Category Archives: Fiction

Abbotsford Christian School interviews Kevins Sands, Author of Mark of the Plague

Mark of the Plague coverWhere did you get your idea to write about a boy in the Middle Ages? [Note: It’s actually the Age of Exploration—Middle Ages ends in the 15th century]

From my research. I chose 1660s London specifically because it was such a rich time of plots, conspiracies, and secrets, as enemies struggled against each other for power. Basically, it was too good a time to pass up!

A Journal of the Plague Year coverHow did you do your research to find out what life was like in the Middle Ages in general, and for apothecaries and The Plague specifically? [sic]

A lot of time in and out of libraries. I read many, many different books, drawing as much as I could from them. Fortunately, we have a lot of good first-hand accounts from that time, especially of the plague (the best of which is A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe). I always find doing research valuable; the details really help bring the books to life.

Did you always want to be a writer? Is it a full-time job for you?

Writing is my full-time job, yes. But I had no interest in it when I was young—if you’d have told me back then that I’d grow up to be a writer, I’d have thought you’d lost your mind! Just goes to show you never know where you’ll end up.

What does a “writing day’ look like for you?

Get up early (around 5 am). Work all morning: either reading, or doing research, or plotting, or writing. If I’m writing, then I usually have a word or page count, and I don’t stop until I’ve reached it. I’m usually finished work around lunchtime, or early afternoon.

How long does it take for you to write a book?

Every book is different. So far, the shortest took me five months, while the longest took just over a year. I have no idea why some take longer; for whatever reason, some books are harder to write than others.

Do you enjoy writing?  Did you like to do it as a child? Were you good at it?

Depends on the day! When I’m stuck on something, it can be pretty frustrating. But overall, I think writing is the best job in the world.

I was pretty good at it as a child, but back then I hated doing it. Maybe that’s because I had to, rather than wanting to.

What was your favorite book to read as a child?

Probably the Belgariad series by David Eddings. Though there were many, many books—mostly fantasy—that I loved.

Did you read a lot as a child?  What do you like better, reading or writing? Why?

I read every single day when I was a child, often for hours—and I still do! I still like reading better than writing…but I have to admit, nothing in the world beats that feeling of satisfaction when you finally finish writing a book.

What advice can you give us to become writers?

First, always be reading. Seeing what makes other writers effective are the best writing lessons you’ll ever get.

Second, always be writing. Just like you can’t learn to ride a bike by watching someone, you can’t learn to write just by reading. It takes years and years of practice. (So start now!)

Third, don’t get discouraged. We all write things that don’t go anywhere. I had to write three whole manuscripts, none very good, until I wrote The Blackthorn Key. In writing, you never really fail until you quit.

How many books do you have planned in this series?

As many as I can think of! As long as people want to keep reading them, and I can come up with good ideas, I’ll keep writing them. So hopefully you’ll see Blackthorn Key adventures for years to come!

-Linda Groot, Elementary Teacher-Librarian, and students from Abbotsford Christian School

Kathleen Cherry, Author of Everyday Hero Visits BC Schools

Kathleen Cherry at a school visitRecently Kathleen Cherry, Red Cedar-nominated author of Everyday Hero had the opportunity to work with students in the Red Cedar Club at Spruceland Elementary School and also to present to several classes at Southridge Elementary School.  She is very enthusiastic about the experience, saying it was “So exciting to witness the student’s enthusiasm for books and reading!”

Everyday Hero bookmarksKathleen has kindly offered that any Red Cedar groups who schedule an interview with her by Skype or print will receive these beautiful book marks.  Interested groups can contact Kathleen through us, her website, or Facebook page.

 

-Patricia

 

École South Sahali interviews Gabrielle Prendergast, Author of Pandas on the Eastside

 

Pandas on the Eastside coverHow did you come up with your characters?

