KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Mahtab Narsimhan

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, Mahtab Narsimhan!

Mahtab is the award-winning (Silver Birch Fiction Award, 2009) author of The Third Eye, a fantasy-adventure based in India and the first book in the Tara Trilogy.

The Tiffin, based on the dabbawallas of Mumbai, received critical acclaim and was shortlisted, among others, for the SYRCA, MYRCA and Red Maple Fiction Awards.

Mission Mumbai and Looking for Lord Ganesh were published in Spring 2016 by Scholastic Inc. and Lantana Publishing, respectively.

Her latest novel, Embrace The Chicken, was published by Orca Book Publishers in January 2019.

Mahtab lives in Vancouver and is deeply committed to representing diversity in her stories.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

I’m working on a chapter book with Orca for their Echoes series which will be published in Fall 2020.

I’m also editing a picture book with Owlkids which is slated for Spring 2020.

My current work in progress is a middle-grade novel which has a bit of magical realism and horror.


What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Fantastic

Currently reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

And since I always have a couple of picture book manuscripts on the go, I’m reading a lot of them right now. A couple of my favourites (full disclosure here because they’re my peeps!) are Sun Dog by Deborah Kerbel and Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker.


Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

I recently discovered Linda Bailey’s books and I love them! One of my favourites is a middle-grade novel : The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library which is about a brave little bug who saves his Aunt Min. Great homages to Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little among others.

Linda Bailey’s most recent picture book : Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is exquisite. A must read!


What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

Winning the Silver Birch Fiction award for my debut novel, The Third Eye. I was so green when I wrote it and assumed that it would have a very limited market. To my surprise it was shortlisted for the Forest of Reading Awards and it won! I will never forget the feeling of being at a loss for words when I normally have quite a few, with some to spare 😊


When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

A hopeful, but not necessarily happy, ending. I believe that kids can handle the truth, and life should never be sugar-coated. When kids experience hard choices or traumatic situations through fiction, they learn how to deal with them in real life even as they realize, subconsciously, that they are reading a story in a safe environment.

As long as the language and content are age-appropriate, I believe you can tackle any topic in a children’s book.


What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

In my latest novel, Embrace The Chicken, the main character, Shivani has recently immigrated to Canada. I’ve included some food items (because I am a self-proclaimed foodie and there will always be vivid descriptions of food in any book I write!) that are North American if not specifically Canadian such as burgers, fries and chocolate milkshake.

Most of my novels are based in India so I haven’t had much of a chance to include a “Canadian” component. But there are lots more novels coming and I’m sure I’ll get a chance to include poutine.


What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

Diversity in every genre and at every level of reading ; be it picture books, chapter books, middle-grade or YA fiction.

Because it’s never too early to educate and expand young minds. To make them aware and empathetic towards differences among people, and to embrace those differences.


If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

I am a fan of the fantasy genre and there are two:

  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – Tops my list of favourites.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Love this richly imagined world and our first taste of it.


Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Believe in yourself no matter how many times you fail. If something is worth doing, it’s worth spending time perfecting it. And you will succeed if you get up every time you fall.

My fave quote says it all: “Shoot For The Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

I cannot tell you who it’s by because Mr. Google has given me lots of conflicting options. I thank whoever wrote it because it’s my mantra.


Wonderful! Thank you so much for joining us, Mahtab!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Mahtab’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with Mahtab on Twitter, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Mahtab Narsimhan Prize Pack – a copy of EMBRACE THE CHICKEN

Embrace the Chicken

Other available prizes:

Mireille Messier Prize Pack – a signed copy of TELLEMENT SAUVAGE!

Jennifer Mook-Sang Prize Pack – a signed copy of CAPTAIN MONTY TAKES THE PLUNGE

Regan McDonell Prize Pack – a copy of BLACK CHUCK

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Join us on Friday, March 22nd when we chat with author, Philippa Dowding!

 

 

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KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Mireille Messier

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, Mireille Messier!

Hi, Mireille! Introduce yourself to our Kick-butt friends!

