Sunday, 5 November 2017

South Sahali is launching a writing club!

Are you in grade 4, 5, 6, or 7 and do you like to write? Stories, poems, or articles? Come check out the writing club! We meet weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 12:15 in the library. See Mme Hunter if you have any questions.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Qu'est-ce que vous êtes en train de lire?

Come check out our selection of novels at the library! Travel the world through books!

À bientôt et bonne lecture!

Mme Hunter

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Here's our interview with Maria Birmingham

Our Red Cedar Book Club was very fortunate to interview Maria Birmingham, the author of Tastes Like Music. The students came up with the questions, emailed them off and here are her responses.

1. Why did you want to call your book Tastes Like Music?

I actually had a different title in mind for the book. But the editors sat down and did some brainstorming to see what else they might come up with. They thought the topic of synesthesia was so interesting and especially liked the idea that some people can actually taste music. That inspired them to come up with the book's title. When they told me their idea for the title, I was excited. I love it because it grabs your attention and makes you wonder just what the book is about.

2. How did you become interested in different ways that humans work?

I was watching a TV show and saw a woman talking about her extreme memory. (She had a condition called Superior Autobiographical Memory -- which became the first topic in my book.) I was intrigued and began to think there must be many other unique conditions that we don't hear much about. So I did some research and found there are quite a few! I got in touch with my editor and proposed this book to him. He got back to me and said they wanted me to write the book!

3. Do any of the topics in the book relate to your life? We just found the answer on page 39!

I have a funny story about this. I didn't even include my condition -- anosmia -- in the original list of ideas I submitted to my editor. But he asked me if I could find a few more conditions to include in the book. While I was doing some additional research, I came across an article about anosmia and realized it would be a great topic to cover. The fact is that anosmia is a normal part of my life and something that I rarely think about, so it never dawned on me to include it in the book. But I'm sure glad I did!  

4. How long did it take you to do the research for this book before you sent it off to be published?

It took about 6 to 8 weeks to do the research. And then it took another 6 to 8 weeks to write the book. I also sent each topic to an expert to look over what I'd written and then made the changes they suggested. I really wanted to make sure all of the scientific information was accurate. I also wrote second and third drafts. Writing can be a long process!

5. Have you ever written a novel?
I haven't written a novel... yet! But I am working on a few picture books. I really hope to see one (or more!) of them published in the future. Fingers crossed!

6. Did you study to be a non-fiction writer?

I studied English and History in university. And then I went to college and studied journalism. I started writing non-fiction there, but got even more experience in writing in my first job, which was as managing editor of the Canadian kids' magazine, OWL. After several years working there, I learned a lot about writing non-fiction for kids.

7. When did you first start writing?

I wrote when I was a kid. But I starting writing as a career when I worked for OWL. I wrote articles about animals and science. And I loved to do it. When I left OWL, I started to write a monthly feature in the magazine called the Weird Zone, as well as other articles. And after a few years, the editor of the book division at OWL asked if I was interested in writing a book. I was thrilled! It's hard work, but lots of fun!

8. Do you have any other non-fiction books that you are working on?

My third non-fiction book called A Beginner's Guide to Immortality came out in October. And I just finished a second draft of my fourth book that's set to come out in 2017. Its topic is a bit of a secret right now, but I can tell you that it's a technology book with a twist. Hopefully, you'll keep your eyes out for it!!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Our Red Cedar Group interviews Becky Citra!

We had an awesome Skype interview with Becky Citra, the author of Finding Grace, last Wednesday. Here's what we found out.

How did you get the idea for your book? 

I am a twin and like Hope and Grace I am very close to my twin. I have written another book about twins, so this is my second one. I also wanted to write about adoption, as my daughter is adopted.

Where did you get the inspirations for the characters?

I used to be a teacher and I have a daughter and a stepson, so I have met many young people over the years. I use bits of different people in all of my characters. Hope was the first character that I created and I wanted the twins to be similar but not exactly the same.

How did you get the idea of two sisters, not knowing the other existed?

I like to write stories with mysteries in them to keep the readers reading. Hope had to look for clues to find Grace. I have read stories in the news of twins reuniting after many years apart and that has always interested me.

Does the book connect to your life story?

I never write about myself exactly, but I need to write about what I know. The novel is all fiction, but it is written about a place that I know well: Harrison Hot Springs. I spent many vacations in Harrison Hot Springs as a young girl, the same age as Hope and Grace. When I was a young girl, a girl in one of my classes had polio and that's where I got the idea for that.

What was the message that you wanted to tell the readers?

When I start writing, that is when the characters and the story come to life. I only re-read it when the book is published. It is then that I ask myself, "what was I trying to say?". For Finding Grace, it is that different families exist. Grace and her aunt were a family and Hope and her mom and granny were a family. Two different families, but both happy. I also wanted to show that Hope had a lot of determination. She needed that to find her twin.

Are there some traits of yourself in the characters?