Usually I start with a situation or a premise and I slot in a character who is very much like me to start with. As I write I kind of carve away my own personality and carve in a new personality if that makes sense. Sometimes giving a character a name tells me a lot about them. What kind of parent named a child “Journey” in 1962? How does Journey feel about her name? When I add appearance details like hair color and age and size I get to know them more. Then I choose clothes for them. What kind of clothes do they like? Why? Most of my characters maintain some key characteristics of me. I love animals, for example. I love reading and learning.

panda

from wikipedia.org

Have you ever experienced anything like what happened to the characters?

I’m a little younger than Journey would be today, but I did live in a city in the 1970s so I remember what that was like. And I HAVE seen pandas (in a zoo). The only animals I’ve helped are my pets and occasionally a bird if it gets stunned from flying in a window.

Gabrielle PredergastHow long have you been writing for?

I started writing my first (unfinished) novel when I was about 11. I still have it!

Are the characters based on real people?

My brother-in-law, Ben thinks David is based on him and that’s pretty much true. The rest of the characters are made up.

What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve tried pretty much every other job and this is the only one I’m good at that doesn’t make me sad.

What difficulties did you encounter when you were writing the book and how did you solve them?

Sometimes I’m not sure what is going to happen next. Sometimes when that happens I just wait and work on something else until I get a good idea. Other times I just write any old thing and fix it later.

Harvest Writer

from flickr.com

Do you have any tips for young writers?

Write something short enough to finish. Start with poems. Then short stories. Always try to finish. Then revise your draft to see if you can make it better. Writing is rewriting.

Did you have a plan for the novel or make it up as you went along?

I made this one up. Sometimes I use a plan because it’s faster that way.

How long did it take you to write Pandas On the Eastside?

I started writing it in 2010 and sold it to my publisher in 2015. So about five years. But I was working on a bunch of other things at the same time and published four other books.

JK Rowling

from wikipedia.org

If you could have added anything else to the book, what would it have been?

I don’t know! What a good question! Maybe Journey could have met the president or something.

Who is your favourite author?

I really admire Margaret Atwood and J.K Rowling.

-Melisa Hunter, Teacher-Librarian, and students from École South Sahali, Kamloops, BC

Spring Creek Community School Interviews Ellen Schwartz, Author of Heart of a Champion

What inspired you to write Heart of a Champion?

Asahi Baseball Team

Image Source: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu

I was watching TV one night and I came upon a documentary about the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. I had never heard of them, and I was amazed to hear how great they were—not
just great baseball players, but great role models through their dignity and pride in the face of
racism against people of Japanese descent. When the program was finished, I thought to
myself, “Every Canadian kid should know about the Vancouver Asahis.” So, since I write
children’s books, I decided to write a book about them.

What kind of books do you like reading and writing?

I love reading and writing all kinds of books, but I think the thing that draws me the most is
characters. I want to get inside the skin of a character and feel what that person is feeling and
learn what that character learns and grow along with the character. So I love to read and write
books where characters feel things deeply and grow and change in some way.
Most of my books are middle-grade novels, for kids 8 to 12 years old, although I have written a
few picture books and a few novels for teens. I wish I could write more picture books, but my
ideas mostly come as stories for older kids.
The Secret Garden book coverMy favourite book when I was a kid was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The
interesting thing about that book is that the main character, Mary Lennox, is totally unlikable at
the beginning. She is a vain, selfish, spoiled brat. And yet you root for her and care about her,
and it is so wonderful when she begins to change and become a nicer, more caring person. I still read The Secret Garden every year or so to try to figure out how the author does it (and I never can).

Which of your books is your favourite?

Mr Belinsky's Bagels coverAgh, I hate that question! It’s like asking a parent which is her favourite kid. But if I had to
choose just one, I would say Mr. Belinsky’s Bagels, one of my picture books. The character of
Mr. Belinsky is based on my grandfather. My grandfather was not a baker, but he was a sweet,
kind man just like Mr. Belinsky. And, interestingly, Mr. Belinsky looks just like my grandfather,
even though the illustrator, Stefan Czernecki, never met him or saw a picture of him.

When did you start writing books?