Hi! My name is Mireille Messier. I’m a bilingual children’s author. I live in Toronto, Canada. I studied in theatre and radio broadcasting – writing for kids happened as a happy “accident de parcours”. I mostly write picture books, some in French, some in English.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

I’m excited about my new picture book biography that will be coming out in the summer of 2019 with Tundra Books. It’s entitled Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War and, yes, it’s the biography of a goat that went to the frontlines during WWI… and came back alive! Sergeant Billy is illustrated by the amazingly talented Kass Reich and I am counting the days until I can finally share this extraordinary true story with young readers.

What are you reading right now?

I always have many books on the go. Right now, I’m reading Becoming, by Michelle Obama, Doomed to Dance, the 6th books in the wonderful Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows and The Anne Frank Diary. I read a bit of everything – kids books, non-fiction, biographies, new stuff, old stuff… I’m a reading junkie!

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

KASS REICH is an amazing Canadian illustrator that more people should discover. I just love-love-love her stuff. And not just because she’s the illustrator of my upcoming book. Her use of colour to set a mood is masterful. Her humour just leaps off the page. I am in awe.

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

The most surprising part of my publishing journey so far is how hard it is to navigate the two solitudes of being a French author and an English author. Oddly, the two worlds do not mesh as well as I had assumed they would. If I write a book in English it will not automatically get picked up by a French publisher, and vice versa.

I have published over twenty books in French and only 3 have found a home in the English market. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m hoping that my upcoming books will be available in English and French so that I can share my stories with as many readers as possible.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

… a little bit of truth! All my stories are inspired by something that really happened (in history or to me personally), or to a person I really know. I just take that little spark of truth, add a lot of imagination, reshape it and make it into something new and (hopefully) exciting.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

How can I pick just one? There are SO many in over 15 years of publishing! There’s a goat from Saskatchewan, a poutine stand, an ice storm, some beavers building a dam with Laurentien colouring pencils … I even wrote an entire comic about the 2017 flood on the Toronto Islands for an anthology called Toronto Comics – Osgoode as Gold. Canada is in my blood and in my books!

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

I am loving chapter books written in verse. Zorgamazoo, Nix Minus One, The Gospel Truth, The Crossover, Macy MacMillan and the Rainbow Goddess… I wish there were more out there – they are a brilliant way to tell a story.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

I would spend a day inside Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier. The story takes place in Victorian London with Nan, a young chimney sweep and her lovable monster. Auxier created such a magical place that I would love to spend a day (or two) jumping from roof to roof and watching the sunrise.

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

My best piece of kick-butt advice is… READ! If you want to write, you need to read. Read anything and everything. If you like it, ask yourself why you liked it and try to emulate that when you write. And if you hated it, ask yourself why you hated it and try NOT to do that in the stuff you write.

Yes! Read all the things! Thank you so much for joining us, Mireille!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Mireille’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with Mireille on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Mireille Messier Prize Pack – a signed copy of TELLEMENT SAUVAGE!

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Other available prizes:

Jennifer Mook-Sang Prize Pack – a signed copy of CAPTAIN MONTY TAKES THE PLUNGE

Regan McDonell Prize Pack – a copy of BLACK CHUCK

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Join us on Wednesday, March 20th when we chat with Mahtab Narsimhan!

KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Jennifer Mook-Sang

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, Jennifer Mook-Sang!

Jennifer Mook-Sang’s humorous middle-grade novel Speechless (2015, Scholastic) was nominated for a slew of awards, and named the Surrey Schools Book of the Year. Her picture book Captain Monty Takes the Plunge (2017, Kids Can Press) is a Junior Library Guild selection, and was nominated for a Rainforest of Reading award. She’s proud to say she lost to Robert Munsch. When she’s not writing, Jennifer likes to read recipe books and make things like biryani, cassava pone, and guacamole. 

Jennifer Mook-Sang

Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project? 

