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I Heard the Word, and it was on the Street

Word on the Street was held on the Halifax waterfront this year. It’s the annual celebration of book and magazine publishers, authors, anything to do with the written word. Two years ago I read from my manuscript as my book wasn ‘t yet back from the printers. This year I went to be part of the audience, brought along my camera and enjoyed the day as a spectator. Okay, so I hung out around the young adult stage for much of the time we were there. It only seemed natural. Plus, I was hoping to get some photos with some of my favourite YA authors.  I’m putting together a scrapbook, one that I hope Miss Charlotte will adore when she is old enough to be reading these authors for herself. Hopefully, she’ll be impressed to see that her Nanny Bee actually met these incredible authors for real.

We arrived in time to hear Jan Coates read from, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk.”  I’m not sure why I didn’t make Jan pose for a picture with me. Maybe it was because she was in a hurry to get over to the Woozles booth to sign books. As many times as what Jan and I have had coffee together it makes me wonder why there isn’t one single shot of the two of us together. Why is that Jan?




We checked out the various publishers who were set up. Got a few pictures of the books on Nimbus Publishing’s table.

Look, there’s JoAnn Yhard’s books Lost on Brier Island and The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines. Sorry that I missed JoAnn’s reading, I blame the chauffeur, although I can’t complain because he does a darn good job of driving the old folks around the city. Thanks, Matt!  Not to worry, we took him to have his photo snapped with Theodore Tugboat. It was all good.

When I asked for a photo with Sheree Fitch, she pulled out her glasses from her big Mary Poppin-sized bag and asked me to put them on. Well, you don’t say no to Sheree Fitch.

What do you think? Do I look any taller in these?  Hmmm, I’m kind of wondering now what all she keeps in that purple bag of hers.

So listen up, I learned a valuable lesson while talking to Sheree yesterday. Never, ever tell an author, such as Sheree Fitch, that you loved her book. You’ll be sure to get a somewhat polite but confused response when they ask you “which book?”  Duh! Like Sheree’s been published a gazillion times and I have read a number of her books, but I don’t think she’s yet mastered mind reading. Always remember to mention what book you’re talking about. It just makes it  SO much easer for the author.

We listened while Sheree, Jill MacLean ad Don Aker read from their books and answered the audience’s questions.

I chatted with Jill MacLean later. I met Jill last year at at the book launch for author Cynthia D’entrement’s book  Unlocked . Jill even wrote me a lovely note  last year to congratulate me on Bitter, Sweet’s nomination for the Bilson Award. So it’s obvious that I could have used Sheree’s glasses this time too., or would you believe I was sitting down for this shot?




I was excited to meet Valeria Sherrard. Valerie’s latest book, The Glory Wind, won the Ann Conner Brimer award this year. Yay Valerie!  I’m SO looking forward to reading it. It was remarkable to watch as Valerie answered questions from young readers. Seems to me, those young readers had some well thought out questions. Glad it was Valerie on the hot-seat and not me.

I ran into Syr Ruus yesterday as well. She was off to sign copies of her book, Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart. Okay, so Syr scrunched down a bit for this photo to make me appear a bit taller. How’s that for friendship, I ask?

Before heading back out of the big city, we listened to Steve Vernon read from his YA novel, Sinking Deeper.        Having already read the book, I knew what to expect. My son did not. I do believe by some of the chuckles he quite enjoyed Steve’s sense of humour, and his lively writing which comes out quite nicely in this book.  Steve’s a great story-teller and very entertaining. A real pro.                                                                                                                                                                                

So, I think I covered just about everything. Of course, there is so much more to Word on the Street than what I covered, but I can’t be in every place at once . If you have never gone it’s well worth going to. We have some truly remarkable and talented authors in our area.

