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 The Vegetable Museum and Pocket Change because they were the hardest to write, and I’m pleased with the results of those many, many, many revisions.  (To give you an idea, I can’t even remember how many times I rewrote The Vegetable Museum with completely different characters. The whole process took about seven years!)

  • Can you describe the place where you work?

    My desk is next to a window, and I look out onto our neighbourhood. I love watching the view change through the seasons, from bare winter branches and smoking chimneys to leafy greens and blossoming gardens. From my desk, I can also hear the birds and neighbours greeting each other in our building’s parking lot or folks talking at the book exchange box near the sidewalk. 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 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, so I love books by Deborah Ellis, especially her Cocalero series. I really admire how Susin Nielsen uses humour in her books. (Word Nerd is one of my favourites.) Old, old classics are fun, too. Right now, my daughter and I are reading The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it’s fun to see how much was the same and different for kids who lived 100 years ago. 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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