[Captain Monty Takes the Plunge with illustrator Liz Starin] Monty is a fierce pirate captain who’s never had a bath and his stinkiness only adds to his fearsomeness. Why, you ask, has he never had a bath? It’s because he’s afraid of the water, because (shhh) he can’t swim. Of course, he falls in love with a mermaid. What could be more perfect? But when Meg’s captured by an evil sea creature, Monty must decide if he’s brave enough to go into the ocean to save her.  Spoiler: He jumps in and saves Meg. But it’s only fair that she saves him back. Then Monty faces his biggest fear and tells her his secret.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve just finished reading Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, and I LOVED it!

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

There are so many talented Canadian authors and illustrators I admire. But I think one to watch is Saumiya Balasubramaniam. Her debut picture book When I Found Grandma (Groundwood, March 2019), is a beautiful story illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Qin Leng. [KBKL note: Stay tuned for our interview with Qin on April 15th!]

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

Along my publishing journey, the biggest surprise has been how remarkably supportive and sharing the children’s writing community is. When I first started trying to create a story, it was a lonely business; but through classes, workshops, and organizations like CANSCAIP, I’ve met many others travelling the same path. And they’ve encouraged and helped me every step of the way.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

I believe the primary purpose of a book is to entertain. When someone picks up one of my books, I hope they find what I like to find in my own reading – laughs and surprises.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

The most Canadian thing I’ve put in a book is a version of the double-double. One of my characters “fixes” a coffee by putting in three heaping spoons of sugar and topping up the mug with cream. Okay, maybe that’s a triple-triple.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

I’d love to see more comic books set in Canadian locations, with distinctly Canadian characters. And I want them to be full of adventure and fun.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

I’d choose to spend a day in the world of Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley. A place of enchantment, with fairies and talking trees. I grew up devouring stories like these by Enid Blyton and I love them still.

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

The first draft is the hardest thing for me to get done. So much hard work! But I know that once it’s written, I’ll be able to squash that mess into some reasonably shaped story. And revisioning is my favourite part of the process. My best piece of kick-butt advice is what I mutter under my breath as I get to writing: “It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done.”

Definitely! Thank you so much for joining us, Jennifer!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Jennifer’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with Jennifer on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Jennifer Mook-Sang Prize Pack – a signed copy of CAPTAIN MONTY TAKES THE PLUNGE

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Other available prizes:

Regan McDonell Prize Pack – a copy of BLACK CHUCK

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Join us on Monday, March 18th when we chat with Mireille Messier!

KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Regan McDonell

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, Regan McDonell!

Regan McDonell studied poetry and print making at the University of Victoria, Canada, and has since pursued a career in textile and graphic design, while also writing literary fiction for teens. Her White Pine Award nominated novel, Black Chuck, is a dark, gritty, small-town YA novel that Booklist called “a superb debut,” School Library Journal says is “a read that sticks in the gut,” and Kirkus Reviews noted for “dynamically complex characterization and storytelling.”

Regan lives in Toronto with her partner, Guy, where she leaves love letters on subways for strangers to find.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

My first book, Black Chuck, came out with Orca Book Publishers in April 2018, and has been nominated for the Forest of Reading’s White Pine award, which I’m completely thrilled about!

I’m also about 1/3 of the way into a new YA about a small town, a missing girl, and her heavy metal brother who is unwittingly enlisted to find her. It’s based on a road trip I took with my partner a couple of years ago down to Sleepy Hollow, New York. We stayed in all these picture-perfect little towns, listening to Halloweeny jazz and telling each other ghost stories the whole way. It was one of the best trips I’ve been on, and really seeped into the foundation of this spooky new book.

What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. I was blown away by her first book Charm and Strange, and couldn’t wait to dig into her next effort. I’m also reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids,  and just finished Vicki Grant’s 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You. Stiff White Pine competition!!

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

Wow, what a hard question! Ummm…. All of them?? Matt James has been a friend for many years and he’s always been one of my favourite artists, so I’m so glad to see his books getting attention. He is supremely talented.

One of my favourite young adult books of last year was Adam Garnett Jones’s Fire Song, which is the novel he wrote based on his 2015 film of the same name, and it is so, so beautiful. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

Another super talented illustrator is Jacob Dewey, based in Victoria, BC. Someone needs to give him a book deal fast!

