q & a

  • When did you start writing?

    I first started writing for fun when I was eight years old, and since then, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on some writing project or other. I always wanted to grow up to be a writer, but I had heard that becoming a writer was a long, hard road, and I worried that I didn’t write well enough. The more I tried out different jobs, though, the more I realized that all I wanted to do was read and write, so I did. Eventually, my work got published. My first book came out in 2006.

  • How do you get the ideas for your stories?

    I get ideas from a lot of different places. Often my sources are snippets of overheard conversations, people-watching, and daydreaming. Sometimes, I get ideas from friends who know that I’m on the lookout for something exciting to write about. The ideas for Maggie and the Chocolate War and Yeny and the Children for Peace both came from friends who know I love inspiring stories about amazing kids. The idea for After Peaches came from talking to a school nurse about a kid who worked on a farm. Out of the Box was inspired by some of my own experiences, both here in Canada and traveling in Argentina. (To find out more about how I developed the story for Out of the Box, please click here.)

  • Which of your own books is your favourite?

    I like Out of the Box and Pedal It! because they were the hardest to write, and I’m pleased with the results of those many, many, many revisions.  I also love the true story behind Yeny and the Children for Peace, which inspired the book.

  • Can you describe the place where you work?

    My desk looks out a window onto a cherry tree, which I love watching through the changing seasons, from bare winter branches to summer boughs heavy with cherries (and raccoons clambering along to pick). From my window, I can also hear the birds and the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages taking tourists around Victoria. It’s quiet enough so I can think, but lively enough so that I always have entertainment if I want to look up from my work for a few minutes.

  • What are you working on now?

    I’m writing a new nonfiction book for ages 8 to 11, about money, the stuff we buy with it, and how people around the world get stuff done (legally) without using money at all! For now, the book is called Everyone’s Share: Sustainable Choices for a Healthy Planet but that might change before it actually gets published in Spring 2016.

  • What are your favourite books?

    That’s a question with a long answer! I love reading about the lives of children and teenagers in different parts of the world. I’ve just finished what might be the best book I’ve ever read: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I also love books by Deborah Ellis, especially her Cocalero series. Other novels I admire include Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird, No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, and Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo. I like nonfiction, too, and enjoyed Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller. My two favourite picture books are The Composition by Antonio Skarmeta and Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn. What are some of the best books you’ve ever read?

  • Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

    Read all sorts of stuff that you like and even some stuff you don’t like. Think about why you feel the way you do. Try to write all sorts of different things, too – as many kinds of stories as possible. It’s okay if the end result isn’t exactly what you’d first imagined. That’s part of the adventure. The important thing is to start, keep writing, and finish what you set out to do.

  • Did the father in Maggie and the Chocolate War ever earn enough to feed his kids something other than porridge?

    Thank you, Olivia for this excellent question! Times were tough in Canada in 1947. I imagine that things did eventually get easier for Maggie’s family and the other people in the book (and I imagine that they never wanted to eat porridge ever again after that)!

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