Monday, April 21, 2014

Letters from Readers

Letters from students at a Winnipeg school.

It's been a few years since I've received fan mail from students who are reading my books. 

Back in the days when I wrote novels for the middle grades, I was fortunate to have three of them nominated for the Silver Birch Award. Students participating in the program would often write to the authors whose books they were reading to say they were going to vote for their book as the favourite. 

Sky Lake Summer was the first of these books for me, and in those days before email, the letters would come in big brown envelopes sent by the schools. The Path Through the Trees was the last. 

Last week I received letters from a grade 5–6 class in a Winnipeg School. They had been reading two of my books in class. Treasure at Turtle Lake and The Deep End Gang.  

I am grateful to Scholastic Canada Ltd. for including these books in one of their literacy packages,  Moving Up with Literacy Place (4 to 6), which means they're still being read in the schools. 

I love the honesty of kids of this age. If there are parts of the book they don't like, they tell you. You can usually spot the letters where the teacher has given a little coaching. Who was their favourite character, and why? What inspired the author to write this book?

Several of the letters in this recent batch are hand illustrated, sometimes using themes from the story. I appreciate the extra time spent in producing these.

Like all my "fan" mail. I will keep these missives and treasure them always. And now I must get busy and answer each one.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Honours for Laura Secord

Dundurn publisher Kirk Howard, Vice President Beth Bruder, me,
& the Honourable Dave Levac, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

It was one of those nice surprises to learn last August that my book, Laura Secord, Heroine of the War of 1812, was one of seven titles Dundurn Press sent to be considered for the 2013 Speaker's Book Award. I put it out of my mind, and I was pleasantly shocked to hear from the publisher himself in November that the book had been nominated. You can read about that on my blog post of November 9, 2013.

The Speaker's Book Award is an annual award "that recognizes works by Ontario authors reflecting the diverse culture and rich history of the province and its people."

This year the awards ceremony was held March 5th in the Legislative Building at Queen's Park, amid much pomp and ceremony. There was a briefing first, while the audience arrived, where the authors of the eleven shortlisted titles got to meet each other and the selection committee, and then we were introduced to the Speaker, the Honourable Dave Levac, a most personable man. 

Then we were led by uniformed guards past the seated audience to the chairs reserved at the front of the dais. The selection committee members introduced each author to the audience and each one in turn, accompanied by one of the guards, mounted the stairs to the dais where the Speaker presented us with our medals. Finally, the winner, Charlie Angus, was announced.

To have come this far, even to have our books chosen in the first place meant we were all winners. Afterwards, we were feted at a reception in the Speaker's apartment, a suite of rooms on the third floor set aside for such occasions.

It's hard to wind down after such an evening. Long after we'd taken the taxi back to our hotel and I'd unpinned my orchid corsage and hung up my medal, I basked in the fleeting fame. A lasting memory.