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

Getting published is completely surreal. You spend so much time making this heartfelt thing, living in this imaginary world with people you created, and it’s so so personal, and then it goes out into the world and people make it their own—either loving it passionately or reviewing it ruthlessly—and you no longer have any control over those characters or that world. Seeing the book pop up in places you never expected, like a library guide in Texas, or video book reviews from New Jersey, is just the weirdest feeling ever!

But one thing I’ve really enjoyed about my publishing journey is meeting so many new people. I have online friends I never would have met without this book, and I’ve met so many incredible writers who are all so friendly and willing to sit for hours gabbing about the ins and outs of book writing. I definitely feel like I’m part of a pretty cool club these days!

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

Darkness! Monsters (human and otherwise)! Grit, gore, unconventional love stories, deep dark human emotions, issues of class, addiction, poverty… Sounds like a light, fun read, huh?

I also see a lot of YA characters living pretty privileged lives, and not so many books about kids who don’t have basic security. In my last book, and the new one, I’ve tried to show just how hard it is to be a normal kid when, for whatever reason, you don’t have your basic needs met by the adults in your life.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

Secret Rheostatics lyrics. Indigenous characters and stories. Clifton Hill. Carey Price’s haircut. The Canadianness in my books isn’t obvious, but it is there. I haven’t specifically said “this place is Canada”, but I feel like if you know the places I’m writing about you’ll recognize them.

Cold Water, in Black Chuck, is very similar to the town I went to high school in, and friends from that area can see the landmarks right away. My high school Writer’s Craft teacher, who lives in Italy now, said he could see the stars painted in the band shell from his window in Florence. That feels like I did my job pretty well! (Thanks Joe!)

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

One thing I really like about Canadian literature is our commitment to diversity. I look at lists of “authors to watch for” in Canada and am thrilled to see so many people from different backgrounds, telling stories that are both universal and totally personal. I have friends writing in other countries who say they don’t have those lists, or if they do exist they are separate from the “mainstream norm” of white writers / publishers / gatekeepers etc. I’m very lucky to be publishing in Canada (*waves at Orca Book Publishers*), and would love to see even more diversity in our children’s literature!

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

Oh man… there are so many good books out there I honestly don’t think I could choose just one. Sometimes in bookstores I get sad because I know I’ll never be able to read EVERYTHING. But if I absolutely have to pick just one book to live in… maybe it would be Pride and Prejudice? I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the brilliant, quick wit of Lizzie Bennet, and to wind up happily ever after at Pemberly??

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Many people will have opinions about what you can achieve and how you should feel about yourself—including people who know you very very well. They’ll say “Oh, you’re no good at this,” or “You can’t try that.” Don’t listen to them! You are capable of anything you want to achieve, and no one can tell you who you are or how to feel about yourself but YOU. So go do the thing, and do it with all your might!

Yes! Thank you so much for joining us, Regan!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add BLACK CHUCK on Goodreads!

Connect with Regan on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Regan McDonell Prize Pack – a copy of BLACK CHUCK

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Other available prizes:

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Join us on Friday, March 15th when we chat with author, Jennifer Mook-Sang!

KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Carmen Mok

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to illustrator, Carmen Mok!

Hi, Carmen! Tell us about yourself!

Hello everyone! Thank you for having me~ My name is Carmen Mok, a full time illustrator located near Niagara Falls, Canada. I make art mainly for the children’s market, including picture books, magazines and products such as fabrics, wall arts and greeting cards etc. I am also pursuing writing, so I hope one day I will call myself an Illustrator / author!

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

I am currently illustrating multiple picture books for a few different Canadian publishers. 2019 is my busy but quiet year, then I will launch out four picture books in 2020, and three more books in 2021. The first publication will be VIOLET SHRINK in spring 2020. It is written by Christine Baldacchino and published by Groundwood Books. The story is about an introvert girl dealing with the challenges of the social events with her friends and family. I finished my sketches and will soon start making the final art. I really enjoy working on the story!

What are you reading right now?

I constantly read many picture books, old and new. But right now I am reading Spark Joy – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I am curious to learn about it as it is a hot topic lately.

