee Valerie Sherrard runs the Authors Booking Service out of Ontario, on top of being a writer. Marsha spent oh, probably 2 to 3 hours on the phone with me back in 2010, before I came to Toronto for my first-ever Red Maple Awards ceremony, advising me on how to put together a fun presentation so I could get booked into schools. And here in Vancouver, there is Linda Bailey, one of my favorite children's authors, who offers me the most sound advice on myriad writerly topics - and makes me laugh like nobody's business.

I've had briefer, but equally memorable, encounters with so many other amazing children's and young adult novelists (and illustrators): Richard Scrimger, Alice Kuipers, Ashley Spires, Shane Peacock, Eric Walters, Isabelle Arsenault, Elise Gravel, Teresa Toten, Rachel Harman, Kenneth Oppel, Gail Sidonie-Sobat, Vicki Grant, Marty Chan, Eileen Cook - I know I'm forgetting many others, because my mind is like Swiss cheese.

But the point is - I feel so blessed to have been able to step inside this whole other world of wonderful people.

Schmaltz is officially over for today.


  1. You have been fortunate to meet so many wonderful writers for children & teens and I am sure they feel the same way about you! You are in good company. :)

  2. I do feel really lucky. For the most part people seem very genuine and supportive in this business!