Guest Blogger–Jan L. Coates

Today, I am pleased and excited to welcome Jan Coates to my blog. I met Jan a bit over a year ago just before her book, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk” was published. Jan’s book made the shortlist for the Ann Conner Brimer Award this year and has also been nominated for Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Awards (SYRCA) Snow Willow Award; USBBY Honor List of Outstanding International Books 2011; Skipping Stones Honor List, 2011 Way to go Jan!!! Check out Jan’s blog over at Jan L. Coates, Author

A Lost Boy, a Cup of Coffee, Hares and Elephants

When I visit schools as an author, I confess to students that one of the characteristics essential to being a writer is nosiness. They usually giggle, but lots of them are willing to admit to being nosey, too. Well, the younger students will admit to it, anyway. When I describe myself as nosey, I mean it in a good way – I’m simply interested in people and why they do the things they do. Most days as I go about my daily life, I see four or five things that are story-worthy; if only I could retrieve them from the dark recesses of my memory at the right time! Four years ago, when the Acadia Alumni Bulletin asked me to interview Jacob Deng, then an Acadia student, I jumped at the chance as I already knew a little of his story because he had visited my daughter’s school a few weeks earlier. So, we arranged to meet for coffee.

Little did I know that a two-hour meeting over coffee would lead to me spending three years researching and writing Jacob’s story as a Lost Boy of Sudan between 1987 and 1994. During our first two hour meeting, we laughed and cried, and Jacob talked and talked while I listened incredulously. How could boys as young as 5 survive being ripped away from their families by war, only to have to walk for weeks through unbelievably grueling conditions? I was already a children’s writer when Jacob and I met, but I had never written anything longer than picture book manuscripts. As I walked down the street after saying goodbye to Jacob that day, I was already thinking that his story needed to be told for young readers; readers who, like me, are most often blissfully unaware of, or at least not paying attention to, the horrible conditions people around the world are forced to endure on a daily basis.

Of course, I had no idea of the work that would be involved in writing a 300-page novel, regardless of the topic. But I was determined, and once I decide to do something, it takes a lot to deter me from that course. An unexpected heart attack a few months after my initial meeting with Jacob, a striking reminder of how precious time is, spurred me on and gave me time to begin writing. As I started to research and write, things fell into place. I received a mentorship from the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia which enabled me to write the bulk of the manuscript under the wise and intelligent guidance of Gary L. Blackwood. I then submitted it to Peter Carver, children’s editor at Red Deer Press, and he called to say he loved it – a dream-come-true telephone call that made me weepy.

Twelve months later, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk was launched. Proceeds from the book are being shared with Wadeng Wings of Hope, Jacob’s foundation through which he’s raising money to build a school in South Sudan, the world’s newest country! It’s all good, and it all began with a 400-word magazine article and a cup of coffee…

Speaking of coffee, the first time Laura and I met for coffee, I’m sure that meeting lasted for at least three hours – yay, coffee! Thanks, Laura, for asking me to be part of your blog

*I admit to scarcely remembering the taste of the coffee, Jan. Just the great conversation we had that day. Thanks for dropping in and sharing this with us. 🙂


Where do all the really cool writers hang out when they’re in New Ross, Nova Scotia?

So maybe Jan Coates and I are only cool in our own minds, but we did have a pretty good time at Vittles the other afternoon.

I was asked earlier in the day what vittles meant by someone much younger than I. Okay, so I guess I’m just old (I still remember those episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies) or else I’m a red neck— or maybe, just maybe, a bit of both–because yes, I know what vittles means. Please tell me you know what Vittles means..

So what are the top five things that really “cool” writers talk about while at Vittles.

:5: Writing

4: Family

3: The treeing industry (If you’re in New Ross this time of the year, it’s all anyone talks about.)

2:the government, and all the ways they have of annoying writers.

1: A nacho loving squirrel with an affinity for guitar cases. (Sorry Jan, I couldn’t resist!) Dang it wish I had a picture of that squirrel!

I bet you thought that writing would be number one. Actually, it was writing and I’m just being silly. We discussed Jan’s new book, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk” as well as my own book, and what’s on the horizon for both of us. (All those things you’d expect writers to talk about.)

Here’s Jan outside Vittles. I promise, I was there too, but someone had to take the picture.

Thanks Jan for a lovely, silly afternoon.