Yes, I am more like Hope and less like Grace. I had a happier childhood than Hope.

Where did you get the idea for the book cover?

The publisher picks the cover and I rarely get asked for input. I usually see the cover when I see the published book. I realize that this cover might only appeal to girls and I had some concerns about that, but I am happy with the cover. Covers are very important.

What inspired you to be an author?

I loved reading as a child. I had stacks and stacks of books on the go. We didn't have as many choices back then, but I always loved reading. I also loved to write and was always writing stories. After I became a teacher, I didn't write because I didn't have much time, but I always kept reading. I liked to read stories to my classes and I thought that I could write one. Finally, I started a book and I would write in the early morning. It took me 3 years to write my first book. I wrote it 2 - 3 times; it was a lot of work.

What types of books do you like to read?

I read a lot of kids books. I also love mysteries and animal stories.

What made you decide to set the story in the 1950's?

 There are a few reasons. I wanted to have Hope look for Grace in a way that wouldn't be easy like it might be today with the internet. With Grace having polio, the story had to be set in the 1950's since polio isn't a disease in Canada today. The third reason was that I wanted to write about Harrison Hot Springs as it would have been when I visited it as a child.

Thank you Becky Citra, for a great interview! And thank you to our Parent Advisory Council for buying the books for this awesome reading club!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Our interview with Jill MacLean

Our Red Cedar Book Award Club had the pleasure of interviewing Jill MacLean by email last week. The students came up with the questions and we emailed them off to her.

Jill MacLean is the author of The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden, a poignant book about the trials and tribulations of teenagers in Newfoundland. When Sigrid's best friend moves away, she gets drawn into a group of bullies and at first she likes the friendship they provide. However, she eventually realizes how hurtful and mean these friends are and tries to break free. This takes a lot of courage and perseverance as Sigrid is now seen as a bully, as she herself was involved in tormenting other students. Jill is a master storyteller who creates very strong characters. The reader can't help but be drawn into this adolescent world full of hurt, and growing pains.

Thank you so much for the interview, Jill MacLean!

What are my other interests?
I love to garden, canoe, hike, and travel – some of my best trips were to Devon Island and Ellesmere Island in Canada’s high arctic, to Iceland, as well as Paris, the Netherlands, and southern England. Greenland is still on my list, although why I’d want to go to Greenland when Nova Scotia is waist-deep in snow, I have no idea.
My canoe is lightweight, with a built-in solo seat. Is there anything better than paddling alone at dawn with a mist rising from the lake?
I’ve taken up piano lessons again, after a gap of many years. I have a digital piano with earphones because I live in an apartment, and – believe me – no one would want to hear me practising. Not even me, some days – the piano, I’ve decided, is meant to keep me humble.
I love family get-togethers, and dinners with friends. I love reading and going to libraries – amazing that they’re still free! If you’ll let me boast a little, we have a great new public library in downtown Halifax, with cafés, lots of places to sit and sip your coffee and read, an outdoor patio overlooking the harbour – and, of course, books, books, and more books.

How did I come up with the idea for The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden?
At the end of “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy,” which is told from Prinny’s point of view, there’s a scene at the wharf where Prinny is forced into a dory by the Shrikes when the tide’s on the turn; later, she finds out that Sigrid is the one who phoned for help. I was left wondering what would happen to Sigrid if the other two Shrikes found out she’d ratted on them. Which of course they did….
After “Present Tense” was published in 2009, I wrote two other books (“Home Truths” and “Nix Minus One”) before Sigrid grabbed me by the sleeve and said okay, it’s my turn.
I was also interested in someone who bullies and then tries to change her ways. Would the other kids ever trust her again? Sigrid finds out how difficult change can be, and how lonely she is when she’s no longer a Shrike. The “bully” label can cling, and trust doesn’t come easily.

Have I always been a writer?
I’ve written for a long time. A poetry collection that I’d worked on over a period of ten years (!) was published in 2003, and a month or two later my 9-year-old grandson Stuart asked me to write him a book; it had to have hockey and skidoos in it. From this request (many rewrites and three rejections later) came the publication of “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.”
Astonishing how a single question can change your life! I’m not sure it would ever have occurred to me to write for young people, but I’ve loved writing each of my five books. I’ve gone back into the classroom, me with my grey hair, terrified out of my wits the first time, and I’ve met so many terrific kids. Sure, there can be hassles in the writing life (I did mention rewrites and rejections, didn’t I?) But when somebody comes up to me and says, “I loved your book” – well, that’s what it’s all about.
 I have a degree in biology, and worked at the Fisheries Research Board, in hospital labs, and at Mount Allison University as a lab technician. Although I no longer work in these fields, my training in biology has translated into a love of the outdoors, and of identifying wildflowers and birds. For instance, I want to describe the barrens and the ocean so that you can see them too.
I’ll never forget how the Arctic flowers, brightly coloured in pinks and blues and yellows, grow on a tundra that stretches to the horizon and that at a quick glance looks lifeless – a second look is often a good idea.

