Richard Scrimger Interview

I was lucky enough to interview the witty, award-winning Canadian author, Richard Scrimger. Versatile, he writes for small children, middle grade, young adult, and adult categories. My current favorite is his YA novel Zomboy, in which a new student turns out to be undead, and unwanted, by unenlightened members of his community. Zomboy provokes thought but still delivers suspense and laughs. It has been nominated for a Red Maple award by the Ontario Library Association.

This year I am running a Silver Birch book club and a Red Maple book club. I’m looking forward to what my grade seven and eight club members have to say about Zomboy.

Enjoy the interview:

 

 

November Creative Updates

Creative Teaching Update

I Wish My Teacher Knew, the non-fiction online book I made to collect first-person stories about education and creativity, has received over 1050 reads on Wattpad. This is exciting because the more people read it, the more will contribute. The hope is that these stories will inform Creative Teacher Librarian with fresh ideas for renewing education. Find out more about it by clicking on the story below. Drop me a line if you have a story of your own to add. It would be great to hear from you.
 

 

Creative Writing Update

As of October 31, the new serial novel, Feeding Frenzy, is underway. Over a hundred readers have perused the first three chapters. As it grows, the hope is many more people will read it. Serial fiction is a great motivator and antidote for writers’ block. Since making a promise to update weekly, there is real pressure to follow through. Last week I posted chapters on Wednesday and Friday. Reader comments have been encouraging. Writing Feeding Frenzy is a nostalgia rush too, as it forces me to reflect on my first year of university, although mythical Loon Lake University is nothing like my alma mater, University of Toronto. If you like fiction with a little humour, mystery and paranormal suspense, this one may be for you.
 

 
The Wattpad experience has been stimulating in a lot of ways. I attended a second Toronto meetup at the Wattpad offices in October, which resulted in a new Halloween Story compilation. This platform makes it easy to engage online with writers and readers in their late teens and twenties. Who better to discuss creativity and new ideas in fiction?

Convention Update

My schedule for http://sfcontario.ca/ has firmed up. If you are in Toronto next weekend, and you are interested in speculative fiction, attending a convention is worth doing. I’m moderating three discussion panels and I’ll be running a flash fiction contest, open to attendees. If you are at the convention, be sure to say hello. Here is my schedule:

Reviews and Critiques – Saturday 11 AM
Tricorders in the Classroom – Saturday 12PM
Flash Fiction Slam  – Saturday 7PM
Sherlock vs Elementary – Sunday 1pm

In case you are wondering what a Flash Fiction Slam is, I admit I made it up. The idea is to have writers perform their own 500-1000 word stories, and have the audience choose the winners. In a traditional poetry slam, a couple of volunteers are chosen from the crowd who give each slammer a score of 0-10 for his or her performance. No props or costumes are allowed, and only 20% of the offering may be sung. Beyond that, there are few rules. Whatever the reader does to make the performance exciting is allowed. My idea is to take this format and apply it to flash fiction, all in aide of engaging entertainment.

 

 

 

SFContario Wattpad and Feeding Frenzy Serial

SFContario is a convention which offers over 50 panelists, covering science fiction, fantasy, science, costuming, art, writing, genre television, and movies, as well as other topics of interest to fans. It runs from the evening of November 14 to Sunday November 16, at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 300 Jarvis St, Toronto. I have been invited to moderate a few panels, including a couple that are education-related. The plan is for me to run a flash fiction contest as well. For more information or to join in the fun, check out SFContario.

Sunday I attended a meetup at Wattpad in Toronto, arranged by Takatsu. It was an opportunity to meet readers and writers who are eager converts to this new medium. We toured the Wattpad offices which feature magic marker signatures on the walls, top flight tech, commissioned Graffiti, a vault, the employee ping-pong ladder, a giant light fixture bedecked in Wattpad novel covers, and a tree-sized, tree-shaped bookcase. After the tour, and a brief-but-shocking game of Cards Against Humanity, we headed to C’est What? for dinner. My great pleasure was in meeting Gavin (‘The Orangutan’ on Wattpad) who was in town from the UK. We talked Science Fiction, family life and culture. Takatsu emphasizes philosophy, and there was plenty of that too. I also met a brilliant teen who talked Romanian history and politics.

Feeding Frenzy launches on Wattpad tomorrow. For more about this serial writing experiment, check out the previous blog post. The status report, as of tonight, is that half the novel is planned, a provisional ending is decided, and chapter one is written in draft. Tomorrow I get up at 5:00 am and proofread before I post it and leave for work. Terrifying as it is to post as I write, Wattpad provides an opportunity to interact with readers I can’t pass up. Who knows, maybe the second half of the story will surprise me as much as them.