Dusty book coverWhen I was 30. My first career was as a special education teacher. At the same time, I was very
interested in the environment and energy conservation. So I started by writing a couple of
educational stories for kids about conserving energy. I sold one of them to the Province of
British Columbia and the other one to the National Film Board. I found that I enjoyed writing
and that it came naturally to me, so I tried writing a regular story. That was Dusty, which
became my first book.

How many books have you written?

Sixteen books for kids and one for adults. I have a chapter book coming out this spring called
The Princess Dolls, for 7 to 10 year olds. That’ll be my 18th book.

Who do you look up to?

Word Nerd book coverFrances Hodgson Burnett, as I mentioned above. My favourite Canadian children’s author is
Susin Neilsen. In my opinion, she is brilliant at writing stories about sad and complex subjects
but doing it in a hilarious way. Her books make me laugh and cry. That’s what I try to do, too.

What book are you working on now?

I’m writing a middle grade novel called Up in the Sky. It’s about a girl named Sophie whose
father has died in a helicopter crash. Sophie and her dad used to build remote-controlled model airplanes together, and they were in the middle of building one when her dad died. Sophie wants to finish the model, but she can’t, because she has a reading disability and she can’t read the manual. And now her mom has a new boyfriend . . .

Do you get calluses from typing? Or other injuries related to your job?

No, thankfully. I write the first draft of my books longhand with a pen and paper, so sometimes
my hand gets cramped from holding a pen for hours. But I can stretch out the sore muscles.

What’s your favourite colour?

Turquoise, followed closely by purple. Interesting question!

-Sara Leach, Teacher-Librarian, Spring Creek Community School and the Spring Creek Community School Red Cedar Book Club

Sea Change

Sea Change by Frank Viva

Sea Change coverOne summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot’s parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Bugs, bullies and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more – a hidden library, starry nights and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth.

Critically acclaimed author and artist Frank Viva (Outstanding in the Rain) brings us this warm, funny and innovatively designed coming-of-age story. See Point Aconi through Eliot’s eyes, as he finds that this place he never wanted to visit is becoming a home he doesn’t want to leave. (Tundra)

Pandas on the Eastside

Pandas on the Eastside by Gabrielle Prendergast

Pandas on the Eastside coverWhen ten-year-old Journey Song hears that two pandas are being held in a warehouse in her neighborhood, she worries that they may be hungry, cold and lonely. Horrified to learn that the pandas, originally destined for a zoo in Washington, might be shipped back to China because of a diplomatic spat between China and the United States, Journey rallies her friends and neighbors on the poverty-stricken Eastside. Her infectious enthusiasm for all things panda is hard to resist, and soon she’s getting assistance from every corner of her tight-knit neighborhood. (Orca)

Howard Wallace, P.I.

Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall

Howard Wallace, PI cover“What’s with the get-up? Is that the company uniform or something?”
“This? All P.I.s wear a trench coat.”
“Dude, that’s a brown bathrobe.”
I shrugged and straightened out my sleeves. “First rule of private investigation, Ivy: work with what you’ve got.”

Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else—least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself . . . until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all. (Sterling)

The 2017/18 Red Cedar Nominees for Fiction are…

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami  (Anansi/Groundwood)

The Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford (Knopf)

Dear Canada: These Are My Words by Ruby Slipperjack (Scholastic)

Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry (Orca)

Heart of a Champion by Ellen Schwartz (Tundra)

Howard Wallace, P.I by Casey Lyall (Sterling)

Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding (Tundra)

Magic Animal Adoption Agency 3: The Missing Magic by Kallie George (HarperCollins Canada)

Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands (Simon and Schuster)

Pandas on the Eastside by Gabrielle Prendergast (Orca)

Sea Change by Frank Viva (Tundra)

Yellow Dog by Miriam Korner (Red Deer Press)

Good luck to all the nominees!  And happy reading, Red Cedar readers!

-Patricia

2016-2017 Gala

We had a wonderful afternoon at our Gala on May 6, and were so grateful to share the day with so many wonderful students, teachers and writers.  In the end, the winners were Kevin Sands for The Blackthorn Key and Julia Coey for Animal Hospital!

