Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spoken Word Commencement Speech to the Grads of 2017


I was honoured by this year's graduates of Byrne Creek Community Secondary School by being asked to give the annual commencement address. Each year, the students choose not only a valedictorian from among their own ranks, but a teacher to speak to them as well. I wanted to give them something they would not forget: a little piece of themselves through my eyes.

I asked each grad for a single word that they felt summed up their experience at the school, and then used each and every word to compose a Spoken Word poem. Partly I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before by a teacher during a commencement address. And partly I figured that if they were all listening for their special word, then they would all be listening. Of course, I didn't manage to get a word from every student ; after I was notified, I only had three days to gather the words so that I would have time to have the speech ready. But I got enough--maybe 60%? I made the last edit while sitting on my chair waiting to be announced.

Six lists of words from the 2017 Grad Class.

I wouldn't have had a recording had it not been for one of my students, Sopithan Rajeswaran, who has won awards for his short films. Sopithan is an excellent filmmaker and happened to have been filming parts of the evening for a grad video he was putting together. When I began, he had camera in hand, and the video which follows was also edited and subtitled by him.



This was both the most challenging and most enjoyable speech I have had the chance to write. Thanks to Byrne Creek's graduates for inviting me!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Choosing Your Era: Two Approaches

Thinking of writing historical fiction? Struggling to decide upon the era in which to set your story? I'm not sure historical fiction authors actually approach their stories this way, but I made a couple of interesting observations when I came across this very interesting Timeline of Middle Grade Fiction 2016 on Semicolonblog.com.

I was surprised to notice that The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz is the first selection, taking place in the year 1242, and my own novel Caravaggio: Signed in Blood is second, taking place in 1606 and afterward. Not one story from ancient times? No Renaissance? (1606 is really after the Renaissance, what we call the Baroque now.) Compare this with the 1940s: 11 titles in that short period alone. The nineteenth century has 10 offerings. Granted, this is not necessarily an exhaustive list, but consider its implications.

On the one hand, there is opportunity for writers to delve into these less-explored periods, and of course greater competition from other writers if you choose one of the more crowded eras. On the other hand, this may also be a reflection of book buyers. Perhaps there is a greater hunger for books of the 1940s, less desire to read stories set in ancient times.

I don't have an answer. Like I said, I only find the differences interesting.

The truth is, we write where we see the potential for a story, whatever the era. Still, I'm glad I was able to fill in the 1606 slot!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

CARAVAGGIO: SIGNED IN BLOOD now available as ebook

Caravaggio: Signed in Blood, my historical fiction novel for 12- to 14-year olds published by Tradewind Books, has recently been released as an ebook for all you 21st-century types out there!


It is available wherever you buys books or order ebooks. The trade paperback, I also recently learned, is coming back to bookshelves at Chapters following its Starred Review in Kirkus.

If you've read the book already, consider writing a short review on any of your favourite book sites: Goodreads, Amazon, Chapters, or Barnes & Noble. And don't forget to spread the word to your friends. Personal recommendations are always the most valuable.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Summer Writing Opportunities for Young People

Know a budding young writer, aged, say, 11-16? They may want to take advantage of two different programs put on by our local libraries.

On July 6, 2016, I'll be kicking off a workshop series for the Burnaby Public Library's Julia's Studio, teaching young writers how to use interesting facts in their research to build a story. There are three other writers also giving workshops on different topics, each on a successive Wednesday. The best part, registration is free! For more information on the various workshops being offered visit the Burnaby Public Library's website.

From August 8-12, 2016, I'll be joining 8 other writers for the Vancouver Public Library's annual Bookcamp. This week-long day camp rotates young writers through five different workshops put on by published children's and YA writers, along with daily keynotes, writing times, and critique sessions. To find out more, check out the VPL's website.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fringe Benefits

This is one of the perks of school visits.


So thank you, too, Morgan, Jack, Joshua, Katie, Eva, Kylee, Naomi, Kasey, Clare, Jonathan, Henry, Thea, Joel, Chelsea, Serena, Liam, Wen, Jacob, Maddy, and Matty. I had a great time visiting.