I Wish My Teacher Knew, a non-fiction book I started to collect testimony from teens and adults about their school experiences, has surpassed 1000 reads on Wattpad. I’m very happy about this as the more people read it, the more will be likely to let me add their stories. There is nothing like first-person testimony to help define a problem, or measure success as I continue gathering information on creative teaching.

Enough! It’s time to lay out the Halloween costume (mine is a lady bug – complete with feelers, wings, and pearls for the visual pun).

Best wishes for a creepy, crawly, creative Halloween!

Conan the Librarian celebrates all books returned!
Conan the Librarian celebrates all books returned!

 

An Evening with Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is known for his fantasy novels, starting with the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, set at my alma mater, University of Toronto. He has written twelve novels, a book of poetry and numerous reviews and articles for Canadian and English newspapers. His internationally bestselling works have been translated into over twenty-five language. Among others, he has won the International Goliardos Prize for contributions to literature of the fantastic. Along with astronaut Chris Hadfield, in 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour.

In September, I attended a ceremony recognizing 30 years of the Fionavar Tapestry at Bakka Phoenix bookstore in Toronto. Kay is a witty speaker, who underlined how lucky he was to have collaborated with such ‘tolerant’ and wonderful people over the years, many of whom he met during the writing and production of his first novel, The Summer Tree.

The store was packed with fans who lined up to have their books autographed by Kay, and also Martin Springett who created the iconic Summer Tree cover back in 1984. In his speech, Kay also recognized writer Sue Reynolds, creator of the first published map of Fionavar. It was fascinating to hear how the bay she drew on the map, based on Kay’s writing, inspired him to ask for a tower to be drawn there, and how that tower became essential in book three, The Darkest Road.

The ceremony began with original music performed by Martin Springett. It ended with three fabulous Dufflet cakes, each sporting a cover from the Fionavar trilogy. It didn’t surprise me at all when hungry fans ate their way around the outside, but refused to cut into the photographic decorations. As part of the Sunburst award group, who awarded him a Copper Cylinder Award for River of Stars, I was invited to the after party.

While I’ve met Kay before, this was an intimate gathering. He even bought us a round. Guy Kay is personable and generous with his observations. Speaking to a small group of bibliophiles and writers, he commented candidly on his current work-in-progress. In his remarks, there were lessons for creative types of all stripes:

At 100 000 words, the point where most novelists are finished, he is halfway through his epic novels and said he ‘hates himself’ because what he is writing never measures up to his artistic intention. Quoting T.S. Eliot, Kay compared this artistic disconnect to the ‘desire versus the spasm’

Kay is an international bestseller with a reputation for literary prowess. How inspiring to hear such an accomplished writer admit to ongoing artistic struggle. It encourages me to keep going and finish projects, since you never know when the project you are working on right now will be the one to change your life.

The other lesson was how important people and friends are to creative work. Gathering a group of creative people who understand your vision and can help you express that to an audience is crucial, especially for word artists. It takes a team of people to put out a book and for me, since I am researching indie publishing, it was a good reminder that any publishing project depends not just on the appeal of the author’s work, but also on the talents of the team who edits, formats, prepares and distributes it.

At Bakka, Kay said author tours used to be common and joked that in October, you couldn’t go through a Canadian airport without bumping into an author. How things have changed! Publishers no longer have money to publicize new authors but an established publisher like Kay’s (Penguin) represents more than prestige and publicity. It’s also about working with a publishing team of the highest quality.

Kay’s most recent work, River of Stars, continues the story begun in Under Heaven, which is inspired by Tang Dynasty China in the eighth century. Kay is known for creating epic novels set in well-researched fantasy realms that resemble real places and times. From fictionalized Ancient China to Byzantium and beyond, if epic drama, exotic realms and history pique your interest, visit his author page to discover Kay’s unique worlds.

Takatsu Cell Phone Novelist

Takatsu wrote the first North American cell phone novel. I met with him to speak about creativity, multimedia art, writing, and education reform. His current project, Espresso Love, is a Wattpad novel. You can look at the video trailer, which he produced himself using Animoto to add mysterious signs to the urban landscape. His multimedia productions include songwriting, stories, video and graphic arts.

