Friday, February 13, 2009

Interview with Jacqueline Guest

My guest on today’s blog entry is Jacqueline Guest—at the time of this posting, Jacqueline has written 15 books for both kids and young adults. Jacqueline is a Metis writer who lives in a beautiful log cabin nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Many of Jacqueline's main characters come from different ethnic backgrounds including First Nations, Inuit or Metis.

Q. I see your book War Games, has just come out. What’s it about?

A. War Games is the story of Ryan Taber, a video-addicted teen who thinks fun times have arrived when his iron-fisted father is deployed to Afghanistan with the military. Ryan's life spirals out of control as his video-gaming takes possession of him, and when his father comes home, Ryan is forced to choose between his virtual world and the real one.

Q. You’ve written lots of sports books – like Rink Rivals, Triple Threat and Hat Trick. Is sports your favourite genre? And I see that Soccer Star, the story of a 13-year old Inuit girl, won a Canadian Children’s Book Center Our Choice Award.

A. I like sports, but history is truly a big draw for me -- Belle of Batoche and Secret Signs are examples of a title in the history genre. I also really like mystery! Some of my novels are mysteries, like Dream Racer, Racing Fear and Lightening Rider.

Q. Where do you get your ideas from?

A. Everywhere!

Q. What did you read growing up?

A. Alice in Wonderland and A Child’s Book of Bible Verse. They were the only books I had and we didn’t have a library in our school or our town.

Q. I first met you at Almadina Language Charter School when you were the writer-in-residence. What did you work on with your students?

A. How to write the perfect story-- one that will make any examiner will give you high marks.

Q. When a student tells you that he or she wants to be a writer when they grow up, do you have any special advice?

A. The best way to become a writer is to be a reader. There is no substitute for reading-- it’s a writer’s best training tool.

Thank you very much for this interview, Jacqueline, and all the best with your latest book!

For more information about Jacqueline and her books, please visit

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Illustrating Words with your Students

Illustrating Words with Kids

A project I particularly love to bring into a classroom-- and which can take as little or as much time as you want-- is Illustrating Words. Adjectives are especially good for this exercise, but there’s no need to stop there.

I've found Grades 3 – 5 to be a good age for this exercise.

You’re familiar with Geronimo Stilton, right? Here’s an author/illustrator who pulls interesting, juicy words off of the page and launches them into the realm of illustration by way of interesting fonts.

What a great crossover—but of course, cartoonists like Will Eisner have been doing it for decades, using their art form to create totally unique fonts. In the world of comic books and graphic novels (and narrative art in general), words can be drawings and drawings can be words.

Whether you use this exercise in Language Arts or in Art, the effect is the same – kids get excited about words. If you decide to keep the exercise to adjectives only, you can reinforce what an adjective is and does-- students are describing a word that describes.

This exercise reminds of the famous real-life scene between Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, when Annie pulls Helen’s hand under an icy-cold, swiftly flowing water pump, while writing the word ‘water’ over and over in the palm of her hand.

Until this point in Helen’s life, she doesn’t understand what Annie’s so desperately trying to teach her, but this watershed moment (sorry, no pun intended) opens Helen’s eyes (again, no pun intended), and she gets it BIG time.

Where else can you take this exercise? How about getting kids to write paragraphs, or even stories, using this device? The juicier the word, the more fun they can have illustrating that word in the context of a story or paragraph. See some of my examples posted in this blog entry. (DIRTY was inspired by Pig Pen of Schulz' Peanuts cartoon.)

Here’s a sampling of words you might get your students to illustrate:

FAT, THIN, HEAVY, LEAFY, THICK, and on and on...

Until next time... keep your pencils sharp.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My interview with Simon Rose

My guest today is science fiction and fantasy author Simon Rose, author of The Heretic's Tomb, The Emerald Curse, The Clone Conspiracy, The Sorcerer's Letterbox and The Alchemist's Portrait.

Q. Simon, in addition to your five books, do you have a new one coming out in 2009?

A. Yes, The Doomsday Mask (pictured) will be published this spring. It's once again for 8-12 age group, and in the science fiction and fantasy genre-- it's a fast-paced adventure about ancient civilizations, mysterious artifacts and shadowy secret societies. You can read its synopsis at

I've also another completed novel on a paranormal theme, numerous projects for future novels and am working on several picture books with a local illustrator.

Q. Where do you get your ideas from?

A. To be honest, anywhere and everywhere really... out walking the dog, driving in the car, something overheard in a conversation, a newspaper story, a billboard, an item on the evening news, other books, historical events, other people's stories, movies, or even something out of the blue. Some may never be used, but I try to record as many as I can. I never know when they might fit in with a story I'm writing. Even ideas that don't seem to work right away may have a use in the future.

Q. Why science fiction and fantasy?

A. One of the best things about writing for kids is that I can write about the kinds of things that fascinated me when I was young. Stories can be very imaginative if they are for children, which makes writing them so much fun. And, of course, in science fiction or fantasy, more or less anything you can imagine is possible, as you craft stories involving ancient mysteries, the unexplained, the paranormal, science fiction, time travel, parallel universes, alternate realities, weird and wonderful characters and a multitude of what if scenarios.

Q. What did you read growing up?

A. Lots of science fiction, as well fantasy writers and ghost stories. I also read a tremendous number of comic books, in which the stories took me across the universe, into strange dimensions, into the land of the Norse gods or had me swinging from the New York rooftops. At high school, I studied a lot of history and have retained my interest in the subject up to the present day. I also read voraciously on ancient civilizations, mysteries, the supernatural, and the unexplained.

Q. Now that you're all grown-up, do you visit schools and spend time with kids?

A. Yes, I offer a wide range of presentations workshops and author in residence programs for schools and libraries. I cover such topics as where ideas come from, story structure, editing and revision, character development, time travel stories, history and research, which you can learn more about at

Q. What about adults? Do you ever work with them?

A. Yes, I conduct workshops on writing and publishing your children novel on a regular basis. I also offer editing and critiquing services and a number of online writing workshops, exploring where ideas come from and how writers turn them into stories, basic story structure, plot development, creating characters, developing dialogue and so on, as well as looking at marketing and promotion for children's authors. I've got all that info listed on my website.

Q. Do you do any other type of writing?

A. In addition to novel writing, I offer copywriting services for business, such as editorial content for websites, as well book reviews and articles for magazines and online publications on a wide variety of topics.

Thanks very much, Simon, for this interview. Best of luck to you in all your writing endeavours!

You can learn more about Simon and his books at or at his blog at