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

Ashley Barron. She makes very unique paper art! Ashley has illustrated a number of picture books with her paper cutting technique, she will publish a new book written and illustrated by herself in spring 2019.

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

I think it is the tremendous support I have received from book makers, either people are authors or illustrators or do both. I became a member of SCBWI since 2014 when I was still pretty new in the picture book industry. Over the years, I met many talented writers and illustrators through their conferences and gatherings. Some of us became very good friends, or became my “informal” mentors. Every time when I have questions or seek help, there is always support for me. I don’t feel lonely pursuing my publishing journey, it is actually so wonderful that some of us are growing together.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

My unique colour palettes. My whimsical images. And…a cat or a dog if the story has allowed me to add one, I always believe that cats and dogs are good friends of children.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

I don’t think there is one single item specifically but it is the Canadian lifestyle overall. When I draw a city street, or a house setting, or a dining table, I first look for references from my surroundings. It may be true to a lot of illustrators, art making is always inspired by our real life experience and observation.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

I want to see more Canadian biography picture books.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

This is the hardest question! There are many books I want to spend a day inside of the story. But if there is only ONCE in my life time, I want to spend a day in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. It is a classic story filled with imagination and magics, it is exciting to be able to talk to the animals too! I am sure my day will go by very quickly!

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

If you want to break into the publishing industry, follow the established authors and illustrators and learn from them. Don’t be afraid of reaching out or asking questions. I started as a beginner, then slowly made it to where I am now. All picture book makers understand the challenge of starting, we are happy helping each other. The publishing journey is a long haul, you need to be part of the community to keep motivated.

That is so true! Thank you so much for joining us, Carmen!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Carmen’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with Carmen online:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, SCBWI, Website

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of Grandmother’s Visit

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Other available prizes:

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Join us on Wednesday, March 13th when we chat with author Regan McDonell!

 

KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Tom Ryan

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, Tom Ryan!

Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. He has been nominated for several awards, and two of his young adult novels, Way to Go and Tag Along, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013 and 2014. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction. Tom, his husband, and their dog currently divide their time between Toronto and Nova Scotia.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF is a young adult mystery/thriller (my first mystery!) and I am really excited about it. It’s about a gay teen named Mac whose best friend was murdered a year ago when a serial killer swept through their small town and then disappeared, leaving the case unsolved. When Mac discovers a clue that indicates his friend was on the case when he was murdered, he decides to start digging into the mystery himself. There are small town secrets, twists and turns, a sweet romance, and some seriously creepy moments, if I say so myself! I’m proud of this book and can’t wait to share it with readers. It’ll be out on May 7th.

I’ve also co-written a queer YA novel with my great friend Robin Stevenson. It’s called MEET ME HALFWAY, and it’s about two very different cousins from opposite sides of the country, who reconnect when a family emergency brings them to cottage country in Ontario, and they find themselves on a wild road trip to Toronto Pride. It’ll be out next spring (2020) from Running Press.

What are you reading right now?

As always, I’m reading several things at once. I’ve been digging into classic mysteries (Agatha Christie, etc…) and I’m just getting into THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR by Josephine Tey. I’m also reading CATCHING THE LIGHT, a really fantastic debut YA novel by a Newfoundland author named Susan Sinnot; it’s beautifully written, and I was thrilled to learn that it had been nominated for the 2019 White Pine award.

I also just finished THE VANISHING STAIR by Maureen Johnson, the sequel to TRULY DEVIOUS; it’s one of my favourite YA mystery series, and I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy to come out next year!

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

I’m a big fan of Carrie Mac. I’d love to see her novels get more attention.

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

Just how much of a family the Canadian Kidlit community is! I’ve met so many wonderful, supportive people, and everyone is just one or two points of separation from everyone else. As a Maritimer, it makes me very happy to dig down and discover those connections.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

With my young adult novels, they can always expect to find queer characters (usually main characters.) Helping to increase LGBTQ representation in literature for young readers is one of my main priorities.