We are especially grateful to our generous sponsors for the support they give us — we couldn’t do Red Cedar without you! HUGE thanks to:

abe2

vpl

interlinkuls

The official 2017/2018 nominees will be announced soon.

-Patricia

Harmoney Interviews Sharon Jennings

Harmoney Hachey of Signal Hill Elementary felt a strong connection to Sharon Jennings’ Connecting Dots and was thrilled to get the chance to interview the author of the book she’d most like to see win this year’s Red Cedar Award for Fiction.

SJ: Thank you for your email – it made my day! Writers spend so much time alone that it is always nice to hear how our books are received by readers. I feel deeply touched that this story spoke to you and mirrored something of your own life. Maybe you should write a book!

H: Are you considering making a sequel to this book?

SJ: Before I answer your first question, I’ll explain a bit about Dots. I don’t know if you have seen the book, Home Free. Leanna tells the story about meeting Cassie when she moves in next door. By the end, she finds out that Cassie isn’t an orphan, but she still doesn’t know the whole story.

My publisher asked me for years to write about Cassie, but I just couldn’t come up with all of Cassie’s story. I knew she had a hard life, and it took me some time to piece it all together in my head. The tricky part was when Cassie and Leanna meet each other. I couldn’t repeat the same few chapters, and then I realized that no two people ever tell the same story the same way. I took liberties, and if my readers compare that chunk of both books, they’ll see that both girls embellish things a bit. Who is telling the truth?

I wrote a third book, and my publisher wasn’t too keen on it. But my agent loves it! So I changed the names and no one except you [and you!] will know that the famous actress in this story is Cassandra all grown up! Hopefully it will be published soon.

H: How long did it take you to write Connecting Dots?

SJ: I mentioned that it took me a long time to figure out Cassie’s story, but when I got started, it took me about 5 months to write it. Then a few months of editing back and forth with the publisher, and publication about a year and a half after I started writing.

H: How did you include so much detail? Is the book based on a personal experience or that of a close friend? Did you make connections to Cassie?

SJ: Both of these books are very autobiographical. I set the story when I was about the same age, and I could remember many details. I still had to research, however, to make sure that I knew what movies, songs, etc. were popular, in case I had dates mixed up. I am a cross of both Leanna and Cassie – I wanted to be a writer and an actor and I wrote plays and put them on in the backyard. I did want to marry David, and I did work in Inner Foundations as a teenager and saw the women with the Holocaust tattoo.

My father died when I was 16, so I understood what Leanna felt. I also wanted to be an orphan like Anne Shirley – my very favourite book!  I had some Irish relatives and they were as awful as the characters in the story – mean, biased – and one aunt knit me a sweater and called me a monkey because my arms were ‘too long’.

My neighbour was a nurse and gave her daughters enemas – I did not make that up! Of course I flushed my yucky spinach down the toilet.

When I give classroom visits, and talk to students about writing, I always tell people that anything that happens to you can go into a story/book. The more detail you can add, the more realistic your story will feel.

H: What made you choose to write about this topic? When in your life did you decide to write this book?

SJ: I wrote this story at the urging of my publisher, but when I got going, I really wanted to let kids know that they can survive anything. Bad things happen, but a young person can find the strength to see adult nonsense and shortcomings for what it is, and become strong. Just look at Harry Potter!

H: Is being an author your only job? How did you come to be an author?

SJ: As well as writing, I teach writing to adults who want to write for kids, I edit and evaluate manuscripts, and I do a lot of volunteer work with writers’ organizations.

I am going to Vancouver for the awards ceremony – even if I don’t win! It is important to me to meet my readers and answer even more questions. I also love to inspire others to think about writing. I wrote my first school play in grade 4 and haven’t stopped.

-Interview by Harmoney Hachey, Signal Hill Elementary

Are you coming to our Gala too?  Be sure to RSVP at redcedaraward@gmail.com