 Who is my favourite author?
Always a difficult question to answer. I went through a phase of reading free verse novels, and loved Karen Hesse’s “Out of the Dust,” Sharon Creech’s “Love that Dog,” and Virginia Euwer Wolff’s “Make Lemonade.”
Martine Leavitt “Tom Finder” and “Heck Superhero”; Kenneth Oppel’s Batwing series; “Hunger Games”; anything by Pete Hautman and Laurie Halse Anderson; Don Aker’s “The First Stone”; Vicki Grant’s humorous, wise stories. Hilary McKay, Patricia Reilly Giff, Budge Wilson. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s “Shiloh” books.
I could go on….obviously I don’t have a favourite author. Give me a good story well-told with interesting characters, and I’m happy.

What do I do if I get writer’s block?
In a major way (touch wood) I’ve never had writer’s block. But on a day to day basis, there have definitely been times I’ve written myself into a corner, or I’ve had no idea how to begin the next scene, or the darn words just won’t do what I want them to do (a perennial problem, I suspect, with most writers). On those days, I’ve learned to turn off the laptop and head outdoors – for a walk, to the beach, to Starbucks with a book – anywhere where I’m not staring in total frustration at a blank screen.
I find walking is best – all that blood going to the brain? I carry a notebook, and can be seen on the side of the road near my apartment scribbling away because I’ve just discovered what Sigrid’s going to do next…the neighbours must think I’m nuts.

Am I working on another novel?
The $64 question. When I finished Sigrid, I had ideas for two other YA novels. But the energy just wasn’t there (it takes a lot of energy to fill all those empty screens). In ten years, I’d written five books for young people, four set in Newfoundland (where my son and his family lived for 17 years), and four to do with bullying (“Home Truths” is actually told from the point of view of, through the eyes of, a bully).
I felt I was getting in a rut. I felt I needed a new challenge.
The medieval period has always interested me, so right now I’m writing a novel set in southern England (where I was born) in 1348, the year of the Black Death. It’s fascinating – and at times downright difficult – to see the world through the eyes of someone who lived 650 years ago (my main character, Edmund, is 18 and just back from taking part in the war in France). And the amount of research I’ve needed to do, and still need to do, is mind-boggling – let alone remembering everything I read. I wanted a new challenge? I got one.

Will there be another novel in the series?
I don’t know. Tate interests me as a character, and I love the northern Newfoundland setting, and the way Travis, Prinny, Hud and Sigrid are interweaving their lives. Plus the cats’ lives! But I guess I can’t answer right now – I’d have to drag myself back to the 21st century, right?

How long did it take to get this book published?
Not long at all, because Fitzhenry & Whiteside, my publishers, were happy to have the third volume in the series.
However, it took me about five years to get “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating” published. My first version (what I see now was really a first draft) was called “Making Waves.” I thought it was brilliant, two of my friends thought it was brilliant, so I sent it off to a publisher – who didn’t think it was brilliant. Rejection #1.
I rewrote the manuscript from beginning to end, deepening the characters and the story; I went to a writers’ workshop at Humber College, and rewrote the ending. I sent the manuscript off to an agent, who rejected it, although with very helpful editorial comments. Rejection #2.
I made a few more changes, sent the manuscript off to another publisher, and got the nicest possible rejection letter; I should frame it and hang it on the wall. Rejection #3.
Then I tried Fitzhenry & Whiteside and they let me know right away that they wanted my book – and how exciting was that.
You usually have to wait for publishers to read your manuscript, so in between these various rejections, I wrote “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.” In consequence, I was able to tell Fitzhenry when they accepted “Nine Lives” that I had a sequel ready to go – a good marketing strategy, although at the time I didn’t know have a clue about such matters as marketing.
I often tell kids about the two R words: Rejection (always hard to take – you put your heart and soul into something, and then someone tells you it’s not good enough? Ouch); and Revision. I love revising, because anything that makes my story better, more interesting, more fun, more readable – how can that be anything but good?

Here’s a question of my own: do I have any advice for young writers?
1)      Write. It’s the only way to learn. Tough, but true.
2)      Read. And read. And read some more. If you feel like it, try and figure out in your favourite books how the author writes a scene that sends you into the middle of next week. How he/she creates that sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-chair suspense. How she/he gives you just enough detail to make you long for more.
3)      Pay attention. Use your five senses as well as your iPhone. I have a regrettable tendency to eavesdrop on conversations (one of my jobs is to write good dialogue); I watch people’s body language; I try and figure out what makes them tick (an impossible task, but still…).
4)      Above all, have fun with words. They can do amazing things.
And remember – without readers, we writers are out of a job.
Thank you all so much. I wish I could drop in to your classroom for a visit!

Jill MacLean

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Venez nous voir à la bibliothèque. Chaque jour il y a des nouveaux livres à découvrir. Come discover a new book at the library!

À bientôt!

Mme Hunter