Takatsu praised the rigour of the Japanese school system and the close relationships and teamwork inherent in Japanese culture. Paradoxically, the strictness and high expectations bring out students’ talents and develop their abilities. Takatsu says that by working inside such a strong box, students learn to think outside it.

The same students who work together on a rigorous curriculum during school, and then clean their classrooms together, must participate in one club after school. These clubs involve many hours of daily practice in one area chosen by the student according to interest and talent. Choices include music, sports, visual arts and drama. The creative or athletic skills developed last a lifetime. Takatsu laments that in North America, although many people have a passion for the arts, many forget their talents once they enter the workforce.

There is a place for teachers on platforms like Wattpad, according to Takatsu. Educators are needed for collaboration, to teach net etiquette and also to mentor and teach writing skills.

I hope you enjoy this interview in which Takatsu speaks passionately about art and education. You can find his multimedia projects at Takatsu.tk.

 

I’m getting published, twice!

I am bursting to tell you my publishing news, times two: 

My short story “Wild Caving,” is going to be published in the Amprosia anthology, which launches in two weeks.

My poem “Fallow God,” is going to be published in the Urban Green Man Anthology, with an introduction by Charles De Lint.

The Green Man is an archetype of renewal and fertility, associated with forests and the European countryside. You might see his carved face disgorging sculpted stone leaves or hear legends of the Green Knight. He is at home in churches, forests and at the ever popular Green Man Inn. 

This new anthology, edited by Adria Laycraft, takes the Green Man archetype into the modern landscape where he is reinvented, relevant, reborn. To me, the urban green man is a shot of hot sap to reawaken our true natures and shake us out of complacency. 

EARTH

Evergreen by Susan MacGregor
The Gift by Susan Forest
Sap and Blood by Martin Rose
The Green Square by dvsduncan
Awake by Peter Storey
Breath Stirs in the Husk by Eileen Wiedbrauk
Green Apples by Rhiannon Held

AIR

The Grey Man by Randy McCharles
Mr. Green by Gary Budgen
Whithergreen by Karlene Tura Clark
Cui Bono by Eric James Stone
Fallow God by Maaja Wentz
Green Man She Restless by Billie Milholland

FIRE

Purple Vine Flowers by Sandra Wickham
Exile by Mark Russell Reed
Without Blemish by Celeste Peters
Waking the Holly Kin Eileen Donaldson
Deer Feet by Michael J. DeLuca
Buried in the Green by Heather M. O’Connor
The Forest Lord by Sarina Dorie

WATER

Greentropy by Calie Voorhis
Abandon All… by Goldeen Ogawa
Green Salvage by Miriah Hetherington
The Ring of Life by Nu Yang
Cottage on the Bluff Michael Healy
Johnny Serious Satyros Phil Brucato
Fun Sucker by Suzanne Church

WOOD

Greener Pastures by Micheal J. Martineck
Green Jack by Alyxandra Harvey
Green is Good by Karen Danylak
Neither Slumber Nor Sleep by Kim Goldberg

Sandra Kasturi talks ChiZine at WOTS

Since I discovered CZP through local readings and SF/Fantasy events, I’ve been curious as to how this publishing company got started. Sandra reveals ChiZine’s audacious successes and economic setbacks. It’s a cautionary tale for those who might think starting up an ezine is an easy road to financial success. I found her talk honest and inspiring. It’s all done for the love of books, in her case, dark fiction and poetry.

 

This video is recorded with a flip camera and edited in Premiere Elements. I apologize for the rumbling when the subway goes under Queen’s Park. Word on the Street talks are held outdoors in Toronto every fall. I go for the books but I also enjoy the author readings, workshops, publisher displays and magazines.

Word on the Street Toronto

I visited Word on the Street this past weekend. It’s my favourite celebration of booky goodness. The weather was sunny and warm, the crowds large and cheerful. There was even some fun street theatre to compliment the books, talks, signings, sales, giveaways and concerts. I came away with too many books but why not? As vices go, a book fetish isn’t so bad. Here is a little video of my impressions. It’s shot with a flip camera and edited with Adobe Premiere Elements.

WOTS alien dance routine

This August I wrote a play for school called Invisible Aliens Stole My Gym Shorts! I am currently looking for music (I’m no composer) and images to improve and promote this school musical. That’s how elementary school shows work. The director is the producer, stage manager, light and sound designer etc. Volunteer help may be had but the bottom line responsibility is mine. That’s one reason I was so delighted to run across this creative alien costume at WOTS. It should give my costume volunteer some inspiration…