Back in the 90s I was a closeted kid who loved to read, and there were no options available to me, and I know it would have been encouraging and reassuring for me to have found characters like me in the books I was inhaling.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

I’ve included Cape Breton Island in three of my books so far. I grew up in Cape Breton, and still spend as much time as possible there. It’s a wonderful, beautiful place full of great people, and it’s my favourite place in Canada – and the world!

My first picture book, A GIANT MAN FROM A TINY TOWN came out last year from Nimbus, with beautiful illustrations by Christopher Hoyt. It’s the story of Angus MacAskill, the Cape Breton Giant, and I was fortunate enough to spend part of the fall traveling around Cape Breton speaking to school kids about the book. It was a great experience.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

I think that over the past few years there have been some great gains with regards to diversity in publishing, but there are still so many voices that deserve to be heard. Books are a wonderful way to experience the world, and the more access we have to stories from traditionally marginalized creators, the better. Greater breadth of representation results in empathy and compassion, and a richer, fuller perspective on society.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

What a great – tough! – question. One of my favourite books is NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl. I’d love to spend a day exploring The Peak, the mysterious 300 acre estate owned by reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova.

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

 

We live in a time when there is an endless supply of fantastic, high end media to consume; incredible books, addictive TV shows, movies and comics and art blogs and Instagram feeds, etc…

My advice is to take time in the midst of consumption to create something of your own. Following the creative impulse brings incredible rewards, emotional, social and otherwise.

Absolutely! Thank you so much for joining us, Tom!

 

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Tom’s books on Goodreads!

 

Connect with Tom on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through his website.

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

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Other available prizes:

 

KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Naseem Hrab

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to picture book author Naseem Hrab!

Hi, Naseem! Tell us about yourself!

I’m Naseem Hrab and I’m the author of two picture books: Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend and Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings, illustrated by the super-talented Josh Holinaty and published by Owlkids Books. I live in Toronto, Canada with my four-year-old goldfish.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

My latest picture book is called Weekend Dad and it’s illustrated by Frank Viva. It’ll be published in Spring 2020 by Groundwood Books. It tells the story of a little boy visiting his dad’s new apartment after his parents get separated and it features a letter my dad wrote to me when I was nine-years-old. It’s the least funny thing I’ve ever written on purpose.

What are you reading right now?

The Comic Hero’s Journey: Serious Story Structure for Fabulously Funny Films by Steve Kaplan. All my picture book manuscripts play out like little movies in my head and I really look to television shows and movies for inspiration.

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

Oh gosh! This is a super hard question. If I can only pick one I’m gonna pick the illustrator of the Ira books. Is that allowed? Josh has illustrated so many awesome picture books and nonfiction books—from Liam Takes a Stand to A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality to The Space Adventurer’s Guide. I love his style—it’s incredibly unique, thoughtful and fun!

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

How emotional it’s been! I think there’s a lot of feelings and pressure that come with getting published—lukewarm reviews, okay-sales, etc., etc. Sometimes things can start to feel a bit glum! Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings is about a little boy who wants to sit in his sadness for moment and feel his feelings after an upsetting day. And I think that’s great advice for writers and illustrators! All you can really do is check in with your feelings for a moment when a publishing upset occurs … and then re-focus on your craft.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

Laughter and/or tears and/or farts.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

My sense of humour? … See what I did there? I even spelled “humour” the Canadian way.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

Stuff I’ve never seen before, so I won’t be able to tell you what that is until I see it! 😉

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

I’d pick The Log Driver’s Waltz by Wade Hemsworth and illustrated by Jennifer Phelan. I loved watching the Canadian animated short that this book is based on when I was a child and the book captures the spirit of the film so beautifully. It’s absolutely stunning.

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Whether you’re looking for an agent or an editor—try to find someone who gets you and your work. Someone who understands what you’re trying to do with your story. Someone who can help you achieve your goals. (This advice could work for dating, too!)

Excellent! Thank you so much for joining us, Naseem!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Naseem’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with Naseem on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS!

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Other available prizes:

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of The Water Walker!

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the Effigies series!

Join us on Friday, March 8th when we talk with author Tom Ryan!